I’ve stopped telling my friends when I have a first date. I don’t even mention my love life to anyone in my inner circle until I’ve been seeing someone consistently for a few months. Some anecdotes are too good to keep to myself forever, but as a rule, dating stories are only shared when I’m sure the guy is a fleeting memory and will never be my wedding plus one or, um, groom.
The reason I’ve gone on dating lockdown? Spilling too much about your love life to friends can be lead to multiple disasters. What if you get them excited about a hot prospect and then he ghosts? Or, maybe they’ll be jealous of all the great first dates you’ve had when they’re suffering through a dry spell. Heaven forbid a match ends up popping the question, and my friends still think of him as the man who sent me a Venmo request for two-thirds of our first-date bar tab. Sometimes, though, I think I might be too secretive about my love life. After all, sharing dating and relationship stories is one of the ways friends relate and connect. In search of a healthy balance, I went to Tinder daters and therapists to find out how much is too much to divulge.
According to Lori Gottlieb, MA, LMFT, and author of “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone,” daters tend to share a lot with their friends in the beginning stages of a new relationship. It makes sense. “At that point they have a closer relationship with their friends than they do with this new person. They say things like: He did this thing when we were having sex; she said this on our second date — because they want their friends’ opinions. They’re asking, is this normal?”
Sharing date details can be a bonding experience, especially for single women. Flora*, who works for a nonprofit in New York City, explains. “With my single female friends, it’s a way of connecting, venting, and commiserating. These are my fellow soldiers toiling through the turmoil that is modern online dating. I think we share details to better grasp online dating behavior — is this behavior a new trend?”
Michelle, a development director in Brooklyn, New York, relates to the stress relief that comes from dissecting a new match. “App dating can be daunting, so sharing details makes it fun. It definitely helps to vent and sometimes process when I feel like I’ve been mistreated. It’s good to know that your girls have your back and 100% agree with you when the guy was being a complete asshole.”
So, what happens if that “asshole” turns it around and becomes your partner? It turns out, daters are less inclined to dish about connections that might lead to a second date. “If I really like the guy, I’m less likely to share details, whereas if it was awful or meh, I will blab about it pretty easily,” Flora says. It’s easy to vent about the people you didn’t hit it off with, as the expectation for seeing them again is pretty low. But Gottleib recommends keeping even the bad stories to yourself.
“A relationship isn’t a public event,” she says. “Nobody is truly comfortable revealing themselves physically or emotionally to another person with the expectation that it’s going beyond the people involved. Think about how you’d like your privacy treated — your deepest, most vulnerable parts of your life — before you breach someone else’s. Remember that every person you date or are in a relationship with is a human being and is not to be used as a source of your friends’ entertainment.”
Diego, a public relations account executive in Miami, lives by Gottleib’s respectful approach. While he’s happy to spill details to friends about app messages and texts, once a date is on the books, he keeps it under wraps. “I personally would not say much to friends as I believe in jinxing.” He explains that the gay scene in Miami can be small and people tend to know each other. He’s cautious about sharing who he saw or met on dating apps, since his friends might know that person and have an opinion already. He’s also sensitive to how he views his friends’ romantic relationships after they’ve spilled everything. “It definitely does have an impact on how I view them and how protective I should be of my friend in that relationship.”
Another key question to consider: Is sharing love-life details negatively impacting your friendships? Gary Brown, Ph.D., a dating and couples therapist in Los Angeles, cautions that even with the best intentions, it’s possible to do emotional damage to your friends. “This is particularly true if your current sex life is awesome, and theirs is not. It’s kind of rubbing it their face, so use some discretion if you know they are having a rough time in the romance department.”
Venting, gossiping, comparing notes, sharing, bragging — however you want to frame it, spilling the details on your love life can potentially be harmful to both dating relationships and friendships. On the flip side, talking about your love life with other daters is also comforting and helps people figure out what’s the new normal and to be expected. Talking about romantic relationships is part of searching for that human connection that we all need and are essentially seeking out in our dates. But your friends’ opinions or reactions shouldn’t play the biggest role. “What matters more is how YOU feel about this new person overall, not what your friends think based on an isolated piece of information told only through your lens,” Gottleib points out.
OK, so the relationship professionals make some great points about respecting people’s privacy and not turning your dating life into comic fodder. But in the real world, daters tend to find comfort, safety, and entertainment in letting their friends in on their love lives. Perhaps the best thing to do, a middle ground of sorts, is to remember your motivations. If you’re honestly confused or worried, chatting with a trusted friend or two can provide invaluable perspective. But if you find yourself making mental notes of anecdotes while on a date and with the intention of spilling them to friends later, maybe think twice about the consequences of oversharing.
I have a first date this week, and I think I’ll keep it to myself.
*Name has been changed to protect innocent daters everywhere.