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I’m over 35 and dating. One question I get asked a lot is about my past relationships.

The problem is, I haven’t had any.

I’ve had one problem or head trip after another. I’ve also been a loner and a bit of nerd. I can honestly say that I am over all of that.

I know these women are asking me this question to screen me out, the way an employer would look at past work experience.

I know I am a sane, well-balanced guy who will be considerate, but I am afraid that if I am truthful before I get to know a woman I will get dumped by the second date.

Any advice on how to handle this question?

Robert

Dear Robert,

Among the most common advice given by relationship experts is this doozy:

“Just be yourself!”

Tell that to the guy who asks a first date if she likes anal sex. Or the woman who complains that all men are pigs before she’s even ordered her Caesar salad.

Encouraging these folks to be themselves is a crime against humanity. They’d be far more successful on dates if they were to try to be anybody else. Of course, these people never learn from their mistakes, since they never get any feedback. When others don’t return their calls, they assume that it’s the other person’s loss, and tell themselves others are crazy for not appreciating their “honesty” and “directness”.

“Hey, I’m just being MYSELF here. You don’t expect me to just LIE, do you?”

Uh, if not telling her that she looks fatter than her photo is a lie, then, yeah, lying’s not a bad idea.

Which is just a long way of saying, Robert, that full disclosure isn’t always the best idea. Listen, I’m not one to make dating sound like a series of job interviews, but if you think of each “interview” as a chance to make a strong first impression, you don’t go into an all-out confessional.

“Yeah, see that line on my resume that shows that I was employed at NorthStar Research in April ’97? That’s because my boss was a dick, who caught me surfing for porn during a sexual harassment training session. Plus, the job really sucked because he was always asking me to do stuff for him…. My greatest weakness? Probably that I’m lazy. And a stoner. A lazy stoner.”

This is not how to interview. We know this. But it doesn’t stop us from telling the whole truth on a date under the guise of “full disclosure”.

Dating has always been a perfect example of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and I’m always amazed when not everyone has read that same rulebook.

Dating has always been a perfect example of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and I’m always amazed when not everyone has read that same rulebook. Like when you go out with someone who says that she’s got another date tomorrow night. What good could POSSIBLY come out of me knowing that right now? Well, in her mind, she’s just telling the truth, letting me know that she’s got other options, perhaps informing me that she’s not that interested. But chances are, she’s not sending a message. She’s just being STUPID….

And that’s what over-sharing is on a first date. You take Wellbutrin to keep it together? Save it. Your last boyfriend physically abused you? Save it. You just got out of rehab? Save it. In other words, if you think it might be poorly received, SAVE IT for later. Because we’re all a lot more forgiving of “issues” when we know and like someone than when we’re meeting them cold on a blind date. The same thing that might label you a “freak” on date one may actually be heartwarming and vulnerable later on.

By the way, I say this as a guy who has some legitimate “issues” himself, and never ran into major troubles with any women because of how and when I dealt with them.

SO… are you going to be asked about your relationship history frequently on dates? Absolutely. It’s a fair question, and usually a very revealing one. But if you’re not ready to reveal, try gliding past it. And please, keep it light. Being matter of fact is key, since the bigger deal you make of it, the bigger deal it becomes.

Her:

“So what happened with your last girlfriend?”

You:

“Sorry, previous relationships are a date 3 question. Unless we’re talking about yours, of course…”

“Let’s just say that I haven’t had anything serious in a really long time.”

“I’ve been so focused on work for the past few years that I haven’t left much time to date. Which is why I’m here with you right now.” 

Like a politician, you can answer the question without really answering the question.  

 

Again, I’m just making stuff up here, but, like a politician, you can answer the question without really answering the question. The only way this backfires is if she turns into a pitbull and presses you for a more tangible answer, names, dates, hair samples.

Of course, if she does interrogate you, you probably don’t want to go out with her anyway.