I have what I call random memory. I can immediately recall what you ordered at that sushi restaurant two years ago but your guess is as good as mine in remembering what I did last weekend. Because of that, in the first few weeks of getting to know a guy, to prevent me from forgetting key moments of his life, I write down a few notes.
I recently found the notes I took when I was first getting to know January 2016 Boyfriend. After re-reading the list, I had the thought, “Wow, he looks really good…..on paper.” It’s not that any of the things he said about himself were lies; it was just that there were also a few character defects beneath the surface of his paper greatness that he didn’t happen to mention and would eventually cause me to pump the brakes.
Relationship expert Neil Clark Warren said that for years he would conduct relationship autopsies on couples that broke up to discover the demise of the relationship. Because I think that’s genius, I found a few questions to ask myself: Every time he gave me 2 plus 3 and tried to convince me it equals 4, did I speak on it? Was there any time in the relationship where I a silent observer in the discovery process when I should have been an active participant or outright protestor? How well did I actually show up? I feel like there’s a delicate balancing act early on between focusing on enjoying the other person’s company and learning what you need to know about them.
Sometimes, I just want the guy to tell me everything about himself at the beginning so I know whether or not I’m wasting my or his time. But that’s not possible because it takes time for people to be their authentic selves and that means it takes time to see what you’re really working with. But our time is valuable, so why waste your precious energy or invest your heart into someone you would never have gone on a second date with had you known then what you know now? Why can’t we cut to the chase in dating?
Well let’s imagine for a moment that it is possible to skip past all that getting to know you junk. What if we had the ability to read someone’s mail instantly? If someone invented a way for us to do that, it would be something like a transparency button that you take with you on a first date. The button compels your date to tell the truth about themselves. For instance:
“I’m compulsively flirtatious which causes an issue with everyone I date but it won’t stop me. I gotta be me!”
“My relationship with my mother/father was so negative, I don’t trust women/men. But I’m just going to proudly tell you that my parents are still married so I sound like I come from a healthy family. At some point, you’re going to say something that reminds me of my mother/father, and that’s when I’ll call you crazy or a jerk and be up out.
“I don’t have a will to work. The only reason I have a job now is because people pressured me. But if I lose this job, I am just going to sit at home and play video games, check Facebook, etc.”
But here’s the catch: the transparency button works both ways. It will also get you to reveal things about yourself! That’s right! Here’s what will shoot out of your mouth without your permission: the parts of your past that you wish you could erase; blind spots (what other people notice about your personality or character that you don’t see yourself). Oh snap!!
Describing myself on paper, I wouldn’t confess to having relationship baggage. But after the breakup of cheating January Boyfriend, if my new July Boyfriend pushed that button on me, I would have been compelled to say “Hey July Boyfriend: I’ll trust you sometimes but there will come a day when you say you’re going somewhere, and I won’t really believe you. I will believe you’re hiding something from me.” Last January, I was emotionally free; by July, I took a couple of rides on the struggle bus.
When I eventually told July Boyfriend about said struggles, I knew he would either appreciate the honesty or become more cautious and closed off. He did both. My admission ushered us out of the ‘everything will be perfect until the end of time’ euphoria stage. And unfortunately, there wasn’t enough trust or faith established to grow from there (hence my Another One Bites the Dust blog). Would I have done things differently knowing how it turned out? Nope. I gotta believe that my honesty really is the best policy even if someone chooses to lose faith in me because of it.
So where’s the line between putting our best foot forward in dating while keeping it 100 about who we really are? When do you stop editing your personality and start getting really real? I think the answer is as soon as possible. When you have an issue that you know will be problematic in a relationship (anger, fear of rejection, addictions, etc.), tell the truth about yourself. Or when someone points out a major flaw that you thought you successfully hid, thank him/her and do something about it. Some people show up as an A+ on paper because they have spent no time discovering or revealing the parts of themselves that are a C, D, or F.
I have no scientific evidence to back up this theory but I believe that many people select someone because they find them attractive and then they cross their fingers hoping everything else works itself out. And then they hide parts of their personality that they think would be rejected by the object of their affection. The goal seems to be finding a way to hang on by any means necessary when the healthiest (and most brave and most honest) choice is to just be yourself and find peace whether that person stays or goes.
Dear Single Person: There is such a huge temptation to get ahead of one’s self and skip some important steps early on in the dating process. We want to jump ahead to the next stage (getting the boyfriend/girlfriend label, having someone to post Instagram photos with, sleeping together, fill in the blanks for yourself…) that we don’t give the current moment its due process. The whole point of this conversation is to encourage us to pledge to look deeper in others and reveal deeper of ourselves. I can’t help but imagine that this would help break through the haze of disillusionment that many couples experience: if we dare to be our authentic selves and don’t gloss over the less than perfect parts. What you don’t find out now, you’ll be dismayed by later. So let’s look and reveal deeper.