Sponsor banner

Striking a balance between honesty and oversharing

Access to this AJC content is brought to you by our sponsor, Wellstar

We all know honesty is the best policy, but is it possible to be too honest when you’re dating? The short answer is yes.

While transparency is key to building a meaningful connection, oversharing can be the thing that sends potential partners running. So how do you strike the right balance?

Usually, when someone asks me this question, they have something in mind they feel needs to be shared or disclosed. Maybe it’s some health information, or maybe it’s something about a past relationship.

When it comes down to it, I can’t advise someone on exactly what to share and what not to, or when. But some things need to come out over the course of time, lest you run the risk of oversharing prematurely.

Building emotional intimacy is a beautiful part of dating and getting to know someone … and it happens over time.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Sharing relationship history

I have a lot of clients who tell me their dates go on and on about their previous relationships, often putting their former partners in a negative light.

While some might consider this “just being honest,” I would call it an overshare.

Why? On the first date, you have so few data points on the stranger sitting in front of you. If one of those data points is bashing an ex, that information weighs much more heavily in the decision of whether or not to go out again.

Yet, if, over time, someone shares information about an ex, the person getting to know you might have more compassion and understand where you’re coming from.

Oversharing: On the first date, you start detailing every breakup, including who broke up with whom, what went wrong in each relationship and how you felt about it. This level of detail can be overwhelming and uncomfortable.

Honesty: You can honestly mention you’ve been in a few serious relationships in the past and briefly describe what you’ve learned from those experiences.

Talking about family

We can’t all boast we had the best childhood or the most wonderful environment growing up. Maybe we are estranged from certain family members. Or maybe the opposite — we talk to our mother for three hours every day.

Oversharing: You go into extensive detail about your family dynamics, discussing every argument, personal issue and family secret. This may make your date feel like they’ve accidentally stumbled into a therapy session.

Honesty: You share that you come from a close-knit family and briefly mention you have a good relationship with your parents and siblings.

Discussing the future

How about if you know you want to have three children in the next five years? Should you disclose that information on the first date?

I wouldn’t.

Yes, it might be a deal-breaker for some, but out of context and with no other information on your connection, it leaves someone evaluating whether they want you to be the parent of their children after just one date.

Oversharing: You bring up potential wedding venues, baby names and where you’d like to retire.

Honesty: You honestly express that you’re looking for a long-term, committed relationship and value building a future with the right person.

Personal trauma

Some people feel the need to share all their traumas from the get-go to “get it out of the way.”

Bonding with someone over trauma, while perhaps comforting in the moment, is not the healthiest way to start a relationship.

Oversharing: Within the first hour of meeting, you delve into the traumatic events of your life, including childhood traumas, therapy sessions and ongoing struggles. This can be emotionally heavy for your date and may make them feel ill-equipped to handle the conversation.

Honesty: You share that you’ve experienced some personal challenges in the past, but you don’t go into explicit detail. You’re open to discussing these topics when you both feel more comfortable.

In the end, honesty is undoubtedly essential in dating, but it should be paired with sensitivity and consideration for your date’s feelings. Finding the right balance between being genuine and oversharing is a skill that can lead to more successful and fulfilling dates.

Remember, building a connection takes time, and allowing it to develop organically is the best way to create a strong foundation.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Join her newsletter, eepurl.com/dpHcH, for updates and tips.

About the Author