How Honest Do We Need to Be When Dating?

honest when dating

Why I think radical honesty is the best policy

I came across an interesting dating profile recently. The guy had swiped right on mine, so I stopped to read through his. His disclosures made me pause. Along with a few close-ups of himself, he’d written a brief description, including his blunt preferences. Listed at the bottom was this sentence, “I have herpes. If that a problem for you, please pass on by.”

“Alrighty then,” I thought.

To be frank, his admission took me by surprise. I initially was a bit put off. Did I want to get involved with someone who might leave me with a lasting legacy of an STD?

What aren’t we telling our dates?

Then, a friend reminded me how common it is to have herpes. Somewhere between 20 to 50 percent of the US adult population has been diagnosed with this condition. How many others have I dated have had STI/STD’s but failed to mention it?

And with that realization, my disgust turned to admiration. Maybe this guy is onto something.

Of course, STD/SDI disclosures haven’t mattered since I’m not in the habit of hooking up. But it got me thinking, when is it appropriate to bring this kind of topic up? On the first date? After the third? Before hopping into bed?

How many people conveniently forget to mention this kind of health fact, figuring what their sexual partner doesn’t know won’t hurt them?

The increasing desire for privacy, the more risks we take

These days, with the rising loss of online privacy, we seem hellbent on keeping more and more to ourselves.

A fellow writer wrote an opinion piece about wives and girlfriends having issues with their men’s porn habits. He told us, women, that we should chill out about our guys’ hidden practice of watching sex and claimed it was customary for men to retreat to their basement to watch clips of other women.

Maybe porn watching is commonplace among men. However, women tend to fall all over the spectrum about their partner’s engagement in such activity. But if it goes undisclosed, it could have huge negative ramifications for the relationship’s longevity.

It is dangerous to leave such information undiscussed between couples. I would expect to talk through lingering debt, custody issues, past legal history, and other pertinent information about health, including sex.

My Practice of Radical Honesty

I list on my dating profile that I’m a balding woman who wears a wig, figuring those bothered by this will swipe left. It saves me the time and effort of warning my first dates for fear of a mishap should we make out. Some men bravely ask me few questions.

My featured online photos are current, and I share that I’m overweight. That’s not something I can hide, nor do I want to. The only way to truly find a suitable match is to present myself as honestly as possible.

So what aren’t we telling each other? What else are we hiding besides herpes?

The more open we seem to be about our sexual preferences and particulars, the more private we are becoming. We password-protect, face-match, and screen block our phones.

Is it privacy or shame?

We claim we aren’t ashamed about these things but simply are protecting our right to privacy. Is that true? Are we failing to share these critical details because it’s no one else’s business or because we are uncomfortable with our actions?

And where does one’s right to privacy end? When it injures me?

Sure, I don’t need the details of how many people or the gender of those you’ve slept with, but I should have the right to know if you are still seeing them. I don’t need to know your complete medical history, but I need to be aware if you’re still contagious. And I should be told the nature of our relationship — is it exclusive or not? And I want to know if you’re a porn user.

An acquaintance of mine discovered her new husband was a regular user of escorts. Something he’d failed to mention during the several years they dated. She learned the truth with the service sent a thank-you letter for his recent review. It popped up as a notification while they streamed a program.

Do you think his choice of lifestyle matters to her? Shouldn’t he have had that conversation before the wedding? I want to think so.

And, no doubt, you’d like to know if I’m being pursued by the IRS, sharing joint custody of my kids, or plan to bring a houseful of cats into our relationship.

These things matter.

Radical honesty is necessary for healthy relationships

Radical honesty, as that guy’s online dating profile calls it, it is a good policy for all of us to practice. It sure would save a lot of headache and drama, and there’d be fewer nasty surprises.

And if we have a problem informing others about our choices, status, or health conditions, then maybe we need to take a closer look at the reasons why. We, however, should not use the excuse of embarrassment to cop-out.

Radical honesty is the only way to go. Just as we want to keep all of our choices open, we should do the same for our partners. It’s only reasonable and necessary if we wish to have a healthy relationship.



Kerry Kerr McAvoy, a psychologist, author and writer, is in cultivating healthy relationships, deconstructing narcissism, and understanding various other mental health-related issues. 

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