It was my second first date of 2019, the year in which I decided that I needed to put myself out there and go on some dates. I met a dude whomst shall be known as Carl at a tea shop in Soho on a Saturday afternoon. Unless you are exceptionally skilled at social extrication, I would not recommend this scenario for a first date. Always have an out time.
I was running a solid twenty minutes late. As much as I would like to blame public transportation, it was more due to my 10 panic-induced wardrobe changes. Inevitably, before any social occasion, I have an idea of what I’m going to wear. Then, when I put it on, I look in the mirror and think, Oh my gosh, I am a human turnip. I then try on a myriad of top/bottom combinations, throw myself dramatically on my bed in frustration, then decide to wear whatever I initially picked out. On the day in question, I did not allow enough time for this particular eventuality on top of the weekend train schedule. So there I was, speed walking from the Prince Street station to the tea place, arriving sweaty and panting even though it was below freezing outside.
There’s an awkward moment when you meet someone face-to-face with whom you have only interacted online. It’s even more awkward when you find yourself on a date with this stranger. Slightly feral farm child Marebs generally can’t handle this discomfort. I reacted in this particular situation by talking non-stop for three hours. Your girl’s an introvert, so this is highly irregular behavior. I did ask a couple of questions to try to curb my running mouth, but he didn’t disclose much before turning the conversation back to me. In my defense, he seemed genuinely interested. The whole thing was an out of body experience. Part of my brain kept saying, Oh my gosh you must stop talking, why are you telling him all this stuff? And yet, that rational part of my brain seemed to have disconnected itself from my mouth.
Perhaps the least helpful part was that, with everything I shared, this dude didn’t seem to have much to add. Perhaps his response to the awkwardness of the situation was the opposite of mine. The world may never know.
This habit of over-sharing when I’m uncomfortable doesn’t just infect my fledgling dating life. My platonic relationships fall prey to this tendency as well. Self-disclosure is a key component of getting to know someone and entering into a mutually loving relationship of any kind, and this requires vulnerability. Disclosing information about ourselves–our desires, our pain, our hopes, our past–can demonstrate trust and even increase it. But it is not appropriate to disclose everything immediately. I conceptually know that disclosure should be in proportion to the depth of the relationship and the amount of trust that is built up. But the conceptually smart part of my brain seems to go for lunch when my social anxiety enters the picture. This might shock you, as I have filled this blog with the many tales of my social prowess.
In her foundational book on vulnerability, Daring Greatly, Brene Brown writes,
“Vulnerability is based on mutuality and requires boundaries and trust. It’s not oversharing, it’s not purging, it’s not indiscriminate disclosure, and it’s not celebrity-style social media information dumps… That’s not vulnerability. That may be desperation or woundedness or even attention-seeking, but it’s not vulnerability… Vulnerability without boundaries leads to disconnection, distrust, and disengagement.”
I have a friend whomst we shall dub Amanda. As an introvert, I have a few close friends whom I love, and a larger segment of people who are friends but I don’t have the bandwidth to develop into closer friendships, but still like and respect and spend time with. I also have some relationships that I have realized are not the healthiest, and I have since realized that we would both benefit from taking a step back. In the early days of our friendship, Amanda asked me to clarify a vague comment I made about working through some mental health issues. When she asked, I felt uncomfortable saying no. And thus, uncomfortable, oversharing Marebs took over and I confided some deeply personal struggles, the kind I’ve only talked about with my therapist and a handful of long-standing relationships. Divulging that much that soon created a premature intense emotional connection that was disproportionate to the level of trust that we had established up to that point. It also established a pattern that has been difficult to break even as I have decided that I no longer wish to disclose that kind of information to Amanda.
In hindsight, I can tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy self-revelation. But in the moment? How do I connect that part of my brain that knows I should stop talking with the part of my brain spilling my soul to someone who has not earned the right to it?
I think the first step is acknowledging the issue, then digging to the root. Are there any commonalities between the situations in which I find myself oversharing? Why am I unable to sit with discomfort? Mayhaps when I am uncomfortable, I seek to make the other person uncomfortable. Mayhaps I have some personal boundary issues that I need to think and pray about. Mayhaps I’m uncomfortable with saying no to the other person or myself. For me, even the acknowledgement of this less than healthy habit of mine happened over the course of several stories told in therapy sessions, conversations with friends, and lots of prayerful reflection. It’s hard to recognize a pattern without an outside opinion.
Carl and I ended up going on a second date then mutually ghosting each other. Was it the emotionally mature way to handle the situation? No. Was it for the best? Unclear. I have no doubt Carl and I were never destined for a whirlwind romance, or even a tepid one. It is probable that he has forgotten all about me, unless he too has a blog on which I am featured as the weirdo who couldn’t stop talking. Moving forward, the best I can do is give myself room to learn from the mistake and time to form new patterns.
Picking up what I’m putting down?
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