How honest should you be at the beginning of a relationship?

For most of us, the beginning of a relationship is a tricky time. You’re feeling the other person out and deciding if this is a person you’re willing to let inside your walls, inside your mind and inside your heart. If you like the person, if there’s a spark between you and the potential for more, the question often comes down to: How honest can I be at the beginning of a relationship? Of course no relationship can be built on a lie (or lies), but for me (and I’m guessing most people) there are skeletons and insecurities that I’m always scared to open up about—things I wouldn’t lie about but just not mention.

In most cases, social media allows us to find out all the surface things one would want to know about a potential partner: where they went to school, where they work, the last song they listened to on Spotify, their interests, etc. But the “surface” of a person is like the tip of an artifact sticking out of the ground—you have to dig and dig until you realize this person is miles deep, and whatever you might have thought was on the surface usually turns out to be so much more.

Those surface things will suffice for the first few dates, unless of course you get a Hannah/Jacob first “date” ala Crazy, Stupid, Love. style (which actually paints a pretty realistic staying-up-all-night-talking situation). However, that scene, and in all of our real life scenes, it all comes down to timing. Is there a correct time to fully open up – too early/too late – or is timing in this sense actually a feeling?

Recently, I let my guard down rather quickly and chose to be vulnerable. Maybe because it felt right, maybe because I was tired of there always being a grey area of information at the beginning of a relationship. I wanted to see what cutting through all the muck would result in. As a writer, and one that puts a lot of my inner dialogue out there, most girls I date go into it knowing quite a bit about me, but not knowing there’s versions of self truth I discuss as a writer that doesn’t actually portray the real me. The question was how open I should be.

Should I tell her my credit is bad and it’s probably not going to get much better for a few years?

Should I tell her I walked the stage and graduated, but didn’t finish the three credits over the summer I needed to get my diploma, meaning I didn’t really graduate?

Should I tell her I’ve gone through moments of deep depression in the past or that sometimes (most of the time) I’m anxious?

Should I tell her I left my dream job in NYC to come home and help take care of my grandmother who is very ill, and now I’m not sure what my future looks like, and that I’m scared that was my one shot and I blew it?

Should I tell her another part of the reason I left is because I just couldn’t handle NYC, and deep down I knew the city would swallow me whole?

These are the anxieties of life, and we all have our own personal demons we battle with every day. That’s one of the most beautiful things about a relationship, to fight our many demons and fears and failures and shortcomings together.

More than a few relationships I’ve been in have ended because it was too much for the other person; they felt I had been dishonest, when in reality I was just scared to open up, even though no lie had been told. Now that I’m in my early thirties, I don’t hide the fact that I’ve gone through these struggles, I don’t try to put on a mask of perfection, because the people who act like everything is okay and everything in their life is perfect are the people that scare me the most.

The worst relationships I’ve had are with women I feel like I can’t open up to, that I have to wear the smile all the time, act like everything is dandy like candy, and in the end I realize that girl never dated me, she dated a persona – a version of me. With so many of us creating a persona for the person we are about to meet, based completely on online information gathered, it’s nearly impossible to start a relationship not having already pre-judged. The blind date no longer exists, in the literal sense.

Even throughout all this analysis and potentially overthinking, I know the answer: The answer is I’m afraid. Living in fear will get me, all of us, nowhere. When I decided to let my guard down, to be vulnerable, maybe too soon, it was absolutely refreshing. The things I had built up in my mind as secrets and shame were somewhat laughable when said out loud. (Such is the life of an overthinker.) It resulted in the girl I was with letting her guard down and really opening up. We were two scared, vulnerable people on a date. Maybe just acknowledging that fact allowed us to put personas aside. Going forward, I’ll choose to be open and scared, because now that I say it out loud, it sounds so much better than choosing to be closed and scared. 

Image via Shutterstock

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