Think only women blather about their love lives? If the headlines in recent months are anything to go by, men are getting in on the game.
Taylor Swift is still, arguably, the most dangerous celebrity to date – the American songstress has a penchant for singing about her exes and their dastardly deeds – but some famous guys are giving her a good run for the money.
Action flick star Jean-Claude Van Damme got the ball rolling – and tongues wagging – when he admitted to having a fling with pop star Kylie Minogue… 19 years ago. Then, Arnold Schwarzenegger freely blabbed about his multiple extramarital affairs in his new autobiography.
Closer to home, Asean scholar and law undergraduate Alvin Tan had us googling (and ogling) after the news broke that he had a “sex blog” with his girlfriend.
Suddenly, we realised men were talking. A lot. They were going on about everything from what they were doing to who they were doing.
In fact, it’s deeply hardwired in a guy’s DNA to talk about his intimate affairs, says a psychology professor at the Singapore Management University.
“Socially dominant men tend to have more casual sex partners. So when men boast about their sexual exploits, the underlying function is to increase their perceived status among men,” he says.
So, who exactly are these gossip boys? And more importantly, how do you get them to stop shooting off – about you?
The guy who recently found a girlfriend or wife, and wants to share the good news with EVERYONE. He may let slip too much in his excitement.
Sean*, an entrepreneur, adores his girlfriend of a year – and wants the world to know it.
He admits that he has a habit of posting “outrageous declarations of love” on his Facebook page. These include mushy public messages directed at his girlfriend, Lucy*, including “You’re the best woman anyone could have”.
When out with friends, he volunteers frequent updates about his relationship: how he and Lucy had a “talk” the night before, or how they stayed over at each other’s houses and cooked a meal together. Friends hint that he talks about her too often, and that he and Lucy are “in their own world”.
His defence? “There’s nothing shameful about the information I post. I usually limit my sharing to positive experiences. My only principle is that I don’t mope online,” he says.
Sean adds that what he does is no different from couples who host big weddings. “Why do you need to invite so many people when you get married? It’s because you want people to share in your happiness. I just have moments when I want to let out my feelings for her.”
Sean says Lucy is far more private than he is, but that she has never complained about his sharing as she trusts him. He’s also indifferent when asked if people were to get annoyed by his “tell-all” ways. “If they get irritated, it means they’ve got issues to resolve.”
Does he ever feel that his public declarations of love may haunt him if their relationship fizzles out? “I’ll have no regrets,” he says. “It doesn’t bother me. I can delete all those posts anyway.”
The damage done
Gag-inducing but generally harmless if you’re his friend. But if you’re dating him, it could be overwhelming.
Janine*, a technical support employee, recalls going out with schoolmate Lionel* two years back. “Barely a month after we started casually dating, Lionel was proudly sharing photos of our dates with his friends and family members,” she recalls. “I didn’t say anything, but it felt like he was being presumptuous.”
After they got together, Lionel would also post Facebook updates extolling Janine to his over 1,000 friends, saying how amazing life was now that she was with him. “It was embarrassing when his friends replied with comments like ‘get a room’. I’ve never liked PDA and didn’t like how he was dragging me into this.”
Deal with him
Tell him what your expectations are clearly and directly, says the manager of dating agency The Dating Loft. “Be clear about how much can be shared. Highlight what’s ‘allowed’ and what’s not.”
If you’re just starting to date him, be careful about what you talk about and the photos you snap together, she advises. Remember that these could be made public early on by an over-enthusiastic suitor.
THE “EMO” ONE
He’s the guy friend who always posts depressing tweets, or Youtube videos of sad songs – giving you clues to his emotional state. He’s usually been through a rough patch in love.
Henry*, an entrepreneur, has no qualms grieving over failed relationships publicly. He blogged about a woman he was courting unsuccessfully some years back, including her first name, details of their conversations and how disappointed he was when she spurned him. The blog was “unlocked” and accessible to her and their mutual friends.
About a year back, he also documented his break-up on Facebook. His profile page, which was open for his over 700 friends to view, was peppered with emotional updates about how low he felt. He even uploaded a photograph of his tear-stained face.
When asked about that incident, Henry says he didn’t have pals whom he felt comfortable confiding in. Broadcasting his grief was, ironically, his way of “venting to everyone and yet no one in particular”.
Henry stresses that he doesn’t do these things to “get back” at women or to elicit sympathy – though it is a “bonus” when his friends check in on him. He simply has a more lax attitude towards privacy. For instance, he sees nothing wrong in telling friends how much money he has in his bank account.
“In this day and age, people can find out all sorts of things about you if they try hard enough,” he reasons. “So why withhold information, unless you have something to hide?”
Henry says his ex privately contacted him to check on him after seeing his posts – but never complained. He says she had never told him what was off limits for sharing, and claims that if she had asked him to keep mum, he would have respected that. He adds that he would have removed any offending posts if requested.
So is there anything he won’t broadcast about himself? “Probably not my naked photos,” he says.
The damage done
It can be trying if you are on the receiving end.
Commenting on Henry’s case, the head of Reach Counselling says it’s possible his ex felt uneasy with his online updates even if she never said so explicitly. “It is wiser and more respectful to err on the side of less disclosure, rather than more,” she says.
Mary-Anne*, a journalist, recalls how a friend of hers documented his feelings on Facebook after a break-up. She was uncomfortable with his updates that included expletives, as he obsessed and raged about his ex. “I felt bad for him and asked if he was okay,” she said. “But it was discomfiting to see someone I cared for having a public and undignified meltdown on my newsfeed.”
Deal with him
It’s normal to vent after a break-up, but if you feel a line has been crossed – for instance, if your ex goes beyond just talking about his feelings to revealing private messages between the both of you – tell him you’re not okay with it. As he may be still sore over the split, avoid an accusatory tone, but let him know gently and firmly what’s bothering you.
He’s smooth, glib and concerned about his image. In any party, he’s the centre of attention, regaling the crowd with tales of his conquests.
Stefan* admits that his love life has been buoyed by rumours and gossip – about himself. The extrovert says he frequently kisses and tells, knowing full well that the juicy details will be repeated to others.
It’s part of his plan to cultivate his reputation as a stud. According to Stefan, being known as a man-about-town has helped him bed over 80 lovers in the last decade, as women are attracted to his “bad boy image” and reputed bedroom prowess. He encourages this reputation by deliberately telling a few of his loudmouthed male friends about how many women he’s slept with, knowing they’ll spread word of his one-night stands like wildfire.
Explaining the lengths he goes to create such a reputation, he explains: “Years ago, a girl I really liked dumped me for a bad boy. I was upset and realised that I never wanted to be in that situation again. I wanted to be the one that she went for.”
Stefan says he also used gossip to his advantage after being cheated on by his ex-girlfriend and colleague, Tina*, some years back. Enraged, he deliberately told everyone about her infidelity – including her friends and co-workers. Word even spread to her boss. Tina never confronted him about this (“what could she say?”, Stefan challenges), but they are not on speaking terms now. Stefan admits that he gossiped about her to co-workers with the intention of ruining her reputation. He describes himself as a “vengeful” guy.
Ironically, Stefan managed to capitalise on his heartbreak. “It actually benefited me whenever I told other girls that my ex had cheated on me,” he says. “They’d feel sympathetic and think that I was a ‘broken’ guy whom they could fix.” So it became another tactic for him to seduce and hook up with women.
The damage done
High. If you’re dating such a manipulative gossip, he may be using intimate details of your relationship to embellish his reputation.
“I knew this guy who was worse than a kiss-and-tell book,” says Amelia*. “He was casually dating a girl and would give us periodic updates of their ‘progress’. Once, over dinner with a group of eight friends, he revealed explicit details about their sex life. The guys were amused and laughed along, but the girls were disgusted. His lack of respect for her privacy was horrifying.”
Deal with him
If you’re planning to leave him, plan your exit strategy carefully, says the managing director of dating agency Love Script International.
“Men like that rarely take no for an answer. Even if you agree to everything they want, they will still create trouble for you and damage your reputation,” she says. You might want to alert friends to your side of the story first to take the sting out of any smear campaigns he might mount. Be as calm and rational as possible.
If things get really nasty, consider counselling. “Men like that are out to hurt women and come out first. The more fame they achieve, the more elevated their status becomes,” she says.
“To them, all publicity is good publicity.”
*Names have been changed
This story was originally published in the January 2013 issue of Her World.