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Relationships • Dating

The Need for Honesty on Early Dates

One of the first priorities for any suitor on an early dinner date is – typically – to strive to appear normal.

That’s why when they are asked ‘what do you like to do on the weekend?’ suitors will tend to say, ‘Oh, not much, maybe garden, see friends and do some exercise’ rather than heading towards those occasions when they’re to be found lying on the bedroom floor sobbing at how sad and lost they feel and need to take a couple of benzodiazepines to have any chance of getting to sleep.

Photo by Igor Starkov on Unsplash

Or they’ll say: ‘I’m looking for a reliable steady relationship I can really commit myself to,’ rather than letting on that a part of them (that they can’t quite make sense of) has a track record of blowing up commitment in the name of intoxicating sex with random strangers.

Or they’ll say: ‘My relationship with my ex broke up a long time ago now, I’m entirely over it,’ rather than letting on that – puzzlingly – they spoke to them only that afternoon and in some moods find they’d really like to get back together with them again.

Our careful editing of the truth certainly achieves results. A great many relationships get off the ground on the basis of our skills at self-presentation; couples head home from the restaurant hand in hand, and a union has a chance to grow. But this artful emphasis on appearing normal while actually being – below the surface – something infinitely more complicated is a catastrophe waiting to unfurl. For it is never long before our actual complexity starts to rear its head, and has all the more impact on our partner because they were given no preparation for it.

Time is bound to show that we’re wrestling with severe bouts of depression which we rely on pills to appease; that we are hugely ambivalent about love and feel nauseous in the face of kindness and tenderness; or still rely on the presence of an ex to ward off our fears of intimacy with our new partner. None of it can be wished away.

It’s all maddeningly complicated but arguably the place for these sorts of complexities is towards the start, not when two people have spent five months pretending to be upbeat caricatures of themselves, only for the weirdness to begin to seep out in unheralded ways.

We should tolerate that far fewer dates would work out on the basis that we had been honest about ourselves – but at least those that did proceed would be built on solid foundations.

In a less simplistically minded dating scene, two people would, at a certain point in an early meal, simply say: ‘Now tell me the true, really bad bits,’ and make time for genuine disclosure and the tolerance and broad-mindedness of the psychotherapy room.

To know is to be given agency. We won’t then need to sit in the car home with two passengers, a ‘normal’ person we’d love to be with, and their complicated ‘shadow’ who is biding their time before initiating havoc.

It’s not possible for a person to have reached maturity without harbouring some difficult elements – and the place where these belong is squarely by the last course of an early date, not several months or years down the line. It’s only too easy to begin a relationship with some well-meaning lies. The only ethical, mature love is the one in which we have had the courage to be properly known – and have been kind enough to offer a comprehensive guide to ourselves to any serious prospective partner.

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