Thursday, June 16, 2011

Withholding the Truth While Dating

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?


  1. I've been with the same person for over ten years... We are still figuring out what we want. The majority of people I've encountered are not self-aware enough to know what they want or else they are too busy navel gazing to notice that there is a human being seated directly across from them.

    It is a process. Timing is one of those variables that we have little influence on. I think it adds to the fun and chaos of otherwise very boring lives.

  2. I agree with most of your statement, here. It's so true that self-awareness and knowing what you want are often elusive, even amongst long term partners.

    But I do think the timing of our sharing is, in some cases, the only thing we have control over. I'm talking about our personal responses to things. That being different from the timing of how events unfold or occur in our lives - which I agree, is something we rarely have much or any control over.

    I can think of so many examples from a previous long term relationship where, had I just waited, or not waited so long, to say something, things would probably have been a lot less stressful. The long term outcomes might have not changed with her, but the day to day stress and misery certainly would have been less.

  3. Ah, I misread you. I was thinking about meeting people and timing, not the timing of sharing information.

    That said I disclose early. Perhaps it is a function of my age, or the fact that I'm in an openmarriage, I don't want to waste anyone's time. I am pretty whacky...I fly my freak flag early and often.

  4. Nathan, I posted that letter...this is Bree....the truth I was speaking of was simply telling a person what you want and/or don't want so as not to waste their or your time.
    I meant instead of men being players and playing games if they want a sexual relationship no more no less then just say that....Because what happens when they lie and bs women and tell them simply what they want to hear and tell a woman they want to be with her just to sleep with her then sleep with her and ditch her these men end up with "serious drama" and these women chasing them and stalking them and wondering what the hell is going on..Same thing with women who use a man they aren't the least bit interested in for his money. Women should not be taking gifts from and allow men to take them on expensive dates or any trips if she knows damn well she has no intentions on being with that man.
    Nathan these are examples of the types of things that people notoriously lie and bs about everyday and these are the things that I take offense to people lying about.
    Not telling someone all your secrets and personal business on a first or second date....but wouldn't u want to know if a woman really liked you for who you were and really wanted to be with you before you spent boatloads of money on her and she smiled and grinned in your face and told you that you were the sexiest most wonderful man she ever knew and she took gifts from you and allowed you to take her on expensive dates and a trip when the whole time she was lying to you and you later find out she has another man on the side who looks nothing like you and thats the man she is in love would you feel????
    This is the type of stuff folks should be honest's not good to play with folks emotions.

  5. Thanks for your blog. It was very helpful and wise!

    start dating site

  6. If you need your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (no matter why you broke up) you got to watch this video
    right away...

    (VIDEO) Text Your Ex Back?