Help! I’m Dating and I Don’t Know How Much To Disclose To Guys… - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 11, 2014

Help! I’m Dating and I Don’t Know How Much To Disclose To Guys…

You believe in honesty. You want the men in your dating life to be honest with you, and you want to be an honest person as well. So where does honesty stop and become too much information? My clients and friends who are actively dating often ask, “How much do I share about my past, my sexual history, my family, my finances or my children on first dates and early on (in chatting or internet emails)?”  You might also be confused about how much to ask him early on in the process.  You certainly want to get to know him, as well as gather some information to help you assess your interest and next steps. You want to learn enough to begin to form opinions of his mental health, kindness, his attitude about and respect for women etc.

Along the way you have likely received lots of messages about all of this etiquette. Yet you still wonder what level of disclosure do you offer and when, and how does informal information gathering about him work?  It can be very confusing.

For instance, you have probably heard that lies by omission are still lies. So do you wonder if that means you must disclose your address, where your children go to school,  your weight,  your sexual history, your financial statistics, or your favorite sexual position ?-  (total red flag by the way, of an inappropriate early date question. Get out!) But I digress. There is a difference between talking about your favorite author or the value you place on maintaining a healthy lifestyle on an early date, versus offering information or answering questions about your sexual history, how your past relationship ended or your yearly income.

When you are on that first, third or even 6th date or “meetup”, you want to be relaxed and offer information about yourself, and you want to ask information from him – but how much and what topics are reasonable?  Being “too open” too early may have bitten you before or maybe being too “private” has lead to accusations of being closed off.  Then there are the “experts” on dating who advise women to remain “mysterious”. Advice is often contradictory.

Here are some things I suggest you begin to consider as you formulate your own dating disclosure approach:

1. There is a difference between full disclosure and open communication.

2. Being cautious about your privacy is not being dramatic, stingy, or closed off. It is simply self protective and appropriate. Until you have a very good sense that someone you are getting to know is kind, safe, emotionally consistent and stable – more information about you is more they can use to hurt or manipulate you. (Trust me I could fill a book with stories of just such atrocious behavior).  It is very important especially with internet dating, that you are very cautious about sharing too much important information about your life.

3. Talking too much or too little is not attractive or useful. There should be some reasonable level of sharing and talking as well as listening. Chatting about how passionate you are about travel is an example of great starter conversation. Talking about how your ex treated you badly is not.

4. Lies of omission are only lies (and therefore unethical) if your omission is designed and intended to make someone believe something that isn’t true, hide something they deserve to know (i.e. because they are your partner and you are hiding an affair), or allow them to have false assumptions so as to manipulate their feelings.

5. That “mystery” element you may wish to cultivate isn’t about hiding, it’s about letting someone learn more about you over time, and according to how well the relationship is progressing. It isn’t about acting aloof – it is about having that air of self composure that suggests you are a deep person worth getting to know better.

6. The first few dates should be about getting a sense of how the two of you relate, keeping it a bit on the light side and having fun. You are not closed off but you are also not telling your life story to someone you barely know.

7. Our level of personal disclosure should be consistent with how well you know someone, and how well they respect your boundaries. For instance, it is appropriate to disclose you have herpes before you have sex with him, but it isn’t necessary to disclose you were sexually abused when you were a child to someone you only met a month ago.

8. Privacy is not a lie. What level of personal information about your current or historical life is appropriate to disclose to a partner of 5 months is not the same as to someone you have met up with or hooked up with three times.

9. Too much information too early and too often can get you hurt (emotionally, financially, physically, and sexually). Take the time to learn about your new guy as well. Watch for how he behaves, if he shows integrity and kindness toward you and the world, appropriately reciprocates information and vulnerabilities. You need to hold dear certain intimate sensitivities, slow down on the personal data and in general think about how you are experiencing this connection.

10. Less is better. Slow is smarter. There is a lot you can talk about safely even on a first date that still leave the guy feeling like you were open, relaxed and fun to hang out with. It is easy to fill hours talking and sharing about yourself (and finding out about him) that don’t leave you vulnerable or feeling unsafe.  You can reveal values (like caring for animals), interests (like keeping up with global politics), passions (like music),  goals (like advancing in your career), or hobbies,  to fill many dates before you get into deeply private information or certain details about your history that you would not want shared with others.

So early dates, starting chat exchanges via internet dating, and the beginning of new connections should progress slowly in the area of self disclosure. You should think before telling something that feels personal. Is it something you would be OK being posted to your Facebook for instance (because it could be). Until you have enough experience with him, don’t give away your soul, you deepest wounds or your secret and private life. With regard to safety, don’t give out very many stats either. Someone you barely know does not need to know your birth date, your address, names and ages of your children or your social security number! I say this to draw attention to how we all know we shouldn’t give out our SSN to unknown sources, but the same is true with personal dating disclosure.

It’s worth waiting and having boundaries rather than regretting later that you have ended with someone and now he has so much on you that you feel vulnerable. Also, listen well in those first many encounters. If there is something “off” about him, it will often show up if you have your limits, watch to see how well they are respected and  keep listening to him for clues about who he is and how he behaves.

About the author

Kris Gooding

Kris Gooding, LCSW is a psychotherapist, community and clinical educator, free lance writer and Mom living in Gainesville, Florida. You can find out more about her at