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How Much Is Too Much?

One of the hardest things for me, about dating, is figuring out what to tell men about myself and when.  Something that might sound like on the 2nd date could be viewed as essential information a couple of months down the line (as in, how could you NOT tell me that?).

I’ll admit to being pretty bad at this. I don’t ever lie, but I do withhold a lot of facts.  Mainly because I think that most guys don’t want to know stuff that doesn’t directly affect them.  And even when it does affect them, sometimes they just don’t want to know the uncomfortable stuff.

But I’ve been thinking lately how differently some of my relationships might have gone (I’m not pining over anyone or wishing I could turn back time or have anyone back.  Everything worked out the way it should.) if only I’d done a better job communicating some of my personal * early on.  You know, before it was too late.

I’d love to know what you think about this.  When’s the right time to talk about the hard stuff?

*By personal baggage I mean:  complicated family issues, health stuff, personal finances/work issues, sexual quirks, the fact that I have a blog, other stuff that makes my stomach churn.

  • I think it’s important to get the hard stuff out in the open before you start sleeping with each other. (6 votes)
  • Wait a little while, until you’re secure in your feelings and your relationship. But not too long. (13 votes)
  • Your baggage is your baggage. Keep it to yourself until you’ve been together a while. Keep things on a need to know basis. (4 votes)
  • That’s a mixed bag of baggage. Some needs to come out right away. Other things can wait. (32 votes)

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12 to “How Much Is Too Much?”

  1. CHFBrian says:

    It’s always a very gray area that depends on the particular relationship. I’d like to say that in general it’s best to get as much out of the way up front as possible, but we all know that’s not always feasible or a good idea.

  2. starangel82 says:

    It’s a mixed bag. Depends on the person. Depends on the baggage. Depends on relationship. Some stuff should come out up front no matter what (like you have a kid, you’re married/divorce pending, etc), but some things like complicated family issues can wait.

  3. pansophy says:

    I think trying to figure out when to talk about the hard stuff is the wrong question. The question is what kind of relationship do you want. One where you spend your time hiding from each other, which some people do through their entire marriage, or do you want a relationship where you are visible to your partner.

    For most people ‘dating’ is really more an exercise in figuring out if you want to have sex with that person then it is about creating a relationship. They spend the first couple of months ‘dating’ a person pretending to be someone they are not, decide one day they want to get serious with that person, and then essentially start the relationship over by transitioning from who they pretended to be to more of who they really are.

    Basically ‘dating’ by the rules is a great formula for having a lot of brief relationships but I’m not sure how great it is for creating lasting relationships where both people are actually happy.

  4. SINgleGIRL says:

    Yeah, it’s the “it depends” stuff that I really suck at. Depends on what? How do I know? And no, I’m not being intentionally dense.
    But what if your family stuff if eating up a lot of your time (which mine has been lately)? If I keep it to myself then I’m constantly dodging questions about how I spend my time, or being vague. But if I lay it out it really does seem like TMI. Lose/lose?
    What you wrote makes a lot of sense to me. I’m reminded of something an ex said to me years ago. I was really stressed about something related to work. Something big was going on with me, but he had no idea, because I hadn’t been sharing it with him. I didn’t think he needed or wanted to know. And then one day it blew up and I was a wreck and we had a date that night. Anyway, he said, “I’ve always thought it’s great the way you keep things to yourself instead, but you can tell me if you want”. And it kind of confirmed to me what I already knew. That he really had no interest in knowing me better. There was never going to be a right time.

    Anyway, I’m tired of brief relationships and I’m tired of keeping things to myself. At the same time, I can’t escape the feeling that most of what I’m thinking and feeling is TMI.

  5. starangel82 says:

    I guess it depends what you want the guy to know. Like if my dad was dying (not anytime soon please!), I’d flat out tell the guy, “Look, I know we just met and I really like you, but my father is seriously ill and will not make it. I’m spending as much time as I can with my family right now. I’m sorry if this is too much for you and I understand if you don’t want to deal with it.” It it was because my sister was attacked and raped (heaven forbid!!!), I’d probably say something like, “Look, I know I really haven’t been available lately, and I’m sorry. I have some serious family issues going on right now. Once things get sorted out, I’ll be able to spend more time with you if that’s what you’d like. If you don’t want to wait around on me, I completely understand.” Then once I was more comfortable with him and trusted him more, I might tell him the details.

    I guess in both of those situtations, I would kind of throw it back on the guy. He has some information and he can do what he wants to with it. If we’ve only been dating a week, that’s all he needs to know. If we’ve been dating a few months and I’m more comfortable with him, I’d probably offer a few more details. If he offers to help or waits it out with me, then I learn something about him as well. If he decides not to, I really can’t fault him. Some stuff is pretty heavy for some people and I get that.

  6. BetterNow says:

    Ugh. I would like the answer to this question myself because I have tons of personal baggage and thats my main reason for not allowing men to get too close. I have this severe fear of having to break down and open up.Frankly, I dont think I can handle having someone say “I feel so bad for you”. I wish I could open up but my “family baggage” is so hard for me to talk about and I cant put myself into a relationship knowing it has to come out eventually, knowing I will have to cry in front of someone makes me cringe. But sometimes you meet people that understand and are intelligent enough to realize that we pick our friends and not our families. The people we call family are people we have no choice but to be related to, we cannot be held accountable for their wrong-doings. You are you and that has nothing to do with the family history. I think allowing a significant other to get to know you for you gives them more of a reason to hold on before giving them the break-down of your “baggage”.

  7. SINgleGIRL says:

    Your reply seems pretty sensible to me. Sensible but hard.
    You sound like me (I’m sure our situations are very different, but like you, I’ve kept men at arms distance emotionally for as long as I can remember – It was just easier). I think I run into problems with letting the info/the deeper me out after someone has gotten to know me. I guess there is a fear there that I might be rejected.

  8. pansophy says:

    Well there is a big difference between TMI and hiding. Vomiting your entire life story on the 1st date is TMI. Filtering entire parts of you or things that are important to you is hiding. Being visible can be simply acknowledging that there is more than you are ready to share yet, even on the first date.

    If you are committed to being visible then knowing how much to reveal is a matter of assessing how much you trust the person and how much information the relationship ready to hold. Focusing on building trust in the relationship by taking small risks that lead to bigger ones down the road is the path to creating lasting relationships, whether those relationships are friendships or partners.

    Trying to build connected relationships while hiding is sort of an exercise in insanity, but people hide for deep reasons.

  9. sparklytosingle says:

    I totally know what you mean. I hate the dating “rules” where you can’t talk about X, Y, and Z topics on a first date, etc. I generally don’t play by the rules, I go by the comfort level of myself and the guy I’m dating instead. I actually love the feeling of trust and security that you get when you can share something really personal or cry in front of a man and know that your secret is safe and that it won’t freak them out – that instead, they will be there for you and comfort and help you if you need it. I know there is a certain degree of needing to hold back at first and not share too much too soon, but I tend to want to share personal info sooner rather than later. I would start with something not too earth-shattering on date # 2 or 3, such as maybe the fact that I have a blog or mention that my mother is overseas caring for her ailing mom, and see how they handle that. It’s a good sign if they don’t balk. Then I’d feel comfortable sharing more personal things in the future, just not all at once.

    I think starangel82’s suggestion about how to handle telling them about family health issues is a good one. If it’s too much detail to share at first, just say you’re spending a lot of time helping your family through a tough time at the moment. That’s all you need to say, and you’re not lying that way.

  10. starangel82 says:

    It is hard. Yet there are a lot of things in life that are hard. Those things make us stronger and build our character. Like I said, they also tell us a lot about each other. I had a friend who had cancer. She told the guy she was dating about her illness after about two months of dating (she had been in remission for a year). He immediately dumped her and wanted to know if he should get tested. What an ass, but still. After all the heartbreak with different guys, she finally found the one who held her hand through a bone marrow transplant. Tough and hard stuff, but character building.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Umm, I really need to comment on this. I was married to a woman for 1.5 years. I found out one year into the marriage that she had been married 5 times before me and never told me. I was 27 and she 33 at the time. Ummm, as a result, I got an annulment. Bottom line is, this baggage needs to come out before marriage! Do a background check before you say I do! Cheers, Chris

  12. SINgleGIRL says:

    Umm, I think even I would have asked about previous marriages. I’m bad, but I’m not that bad. I’m no a big fan of background checks. I feel the same way about them as I do prenups – if you need one then maybe you shouldn’t be getting married. Or dating the person. Oh, and this comment this an awful lot like comment spam meant to advertise your site, which is awfully tacky. Please stop, or I’ll start blocking you.