Many singles worry about when to reveal their past sins, education level, family dysfunction, or financial problems. They want to be fair and honest with the people they date. They also donʼt want to waste their time to later discover their date has out-of-control issues. Their concerns are understandable, but how and when they reveal or ask about issues can make or break a new relationship. If singles know what to do, this process can be navigated in a respectful and honest manner.
Numerous singles have an issue or insecurity in their life that is difficult to discuss. For some itʼs family problems, abuse experiences, health problems, depression, or anxiety. For others itʼs their financial problems, eating disorders, pornography struggles, or excessive debt. Even when the issue is less severe, like talking about past relationships or revealing education and career success (or failures), all issues evoke a fear of criticism or rejection.
As a dating coach, I get many questions about how and when to bring up such issues. Here are my answers to the most common questions.
Should I share or ask about issues on a first date?
Revealing personal issues on a first date may prove disastrous. It is not that singles should hide their issues in shame. Itʼs simply that a relationship needs time to build a foundation. A new tree needs to grow roots strong enough to support its heavy branches. Otherwise, it will fall.
By choosing the right time to share their issues, singles are not being dishonest or misleading. They are simply exercising good boundaries and self-respect while showing others that there are many interesting things to learn about them.
How can I prevent wasting my time when someone might have issues I canʼt live with?
Getting to know someone is a process that shouldn’t be rushed, and going on a date doesn’t entitle the other person to immediate access to their dateʼs personal experiences. Private information is something that is earned through time, respect, and trust. Furthermore, if dating becomes heavy and ceases to be fun (especially in the first six weeks), the other person often withdraws or loses interest.
In short, during the first six weeks of dating singles need to focus just on having fun and getting to know their dateʼs interests, hobbies, and life experiences. There can be no guarantee that their investment will end in a relationship, but thatʼs just the risk everyone has to take. And after all, learning how to have fun while working on communication skills is never a waste of time.
How do I respond when someone asks a question Iʼm not ready to answer yet?
Many women fear telling men about their financial, career, or educational success for fear of intimidating men who have less success than them. Likewise, men can fear revealing their wealth or career choices for fear of being exploited (for their wealth) or criticized and rejected (for their lack of wealth). Similarly, questions about a past marriage or children can be difficult to discuss with near strangers.
When someone asks an uncomfortable question before a first date, singles can respond confidently and playfully by simply leaning forward, smiling, and playfully saying, “Thatʼs a very interesting story and one that is best shared over dinner.” They can then add another smile and a wink, which increases curiosity and interest.
During a first date, if someone asks a sensitive question, singles can respond by confidently saying, “I have nothing to hide and would love to talk with you about this, if we get more serious later, but at this stage in dating I like to just focus on having fun.” They can then change the subject to a lighter topic, which they are open to sharing.
It may seem that investing six weeks in a dating relationship is a risk. It would be if singles become immediately exclusive and allow themselves to get too into someone too soon. Even in ideal situations most dating relationships donʼt last six weeks. Thus, it is best for singles to follow these steps to help them avoid becoming excessively attached in the early stages of dating.
- Time and pace dating. Singles who only see someone two times or less a week are less likely to develop early dependence.
- Don’t talk with more than three friends about the date. The more singles share details about their date with others, the more they get attached to who they think their date is, instead of who their date really is (which can only be discovered in time).
- When thinking about them redirect your attention to something else. Singles need to limit the amount of time they allow themselves to think about their date until they are closer to being exclusive and have asked more personal questions.
- Keep flirting with, pursuing, and dating others. Singles need to remember that their date is not their only chance for happiness and dating others helps remind them of this. Furthermore, singles make better choices when they have more than one option.
When should I ask about their issues and reveal mine?
It is important that singles have fun for the first six weeks of dating. If singles are still enjoying the relationship beyond six weeks, then they can start preparing for the possibility of becoming exclusive and asking more personal questions or sharing their issues. Singles shouldn’t become exclusive until they can talk openly about many of their issues and they feel confident in how the other person responds.
This article provides just a small sample of techniques on this topic. Click here to listen to a one-hour audio on all the techniques I teach on When (and How) To Reveal Your Issues. This audio will help you share your issues in a way that inspires the confidence, respect, and investment of your date. Lasting Love Academy members can listen to it for free with the link below.
This article first appeared in LDS Living in July of 2012.
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Alisa Goodwin Snell is a dating and relationship coach who spent 17 years as a marriage and family therapist. She’s written 7 books for singles, created numerous audios, videos, and articles, is a popular public speaker, and has been on over 100 TV and radio programs nationwide. Learn more.
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