A Reader Asks:
When I am on a date, I generally get over my nervous anticipation quite quickly, but my friends and family have told me that when I get comfortable (which I think is a good thing on a date), I get too comfortable. Apparently, I tend to let my table manners slide, for example, sometimes chewing with my mouth open. Based on this feedback, instead of focusing on my date when I am out I now can’t stop thinking about this issue.
How do you find balance between being self-conscious on a date and just being yourself?
The Shadchan Next Door replies:
Some “imperfections,” like casual table manners once comfortable, might be relatively small, but how do we deal with the larger imperfections that everyone grapples with? Sharing our vulnerabilities can be challenging, whether they are fears, personal experiences, unattractive hard facts, or closeted skeletons. Examples can include physical or mental illness, past relationships, familial concerns, instability, or just plain quirkiness. Ranging from light to burdensome, when do you share what?
To get to the stage of discussing vulnerabilities, it is necessary for the dating couple to like each other and to have a sense of trust in each other. This first stage usually occurs after significant small talk, which progresses toward life goals, ambitions, and fond childhood memories. Often it is easier to start with a positive and somewhat neutral topic. For example, instead of saying you enjoy hockey or studying Tanach, you can say that it is an activity that helps you understand your father better. Hopefully, by now, your dating counterpart is already interested and wants to get to know you on a more personal level.
There is rarely a hard date number on this stage of the relationship, as different people progress at different speeds. When it comes to important disclosures, you will always need to follow your instincts. Start small, and see how it is received. Take cues from your date and assess whether they are engaged in what you are sharing. And it almost goes without saying, if your dating counterpart shares something personal, be engaged yourself and ask follow-up questions.
For some, it comes earlier rather than later. One example is a girl named Kayla. Through online dating, Kayla connected to someone and soon they were having long phone conversations before they met in person. Having gone through certain similar challenges, they had developed a strong mutual understanding of each other. So much so that when they met in person for the first time, she shared that she has been taking anti-depressants. Kayla thought it would be hard for him to accept, but because she felt that she could trust him, sharing this information strengthened their bond. They are now happily married.
Once you know someone wants a connection with you and likes you, they are more able to accept your vulnerabilities and embrace them. Here, sharing can bring closeness.
The founder of person-centered therapy, Carl Rogers, understood that many people have difficulty in expressing feelings due to anxiety. To counteract this, he encouraged therapists to reveal their own insecurities with clients, thereby allowing the clients themselves to feel comfortable in sharing. This led to more research revealing that self-disclosure leads to reciprocity.
Therein lies another key to unlocking this process. As we share our insecurities, slowly and at the right time, our dating counterpart will feel more comfortable sharing as well, which also increases mutual likeability. In letting ourselves be a little vulnerable, we can gauge two key factors. How we feel sharing with that person, and how that person receives us as well. With this, we are able to not only reach new levels of openness and comfort, but we can also begin to visualize if this relationship has real potential, quirky eating habits and all.
By The Shadchan Next Door