A few years ago, I was meeting the grown children of a man I had been dating for a couple months. At dinner, we were discussing a variety of subjects and somehow his divorce came up. He began lamenting about how his ex-wife was bossy and always complaining about his personal and professional decisions.
Awkwardly he then began listing, and commenting on, a litany of their quirky issues and patterns. His grown son shot him a weary side eye before reaching for his phone seemingly to check out of the conversation. A few minutes later, my date stopped his monologue, looked at his handheld device, smiled sheepishly and showed me his incoming text: "Uh, dad? I think you like the woman immediately to your right, so please stop going on and on about your past with your second wife." Needless to say, we all laughed and he quickly changed the subject.
For those of us dating after divorce -- and even more so if of a certain age -- increasingly these conversations are anything but rare. However, these days there seems to be a disturbing trend where we share way too much information, way too soon in the dating process. Like, on the second or third date. Or for heavy offenders who don't get that far, even on the first.
So it should have come as no surprise to me when a girlfriend called (a couple of weeks ago) to tell me about a serious case of downloading and dating. She was just barely past the first cocktail on a third date when her handsome date blurted out, "I always believe in being honest so I want you to know that I've been dating my ex-girlfriend off and on for the last several months."
Though this was the last thing she wanted to talk about while enjoying a fun dinner, she of course couldn't help but hear all about it. He basically explained how he was hoping to find something (or someone) to jolt him out of it because his ex was living with another man. But as the details kept piling on and as he seemed more and more engrossed in the telling of them, he was looking less and less at the woman sitting across the table from him and finally she thought to herself, "Wait a minute here, is this a date or a therapy session?"
So, when he called to make plans the following day, while she did admire his honesty, she declined.
But as I began to think more about it something else occurred to me. Haven't we all been in some version of this story lately? Aren't those of us on the other side of the conversation just as much to blame as we gauge emotional availability and search for red flags beyond mere curiosity? After all, we're giving the green light to download by basically saying, "I have the bandwidth, spill it!"
Let's be honest, we all want the information when we want it, and thanks to technology, we've become entitled to getting it instantaneously in every other aspect of our lives. But could this be training us to quickly download personal information without ever taking a beat? Do we really need to know every detail of someone's past? Why must we hear about every fight that lead to the demise of their marriage or of every conquest since ending the last relationship while enjoying what should be a fun and enticing second date?
Maybe we should implement a don't ask, don't tell policy for the first several dates. Because while I believe in keeping it real, such conversations clearly derail a romance just as it should be entering its most exciting phase of discovery. Talking about your ex or some current drama is just too much, too soon -- like getting a bad computer virus, once it wreaks havoc on your system, it's difficult to get the connection back.