Dating Don’ts: Honesty Is Relative

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I wasn’t entirely honest with the last person I dated. Our relationship, when it started, was a new, quivery thing, something that I had to ease myself into after a prolonged breakup. I was working through lingering feelings for my ex, along with the attendant baggage. The new boyfriend wanted complete and total honesty, which I wasn’t able to give to him. I understand and appreciate the desire to be totally honest when it relates to the new, romantic entanglement right in front of you. This is natural, this is normal, this is fine.

I entered the relationship well aware of the true contents of my heart, but not entirely willing to share. Why? My feelings for my ex were complicated, messy, and I deemed them only important enough to be shared if things got serious — move-in serious, vacation together serious, serious enough for me to feel the need to share. My deepest shit, like everybody else’s, works on a need to know basis. Trust, honesty’s best friend, is earned, it grows, it flourishes under the right conditions. Honesty has its place in a relationship, but putting it on a pedestal, in my opinion, isn’t always the best move.

Full disclosure isn’t necessarily what every new relationship needs. That’s the special thing about relationships — every one is its own magical snowflake. Honesty is all relative, anyway, and what you do and don’t decide to tell someone is completely your choice. I’m not arguing in favor of keeping things from your partner that are important to the business of your relationship. Please, I implore you, tell the truth about things like STIs and whether or not you fucked that  busboy that you were making eyes with at your anniversary dinner. This is all vital information to share because it affects more than just you. In fact, it’s always best to be honest about things that affect the other person. The point is: entering a relationship doesn’t mean the person you’re with is suddenly entitled to all of your secrets. Deep knowledge about someone else’s stuff comes with time, because time builds trust. Honesty doesn’t mean full disclosure — it means sharing things at your own pace with the person that you’ve chosen to be with, because you want to, not because someone is forcing your hand before you’re ready.

Sometimes, there are things that you don’t need to tell the person you’re dating just yet. Some truths are better left in the dark recesses of your past. If you are still recovering from a long, messy break-up, the details of that aren’t necessarily important to share. If the last person you slept with was your coworker after the holiday office party, and that fact fills you with deep, ever-lasting cringe shivers, that’s not important either. Maybe you peed the bed until you were well into the double digits. Maybe you went though a phase in your 20′s where you had a lot of casual sex that you don’t like talking about. Maybe you used to steal Lip Smackers and Necco wafers from the drugstore when you were in middle school, and hide them in a shoebox under your bed. Maybe you still do that thing where you put your boogers on the wall. Whatever. All of these things are non-essential relationship collateral.

Keeping some things close to your chest is important because it helps you maintain a sense of individuality and self in a relationship. Sharing all of your most personal information with someone who was at some point a stranger, and still is in a lot of ways, is terrifying. It takes a lot to open up to someone, even someone that you really want to. Being honest only when it’s necessary lets you maintain a little bit of privacy, something that is rare these days. There are some things that are best left kept to yourself.

[Photo from Shutterstock]

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