Beware! The fine line between being authentic and oversharing
Andrew and Melissa's second date seemed to be going great. They were dining on the patio at one of Andrew's favorite local wineries. The sunset was spectacular and Andrew's anxiety about bringing a date to one of his favorite places was almost gone. Melissa seemed to get his dry humor and he appreciated her quick wit and warmth. She had even leaned into him when they were waiting to be seated and then held his hand when they walked to their table overlooking the vineyards below.
While they were sipping a spectacular Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Melissa casually asked Andrew about his previous dating experience. Without thinking, Andrew launched into the FULL story of his last long-term relationship. Including all the details about their custody dispute over the puppy he had gotten his girlfriend for her birthday, and their disastrous last vacation. Andrew told her how they met, about their moving into together, all the things that went wrong afterward, and their messy breakup. When Andrew finally stopped talking, he noticed that Melissa was no longer smiling. After finishing dinner, Melissa got a Lyft home.
Andrew and Melissa's matchmaker later got to hear how Melissa was very uncomfortable with the details of Andrew's breakup. She didn't like talking about her exes, and he had seemed petty and angry when he told her about his last girlfriend. Andrew thought sharing a painful personal story would bring them closer and that he was just being authentic.
Be authentic but still respect boundaries.
Meeting new people can be very intimidating. Often dating anxiety leads men and women to overshare on a first date or at the beginning of a possible relationship. While it may seem like a great way to build a quick connection or get difficult topics out of the way, it isn't building a solid foundation for a stable relationship.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown summarized the difference between authenticity and oversharing by saying, “Using vulnerability is not the same thing as being vulnerable; it’s the opposite—it’s armor.”
Sharing and building connections is one of the best parts of dating. Done correctly, it's a joy to get to know a new person. You don't want it to ruin that experience by making your date uncomfortable, or alienating them before they have gotten a chance to know you.
Daters who overshare are often doing it out of anxiety. Everyone is worried about whether they are attractive enough, witty, entertaining, etc. Oversharing can sometimes relieve that anxiety, but it can too often feel like a therapy session.
Common topics that are easy to overshare: previous relationships, finances, stories about your friends and family. A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of any topics that bring up any negative emotions.
Are you an oversharer? How to tell.
Some people tend to overshare and are unaware that it is an issue or problem. Below are some signs and signals of oversharing.
Do the people around you know more about you than you know about them? If you find this unbalance common in your relationships? If you do, it's a good indication that you are an oversharer. Sharing and conversations should be reciprocal. Make sure you are an active listener in addition to storytelling.
Is the other person sitting back, looking away, or starting to engage in some other activity? Body language will help let you know if you are making the other person uncomfortable.
If you find yourself uttering the phrase "I've never told anyone this..." or "I shouldn't tell you this, but..." then STOP! You already know you are about to cross a boundary.
Think About Your Reasons Why
If you are feeling compelled to share deeply personal information, thinking about your motive and reasons.
Is it to gain sympathy? Don't manipulate your date into feeling sorry for you so they will overlook your flaws.
Are you oversharing because you crave connections? Sharing very personal details doesn’t usually fast track relationships. You shouldn’t try and skip the “getting to know each other” part of dating.
Anxiety? Try going over some positive dating topics before the date to better prepare yourself for anxious moments.
Poor boundaries? Keeping healthy boundaries is important when starting any kind of relationship.
Trying to make the other person comfortable? It actually works in the opposite way. Sharing intimate stories usually puts the unsuspecting listener in an awkward situation.
Sharing your personal story can be empowering. But only when you share it at the right time, in the right place, with the right people.