Sex & Love

Is it TMI or TLC to tell your partner everything?

Two features writers make their case - you be the judge
 

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Spilling the beans on exes, dealbreakers, and what she had for lunch is Clara How’s way of telling a guy she cares – doesn’t matter if it’s early days. Not so for Davelle Lee, who insists there’s such a thing as TMI (too much information), and is all for keeping things under wraps.

 

Your relationship history

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Tell him everything

Clara How: To me, there’s no such thing as too much information – I figure that if we’re going to consider each other as romantic prospects, we should at least get a sense of our dating patterns, and an understanding of why our previous relationships didn’t work out. It’s up to him whether he needs the details, but I’m willing to give him at least a Sparknotes synopsis.

I don’t have a fixed rule for when’s the best time to spill, but I’m cool with talking about my exes by the second date. I assume that by then, we’d have communicated pretty regularly over text, and established a certain level of comfort with each other. As for his sexual history, I don’t need to know all the details, but I may ask him about his relationship history. If he’s hesitant about sharing, that’s a red flag.

I know what they say about details from someone’s past colouring your early impression, but I think it’s up to me to decide how to take that information. If he’s upfront about having cheated on his last girlfriend, I would give him credit for being honest, and be more likely to believe him if he concedes he made a mistake. If, however, much later into a relationship, I find out that he deliberately concealed this important fact from me, it would make me wonder what else he could be hiding. I’d rather we heard all the gory details straight from each other’s mouths than snoop through our social media platforms trying to find out more, and perhaps getting the wrong impression.

Everyone has done something they’re not proud of in their past relationships, myself included. If I’m upfront with a guy I’m dating and I get judged for that, then I guess he’s not the type of person I want to be with. And that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

 

Keep it zipped

Davelle Lee: Picture this. A gruff detective paces back and forth in front of me – a nervous wreck of a suspect – and barks: “How often did you meet your exboyfriend each week? Did you always split the bill? Why did you break up?”

That’s how it plays out in my head whenever my date launches a surprise interrogation. Regardless of how nicely he disguises the questions, it just feels like he’s after me. By ploughing through my dating history, it might seem like he wants to make sense of my actions and understand my motives. But I know he’ll only end up drawing false conclusions about “crimes” I have yet to commit.

The thing is, why should a person’s relationship history matter, especially when you’ve only just started getting to know each other? I don’t believe I’m the same person in every relationship – in fact, I think you adapt to the person you’re seeing. To me, the way you are in one relationship cannot simply be extrapolated to the next. Yet, men I’ve dated insist on using whatever knowledge they can glean to try to predict the success of a match. It’s a waste, because you could end up letting a good thing slip away when you allow preconceived notions to get the better of you.

That’s not to say I don’t need to know a dude’s sexual history. If things are getting serious, of course I would want to know.

I can skip the relationship history that goes along with it. Dragging up the past gets messy, especially with stuff that should stay buried with your previous relationships. Let’s say you were the one who cheated on your ex. Does your current beau need to know? I say let sleeping dogs lie.

 

The dealbreaker

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Tell him everything

CH: As a woman in my late 20s, I’ve dated enough men to know what my deal-breakers are. For one, I’ve stayed really good friends with an ex-boyfriend and wouldn’t stand for it if a guy I’m seeing told me he couldn’t deal with that. I also occasionally help out at kids’ parties and events, which requires me to dress up as a mermaid (that means a bra top and a tail), and interact with people. If he’s going to get jealous and possessive, then that’s definitely a problem.

I don’t want to wait till we’re months into what seems like a good thing before these problems rear their ugly heads. I’d rather he know my quirks from the get-go. That way, no one’s time, effort and emotional investment will be wasted. I should know. I’ve dated my fair share of commitment phobes (a major dealbreaker in my book) as a result of not being open about this, and ended up with egg on my face.

Sometimes, I deliberately throw out information to see how they react – like about the time I underwent six months of counselling for personal issues. It’s not a topic that would usually come up, so I’ve weaved it in as a tangential topic – for example, if we’re talking about a stressful time at work. So far, the guys don’t seem fazed by this revelation, but they don’t prod too much either. I’m not ashamed of it, but I think it’s important to bring it up because his reaction will tell me a lot about how sensitive he is, and whether he’s the sort to do a runner when things are tough.

 

Keep it zipped

DL: I was four dates in with a guy when he discovered that I don’t plan on having kids. It just came up in a casual conversation over brunch. After I dropped this so-called bomb, he suddenly grew very solemn and asked if I really meant what I said. Because, he told me, he really wanted to start a family and needed to know that I was on the same page. I refused to give him a straight answer and called for the bill instead.

Here’s my problem with deal-breakers – they set unrealistic rules and expectations in stone. Life isn’t black and white. Just ask the staunchly religious person who ended up with an atheist, or the strict vegan who got hitched to a bacon lover. Had they held fast to their so-called deal-breakers, they’d have written their partners off prematurely and never got their happily ever after.

I’m a Christian, and once dated a guy who was really into horoscopes and fortune telling. It didn’t work out, but I learnt a lot about spirituality, there was healthy debate, and we’re still friends. I wouldn’t have this if I hadn’t given it a go simply because his beliefs didn’t match mine.

My point is: If you spell out your deal-breakers, they become much harder to ignore or erase. Stop treating the things we want in a relationship as eternal truths. You end up backing yourself into a corner and limiting your options. You might think that you can’t overlook a particular negative trait, but I guarantee that if you find enough to like about the person, you can work around it.

 

24/7 Texting

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Tell him everything

CH: Maybe it’s me being a hopeless romantic, but I believe that if two people love each other, they can talk every day and never run out of things to say. If I’m having an amazing brunch, I’d want to share a picture of the meal. If I’ve watched a great movie, I’d text to tell him it’s a must-watch. If I’m proud of myself for spring-cleaning my desk at work, I’d want to boast about it.

I won’t text for the sake of keeping up conversation, but I think trust and a close connection are products of constant communication. As a busy working adult, I don’t have time to see my partner every night, so texting is a way to let him know he matters enough to be privy to the little details that make up my day.

What that means is quality time when we meet – doing activities or spending quiet moments together – instead of me spewing verbal diarrhoea about what’s happened over the last few days.

It might seem like oversharing, but it comes from a good place. If I’m having dinner with a male colleague, my guy’s going to know about it – not because I need to issue a report, but because I want to be open with someone I care about

Some guys are cool with it. Others tend to save the texting for after work. But I’ve also dealt with radio silence after sending a text, only to get a “Sorry, I was busy” text the next day. I don’t buy that. My text habit has taught me that if a guy is keen on you, he can take a minute to reply your message. #Truth

 

Keep it zipped

DL: Love and romance predate the smartphone, so why do millennials act like their relationships will fall apart if they aren’t in contact with their partners 24/7 via Whatsapp?

While I concede that texting somebody throughout the day can build a connection, the minute you pass the initial intrigue of getting unfettered access to another person’s life, everything becomes excruciatingly mundane. Trust me, what you had for breakfast or that socalled funny anecdote your colleague shared really isn’t as entertaining as you think. Perhaps I’m afraid we’ll run out of things to discover about each other, or maybe I don’t want a guy to lose interest too quickly, so I create enough distance between us such that I’ve got something to talk about when I see him next.

An ex of mine expected constant updates on where I was and what I was doing, and complained he had to jump through hoops to find out things about me because I never volunteered information. Eventually, we broke up because I found him too intrusive, while he felt I was too guarded. The moral of this story, in my opinion? When you withhold stuff about yourself, you weed out the people who aren’t willing to invest the energy to get to know you.

So no, I don’t want the play-by-play of your day. Unless you’re making contact with an alien race, save it for your Twitter feed. Let’s keep the mystery alive for as long as we can.

 

Women do number twos

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Tell him everything

CH: “I did a number two in his bathroom,” Carrie Bradshaw proudly proclaims in a Sex and the City episode.

I’ve somehow managed to one-up Carrie. Not only have I pooped in my boyfriend’s bathroom, he was actually having a shower at the time.

For the record, I didn’t start out like this. My ex was the one who set me at ease when it came to bodily functions – one day, when I was in the shower, he came hurtling in with a tummy ache. After that line was crossed, I realised that, hey, if you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. If my partner and I are comfortable being in the same space when that happens, then that’s how it is.

I think we’re well past the days when a woman needed a full face of makeup every time her man saw her, or lived in terror of farting in his presence. Like any other human, I sweat, I occasionally have acne, I don’t smell great after a long day, and I don’t see why I need to pretend that I don’t exhibit these perfectly normal traits.

On first dates, I even avoid putting on makeup so he can see what I look like au naturel. I don’t want to create false expectations that I’ll look put-together all the time. Plus, I love the outdoors, and hope to swim and hike with my partner. There’ll be no makeup for sure at those times. Girls, we’re not Barbie girls in a Barbie world, and it’s just tiring, unrealistic and unnecessary to pretend that we are.

 

Keep it zipped

DL: My mother always told me to act like a lady. “You can pick your nose in the toilet stall for all I care,” she would say, “But in the company of others, you must always present your best self.” She chided me for walking around the house wearing boxers, and tutted when I complained out loud about my period. She emphasised that a minimum level of decorum was expected, even among family members – and she was particularly strict with me about it.

That was why I grew up painfully self-conscious and awkward in my own body. And that’s translated to what I feel my partner should be privy to. It’s one thing for him to know that I poop, but another thing for him to actually get a whiff of it, or hear it happen. When I go on holidays with a guy I’m seeing, and we have to share a hotel room, I always demand that he turn the television volume up when I’m about to go.

You could say I’m particular about managing my image – especially in intimate, romantic relationships. Another thing: My partner must never see me exercise. Often, I’m uncoordinated and don’t look my most athletic. It might sound strange, but I just don’t want him to see me when I’m not at my best.

These feelings need to be respected by whoever I end up with, no matter how long we’ve been together or how well we think we know each other. If the right guy comes along, and I feel comfortable enough around him to be weird, gross and human, I might consider readjusting my boundaries.

 

This story was first published in the December 2017 issue of Her World magazine.