How Much Should You Share On a First Date?

There’s a particularly tense episode of Netflix’s “Dating Around”— a reality show that sends people on a series of first dates— that you might have seen.

Gurki, 36, is on a date with a man named Justin. She’s honest with him about her divorce, and the cultural pressure she’d felt to get married in the first place.

He doesn’t take it well.

“How could I ever trust you?” he says.

It’s the kind of scene a lot of people try to avoid on first dates. No touchy subjects, no topics that would end in a shouting match followed by one of you storming out of the bar.

But while this may be an extreme example, it’s a good thing to be honest on a first date, says Kimberly Koehler, a Minneapolis-based dating coach.

“If there’s something that’s really important for someone to know, you need to be up front about it,” she said.

Koehler tells her clients to be aware of their own values.

If the person you’re on a date with shares something you have a strong opinion about — an opinion that might impact their decision to date you — you should probably share it.

Maybe they say they don’t want kids, but you have kids from a previous relationship. Or they’re not into politics and you have strong political views.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be compatible. It’s just good to get those things out in the open.

“Don’t lie, share things about yourself as they come up,” said Tina Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of 15 books about dating and relationships.

“Until you decide to have a committed relationship, you don’t need to share a lot, but beginning with honesty is important.”

If you’re going to have sex with the person, it’s important to share any sexual health information that could impact them or their health, and it’s OK to ask them to do the same.

Start with the dating profile

If you’re dating online, your honesty should start when you create your Tinder, Hinge or OkCupid profile.

While few would actually “catfish” a date, some feel pressure to “kittenfish,” which is basically a more subtle version.

Kittenfishers use edited or old photos, or lie about their age or hobbies in an effort to make themselves seem more attractive online.

“If there’s pressure to be someone you’re not, it comes from within, from feeling not good enough to be attractive,” Tessina said.

There’s no harm in trying to put your best foot forward, or choosing the best photos of yourself to display. But it’s also important that your profile depicts you as you are.

That way, you can attract people who like you for you.

[ICYMI: How to Get Back in the Dating Game After Heartbreak]

Don’t overshare

The first date can feel like a lot of pressure. It’s your chance to make an impression, so it’s tempting to want to bend to fit the other person’s expectations.

Illustration of man and woman having wine during their first date. pbs rewireCredit: Adobe
If the person you’re on a date with shares something you have a strong opinion about — an opinion that might impact their decision to date you — you should probably share it.

But you shouldn’t build it up to be something it’s not. A date is just a chance to make a connection with another person.

There are no stakes. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.

“It should be a time where you’re just trying to see if you enjoy each other’s company,” Koehler said. “And obviously if there’s a bit of an attraction here.”

Think about it like meeting a new friend.

When you’ve just met someone, you wouldn’t word vomit everything about your life. You’d be yourself, but you would share things slowly, as the relationship develops.

No matter the relationship, it will take months for you to truly know the person.

Anxiety can sometimes pressure people to overshare. That’s an easy way to put extra stakes on a date, and even turn off the other person.

If you view the date as a regular conversation, you won’t feel as anxious, and therefore you’ll be less tempted to do that.

That doesn’t mean you’re not being authentic.

“Authentic means to be true to yourself, and allowing your date to see who you really are,” Tessina said.

Be brave

The way Koehler sees it, being authentic is being vulnerable. You’re showing up as the person you are, knowing there’s a chance you could be rejected because of it.

That’s brave. But it’s also worthwhile.

“The reward of being vulnerable and authentic and being confident on a date is really connecting with somebody who is authentic with who they are,” she said. “And they’re going to date you for who you are.”

Sure, that might mean going on more dates in the long run. But you’ll save yourself a lot of the pain and frustration that comes from being inauthentic and connecting with inauthentic people.

When you’re authentic, Koehler said, dating is less of a roller coaster.

When you find someone, they’ll stick around because they can see who you are.

“Don’t let fear deter you from sharing with somebody, because if it’s going to be the right person, it’ll be something they can bond over,” she said.

Gretchen Brown

Gretchen has reported on the criminal justice system in rural Minnesota and covered everything from politics to millennial truck drivers for Wisconsin Public Radio. She is passionate about public media as a public service. She’s also into music and really good coffee. Follow her on Twitter @gretch_brown.