We all know the saying “honesty is the best policy”, but what about honesty in dating? Does the old rule apply to every dating circumstance and situation?
These days, with the pandemic seeming to wane, people are getting back into dating in droves.
A new dating trend, “honesty bombing“, is becoming more and more prevalent.
People are more inclined to be who they really are and state what they really want in a relationship.
They’re done with playing games or playing “hard to get”.
This includes simpler things like being upfront and telling your date that you like them.
Or saying on the first date (kindly) that you don’t feel they’re a good match for you, instead of ghosting them.
Without Honesty, You Can’t Build Trust
Trust is one of the most important aspects of any relationship. Trust doesn’t happen without honesty.
Psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith Ph.D., who writes about emotional fitness, said:
“When you know you can totally trust your mate, it removes a large potential for worry. It also builds your internal security so that you not only feel good about your partner, but you also feel better about life. Having an honest relationship creates a kind of buffer between you and the difficulties of the world. Having a mate you can trust and rely on also makes it easier to take those risks that help us grow.”
When there’s trust in a relationship, there’s comfort in knowing you can totally be yourself.
You can open your heart and be vulnerable with at least this one special person in your life.
You can share your feelings and say what’s on your mind.
At this stage in life, do you really want to be in a relationship where you put up a false front or feel you have to be some other kind of person?
Isn’t it time to exhale and be true to who you really are . . . right from the get-go in a relationship?
Are Little White Lies Okay?
It’s no crime to pay someone a compliment even if you don’t really mean it. Unless you make a habit of it, no harm is done by making someone feel good about themselves with a simple gesture.
“Many people feel that little white lies, which may spare their partner some grief, are okay, and in some cases that’s true. But you can’t have a culture of honesty in your relationship just some of the time. If you tend to omit or color the truth so things look a little better, it could actually damage your relationship at a core level. Trying to “protect” your partner or just trying to avoid looking bad can create more trouble than it’s worth. It is best to be above-board in all your dealings.”
Honesty in Dating Starts with Knowing Who You Are and What You Want
Preferably before you start dating seriously, take the time to figure out who you really are and what you really want in a partner.
You need to be honest with yourself so you go into your dating life with a clear picture in your head.
And if you don’t know who you are and what you want, you’ll be more likely to date people who aren’t right for you, which can lead you to try to be someone you aren’t.
That’s a kind of lying, too.
When and Which Things Should You Tell Your Date?
Before we look at some of my suggestions on what things should be disclosed and when, some general things to keep in mind.
Each relationship is unique and progresses at its own pace.
- Some advance toward intimacy and commitment faster than others.
- Some never advance further than casual dating.
- Some never turn into lasting relationships of any kind.
There are no set rules for when certain things should happen or not happen, and when certain things should or should not be divulged to the person you’re dating.
To guide you, think about when YOU would want such things disclosed to you by someone you’re dating.
Also, understand that never telling your partner something they have a right to know about you – or lying by omission – is a form of dishonesty too.
Withholding important information about yourself can be just as damaging as outright lying.
Honesty in dating profiles
We strongly advise that you get into online dating if you’re serious about finding a partner, or even finding someone for casual dating.
That’s where you find the largest pool of potentials, since so many people are on the sites.
Although you should refrain from laying out everything about yourself in your online profile, you should be honest about who you are and what you’re looking for.
One of the reasons, according to Elite Singles, is that:
“Your potential partners will become discouraged when they discover that you have not been telling the truth. Its best avoid any white lies or little fibs even if you think they make you appear in a way you’d rather be. For example, don’t use an old picture of yourself that looks different to how you look today because your date will feel cheated. A problem will arise if you promise something that you are not. You don’t want your date’s first impression to be that you are not honest, which will give the relationship a bad start. So think carefully how to fill out your profile.”
Another problem that’s always a risk when you fabricate things about yourself is that you won’t remember who you told what, making people even more suspicious of you.
Something like this happened to Cosmo on a first date.
The woman’s dating profile emphasized how much she was into CrossFit but when Cosmo asked her about it on the date, she said she didn’t do CrossFit. She also vehemently denied having it on her profile. He went back to check that later and there it was in her profile.
Honesty in dating before and on the first date
I advise that it’s best to get to know someone a little before meeting in person on the first date.
Communicate back and forth a few times via email, then a few more times via phone, Zoom or FaceTime before setting your first date.
Should you Google your date before meeting them in person?
It’s natural to want to learn as much as possible about the person you’re planning to meet for that first date.
But be aware that this information can impact your decision-making, pro or con, for your date.
According to a survey of Hinge users, nearly 90% said they research their matches before the first date.
About half of them found something that swayed them TO go out with a match, and more than half found something that persuaded them NOT to go out with a match.
There are good reasons to do a background search on prospective dates:
- Things to talk about
- See if they’re being honest
- Find out if they’re married
- Eliminate red flags
And reasons NOT to do research on them:
- May cause you to obsess too much
- Potential to reject good candidates
- Finding incomplete, misleading information
- Sensible use of information
How authentically “you” should you be?
Another question arises:
“Should I be completely myself on the first date, even though that will probably turn some people off?”
I’d say that you should absolutely be yourself. Let them know what makes you uniquely “you” and what kind of person you’re looking for.
If you both do this, you’ll save each other a lot of time and spare each other too many one-and-only first dates.
In fairness to the other person, there are some things about yourself that you should let them know about in these early communications before your first date, or on the first date itself:
- Any serious medical issues you have, especially if they’re life threatening. This includes mental illness.
- Whether or not you’ve been vaccinated for COVID (if the pandemic is still with us)
- If you were very recently divorced or widowed
There are others, but these are the deal-breaker kinds of things that many people will want to know upfront.
I was grateful that Cosmo let me know by email before we met in person that he was in recovery, since I am too.
One of my deal breakers was that I wouldn’t date people who drank regularly, but I preferred someone who didn’t drink at all.
He beat me to the punch. I used to tell people on the first or second date that I was in recovery. In hind sight, I can see it would have been better to disclose this before meeting in person.
Honesty as a Relationship Develops
Let’s say you find someone you really like and a relationships begins to grow. You see a lot of each other.
There are things you need to be honest about early in a relationship, like:
- A negative financial situation
- Any addictions (alcohol, illicit and prescribed drugs, shopping, hoarding, porn, etc.) This one is tricky because addicts often won’t admit they have a problem.
- Whether your relationship will be monogamous or “open”.
- If all you’re looking for is a friendship relationship, or a quick hook-up.
- Some secret from your past you’ve been keeping, like having an affair in a past marriage or relationship, or some nefarious family history.
- When you two will have sex for the first time.
- Your recent past and current sexual activity, as that relates to sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
Again, the timing on when to divulge these things is not set in stone. Think about when you would like to be told about these things.
When Honesty in Dating Is a Matter of Self-Indulgence
In every relationship, the more you know someone the more likely you are to dislike some things about them.
You may dislike these things so much that anger towards them builds within you and, to release the pressure, you lash out at them verbally.
In the moment, you feel justified being brutally honest about how you really feel about them.
Relationship therapist, Jamie Turndorf Ph.D., warns that “the path of full disclosure can actually bring permanent closure to your relationships”:
“While we may feel temporarily relieved when we shoot off rounds of honesty, we pay a terrible price for this temporary satisfaction, as we harm our relationships and our own self-esteem (you can’t feel proud of yourself when you misbehave).
The good news is that you can make the decision to change the way you handle your angry feelings; to consider what you say before you speak, to ask yourself how the other person will feel before you say or do x, y or z. To consider whether what you intend to say or do will be helpful and constructive to the other person and your relationship.”
Should You Point Out Your Date’s Annoying Traits and Habits?
What if your partner is saying and doing things in a way that bugs you?
I’m not referring to abusive (physical or verbal) behavior. That can never be tolerated. It will only get worse.
If this is something fixable and not indicative of a bad relationship that should be ended, your honesty should be tempered and kind.
Brutal honesty, though too often resorted to, is not kind.
Think about how you can approach the issue in a gentle way. Your partner will be much more likely to be responsive.
How To Build More Honesty into a Relationship
Clinical psychologist Lisa Firestone Ph.D. sums it up:
“The best way to create this more open, honest line of communication is to cultivate a curious and non-judgmental attitude in ourselves. This can clearly be something more easily said than done. It can mean having to set aside our own triggered reactions and really seeking to understand our partner and where they’re coming from. Yet, the more we’re able to do this, the more trust gets built in the relationship. We start to learn who the other person really is and feel for them separate from ourselves.”