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How to balance vulnerability and honesty when you’re dating

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It's a fine line, but if you want to build a healthy relationship, it's best to do this from the beginning.

Dating is hard. You have to be vulnerable to make a relationship with someone work, but you also don’t want to share too much of yourself so that you don’t get too hurt if it doesn’t work out. Where’s the line? I can’t guarantee that you’ll get it perfectly right in every relationship, as dating someone always involves emotional risk. However, there are some guidelines that can help you build better parameters when it comes to balancing vulnerability and oversharing when you’re dating.

The first end of the spectrum to avoid is being too guarded. Playing mind games in dating doesn’t lead to a fruitful relationship. If you like someone, let them know. Talk to them. Try to spend time with them. Don’t try to build mystery or suspense by waiting to answer their texts or by playing hard to get. Dating in today’s world is hard because there’s no script or established dating formula to follow. So acting as if you aren’t interested in someone when you really are just throws a wrench into the whole process. On top of that, it slows down the process of getting to know each other. If you’re interested, act interested.

On the other side of the spectrum is the “being too honest too quickly” approach. You can definitely show that you’re interested in someone without telling them your whole life story on a first date. And your date doesn’t need to know all of your greatest flaws and weakest moments in the first few weeks of your relationship. That much honesty will come off as needy or intimidating, especially if the other person is not reciprocating by sharing the same kinds of things.

So what is the happy medium between the two extremes? I like to call it the slow reveal.

Do share stories about yourself, but don’t start with the most intense ones. And make sure you’re not the only one sharing. If you’re dating someone who’s slow to open up, you can prompt them gently to share their own stories with you. What was your best moment in high school? Have you tried any crazy foods? Did you go on any vacations growing up?

Now, if you’re dating someone who is sharing more than you’re comfortable with and wants you to share as well, you can help them rein it in by saying, “I’m not ready to go that deep yet. Let’s stick to some lighter topics for now.” If your date respects your request, that’s a good sign.

A couple more notes about the slow reveal … At some point, for a relationship to go anywhere, someone has to make the leap and admit something along the lines of “Hey, I really like you” or “I see a future together.” And eventually, the more comfortable two people get with each other, the more of their hearts and dreams and just who they are as people will get shared. If both people have been opening up along the way, these moments of revelation are usually less scary for the person initiating. As a foundation of trust gets built, there is more stability to build on that foundation. Even so, it still takes courage to share those feelings when you risk rejection. At the end of the day, the deeper you get in a relationship, the more you risk. But if you start a relationship by showing interest, and slowly reveal who you are without plunging headfirst when trust hasn’t been established, then you are off to a great start in building a healthy relationship.

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