June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Should You Discuss Your Dating Life With Friends?

Dear Dr. Chani,

I am wondering what your policy is about people discussing their dating experiences with their friends. I have been dating a girl—let’s call her Rachel—for a few weeks. On a date with her, I had described a story about myself. A few dates later, Rachel came back to me with her friend’s opinion about that story. I was a bit shocked when Rachel told me that she had shared our conversation with her friend. She said that it is normal for her to ask her friends for dating advice. What do you think about this?

I asked Rachel why she needs to speak to her friends about her dates. I would have imagined that she would speak to her parents, a dating coach or another mentor in her life. She said that her friends understand her better than anyone else, and they give her good advice.

It is ironic because when I was in yeshiva, my rebbe gave us a pre-dating shmooze and told the guys that we should never discuss our dates with friends. Instead, we should have a specific mentor who will help guide us. He explained that our friends do not have the life experience and maturity to give us good advice so, most often, it is just a form of entertainment.

What should I think about Rachel’s approach? If it bothers me, do you think I should mention it to her? If it remains an issue, should I break up with her over it?

Sincerely,

Discreet


 

Dear Discreet,

Your question is very significant. You demonstrated maturity in the way you presented your perspective. It is also great that you asked Rachel direct questions about why she discusses her dates with her friends. Speaking to Rachel about it is the only way to truly understand her attitude. This can help you to decide how you feel about her reasons and how to proceed.

Let’s consider your first question: What do I think about Rachel’s opinion that it is normal to ask her friends for dating advice? Of course, what is “normal” varies from one person to the next and is different across social cultures. Your deeper question seems to be, “Should it be normal to discuss your personal dating experiences with your friends?”

As a general rule, it is advisable not to discuss dating with your friends. While they may understand you best and give good advice, dating is a specific realm where friends do not usually have enough of an objective viewpoint. Whether they are married or single, your friends’ advice is usually colored by their own dating experiences, and their own attitudes, interests and personalities.

Married friends, specifically, are often perceived as wise authorities on dating by virtue of the fact that they are married. Yet, being married alone does not give them the license to counsel people through the dating process. Every person’s dating situation and relationship is unique. Your married friends cannot necessarily extrapolate from their experiences to determine what makes sense for you.

However, sometimes a friend, whether married or not, is able to put aside his own preconceived attitudes and take the time to listen to you in order to understand your unique perspective and situation. The listening itself can help you see things better. It also increases the likelihood that your friend will give you good advice that is tailor-made for you. You may have a friend who has the ability to leave his biases at the door and ask you lots of questions to understand you and help you get clarity about your dating experiences. If your friend is that type of budding dating therapist, it may be helpful to speak with him about dating.

Yet, it is important to keep in mind that asking dating advice from an unmarried friend involves an added consequence. The Jewish dating world is very small. They say that “birds of a feather flock together”—meaning that people with similar interests, values and personalities tend to be drawn to the same social group. Therefore, it is common for two individuals from the same social circle to be matched with the same potential date. If you share your dating experiences with your unmarried friend, he will naturally form an impression of the person you are dating. Even if you mask some of the details about the person you are dating, it is likely your friend will eventually figure out who they are. If the impression of that person is positive then there will probably be no harm done, whether or not you end up marrying that person. Yet, the impression may be less than positive, either from the feelings you share or because of your friend’s own ideas that he develops through the prism of your experiences. This can lead your friend to draw conclusions that may affect his possible future dating decisions regarding that person.

What happened to you on a date with a specific person is unique to you, that person, and the particular context. Even if you have a negative reaction to something your date says or does, this does not mean that your friend would have experienced it similarly. Moreover, people grow from one date to the next and from one relationship to the next. Therefore, it can be inaccurate and unfair to damage someone’s reputation by sharing specifics about your dates with friends.

Furthermore, your rebbe mentioned that when friends share their dating experiences it can be a form of entertainment. This is especially true when a person shares information about what happened on a date in a group setting. The conversation can degenerate quickly as people take turns offering their “two cents” on what happened. It can lead to misunderstandings and lashon hara. It is insensitive to the feelings of the person you are dating to talk about what happened privately between the two of you. Imagine how you would feel if you were the subject of a public discussion led by someone you dated. If that gets back to the person you are dating, she might take it very personally. That might be enough to ruin your whole relationship.

There is another point to consider, as well. One of the things that happens as a dating relationship develops is that the two daters create a unit that is unique to them and grows to exclude other people. The things that they do and the conversations they have are what create a bond between the two of them. If one of the daters indiscriminately discusses her dates with friends, it undermines the creation of that bond. It seems that those feelings might be part of what is behind your question. You feel that you and Rachel are connecting. When she shares a story about you that you told her, it holds back the feeling of connection between the two of you. Instead, you feel like you are just another person in her friend group, as opposed to connecting with her in a unique way. That is an important thing for you to think more about, and to discuss with Rachel.

Your sensitivity to not speak about your dating experiences with your friends is admirable and wise. Even though you already discussed your opinion with Rachel, it is worthwhile to revisit the conversation with her. You can ask her more about her approach to it and depending on how that goes, let her know that you would like her to avoid sharing her dating experiences with her friends. If she is unable to appreciate and respect your sensitivity, it is understandable for you to part ways.

Wishing you much success,

Chani


Dr. Chani Maybruch is a social psychologist who has specialized in helping people build and enhance their relationships for over two decades. If you would like to improve your relationship with yourself, your loved ones, or others in your life, reach out to her at chanimaybruch.com.

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