The blog "And that's why you're single" is fast becoming a favorite of mine. The author, Moxie, frequently takes up reader's letters, dissecting them and then offering advice or asking questions about what the letter writer wrote. On today's post, she takes up a letter from a woman who writes in about why people aren't honest about what they want when they first start dating. It's a question I have asked myself many times.
The letter writer writes:
I wish someone would help me understand why people feel the need to lie about what they want as far as relationships.
MEN,If you just want sex…say thats all you want and make it crystal clear. LADIES,If you want an exclusive committed relationship that will lead to marriage and children say that and make it crystal clear. Why not make your wants, needs and desires known from the beginning so that neither party is wasting their time, money, and energy?
It makes no sense to me whatsoever.
First off, even for those who are quite confident, it's not always easy to lay out exactly what you want to another in the beginning. You don't know, for example, if doing so will be taken as coming on too strong or not. You might not be sure if the other person is wanting something totally different. And generally, in the beginning, most of us don't want to do anything that will increase the likelihood of being rejected.
I like Moxie's straight forward response to the letter writer:
You’re imploring that people act like adults. But to be honest I think you’re the one with an immature view of how people work. I don’t disagree that men could have some success by being honest about just wanting sex. There are women out there who can handle that and who won’t internalize or personalize it. But how do you expect a man to be able to discern between the woman who won’t get offended and the woman who will? How is he supposed to learn this after 1 or 2 dates? And why is it all up to the man to come clean and state his intentions clearly?Have women lost their ability to read situations and stopped trusting their guts?
Let's be honest. There's often another issue going on behind all of this. People don't know what they want. Or what they want changes as things go along, and so in declaring one thing forcefully in the beginning, you can easily be setting up a road block if something in the relationship changes.
Now, I don't think this means we should be wishy-washy or disingenuous. I tend to express my desire for a long term relationship right at the beginning of dating someone, so that anyone hoping for something casual can move on to someone else. And I also tend to speak about some of the qualities, values, and interests that I find attractive right away as well. However, one thing I have learned over the years is to let go of the "dream girl" narrative, and to be more open to meeting and being with someone who might be fairly different from the images and ideas in my mind.
The thing is that part of "being honest" is remaining truthful to the circumstances at hand. When you don't know another person, or when you are just getting to know someone, you have to consider timing. Spilling your deepest, darkest fears or secrets on a first date might be telling the truth, but it's also often experienced as something else by the other person. I once went on a date where the woman went on and on about the sexual abuse she'd experienced as a teenager, and how that impacted every relationship she had been in as an adult. This was coupled with, later on in the date, some graphic talk about sexual interests - which mostly made me feel uncomfortable and wondering how much of a mess any relationship with her might end up being. In both cases, she told the truth. But because of the fact that we were still basically strangers, that truth didn't really function with integrity.
So, I think it's always a balancing act, which is why I can sympathize with the letter writer's frustration, but feel - like Moxie - that her viewpoint is too simplistic.
How do you work with these issues while dating? What has your experience been with others?