Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (About Past Relationships)
My target demographic is the post-divorce (or post-long term relationship) crowd. As we go through marriage or a long-term relationship and then re-emerge into the world of singles and dating, folks our age have changed enormously. We’ve mellowed somewhat. The insecurities and adventures of our 20s are a distant memory. The kids are growing (or grown) and mostly independent. It’s an opportunity to consciously make-over a life. Hopefully it’s a conscience process because it will happen regardless. Age does that to a person. We’re no longer in our 20s, emotionally and physically.
Getting back into dating post-divorce requires a different approach, obviously. While the dating logistics might have some formal structure, the conversation shouldn’t be at all formalized. Too often 1st and 2nd dates are slightly awkward, mutual interviews. Because of the extra chronology on our lives, our first tendency is to talk and ask about our respective relationship pasts. This is a bad idea and should be resisted.
Our lives have been made-over so it’s time to break from the past regarding previous relationships. It’s a dilemma because we so much want to know about the person we’re on the date with and those past relationships are important for many reasons. But those past relationships are not the primary ingrediant to our respective personalities and characters.
Given all this, here’s the advice: When on early dates, don’t ask and don’t tell about past relationships. This goes doubly for those purely sexual relationships we’ve all had. This includes the one night stands, the mini-relationships based solely on stimulated genitals. As for those crazy sexual adventures from our youth, they are such a distant memory as to be barely relevant during the early dating process, even if sexy time happens early in the dating process.
There are some risks associated with the don’t ask, don’t tell strategy. Women and men alike will be on their best behavior and will downplay character flaws that caused previous relationship failures. Be comforted knowing that those character flaws surface in other ways and usually fairly quickly. Excess anger, addiction issues, personality issues. Note to men: Cluster B behaviors take much longer to be revealed, sometimes until well after an exclusive relationship has formed. Note to women: A player (keeper of the soft harem) also takes more time to reveal himself. These are known risks and an unfortunate part of the dating process.
I can now feel my readers getting frustrated – “So Private Man, what do we talk about?! What kinds of questions can we ask?!” Those are two good questions. Here are some points of conversation that provide a way each person to reveal themselves without dealing with the previous relationships:
1. Talk about your interests and enthusiasms and ask about the other person’s interests and enthusiasms. When you answer questions be sure to use the word “because” after you make a statement.
2. Talk about the local community. Every town, city, and neighborhood has something interesting, both good and bad.
3. Talk abut what you are doing at the moment such as enjoying ice cream or watching people. Keep it light.
4. Ask about your date’s childhood and what he or she remembers. When asked, keep it light, again.
5. Talk and ask about current events. Please, no politics or religion! Those two subjects are way too polarizing in the early stages of dating.
Notice that the words “job” and “career” don’t appear in that list of suggestions. That’s because in the very early stages of dating, that’s not so relevant because you’re simply looking for a connection based on personality and other attraction points. Too much focus on job/career in the beginning of dating establishes an unhealthy dynamic. As things move along and more dates happen, more personal types of information can be revealed. Note to women: Don’t forget this exercise.
Dating really should be fun. It’s an opportunity to meet someone new and see if there’s a potential romantic connection. If no there’s potential for a romantic connection yet you seek it with that person, accept the rejection gracefully. Maybe she/he will set you up with single friends. There’s also the opportunity for friendship and expanding one’s social circle. Human beings are social creatures and dating is a social exercise.