An Experiment in Honesty
A little over a year ago, I took a break from serial monogamy to really explore dating. Before that I had been with my ex-husband for 9.5 years, and a subsequent boyfriend for 3.5. I hadn’t dated since I was 24, and I’d never dated in a big city, especially not one as big as LA.
I had been codependent for years, which meant I was always trying to see how I could be of service to my partner. I had based my value off my ability to be the perfect wife or girlfriend. As I started dating this time, I vowed to never lose myself again.
Rather than trying to present myself in ways I thought men would like, I focused on being as “me” as possible. I stopped wearing makeup on first dates and dressed in my favorite clothes without worrying whether they were sexy.
My poly friends and people who preached radical honesty educated me on checking in with my partners and accepting feedback. Guys were relieved we could have real conversations. They felt free to be themselves, too. I was upfront and honest with my feelings, so I didn’t have to worry about whether I was going to be rejected for expressing them later.
My newfound philosophy started to positively affect my friendships and working relationships. My ability to express myself helped people open up to me, and my connections deepened. Everyone felt more relaxed and happy.
By the time a year rolled around, my confidence had grown substantially. I felt like men were attracted to who I am, rather than some false version of me. I slept next to them in a ratty t-shirt while wearing my mouth guard with my hair in a sock bun, and they loved it.
Then along came Nigel. At that time, I was already dating two guys: my ex-boyfriend and another friend; both men knew about each other and were totally fine with the arrangement. I had met Nigel at a mutual friend’s salon opening and thought he was cute, but probably too conservative for me. Still, I agreed to go on a dinner date to give him a chance.
I spent the night before my dinner date with one of my lovers. I don’t like to sleep with guys on consecutive days, but I never sleep with people on first dates, and I didn’t expect anything to happen with Nigel, so what harm could it do? I kissed my guy goodbye in the morning, worked a full day, and got ready for my date.
As soon as I hopped in the Lyft, the conversation started flowing. We had an insane amount in common, from our upbringing to relationship challenges, to personal philosophies. We lost track of time telling our life stories to each other at dinner and were late to our concert. Afterward we went for drinks with friends, and by then I was hungry for In-N-Out. “There’s one near me,” Nigel said. “We could pick it up and eat it at my place.”
I hesitated. I felt awkward about sleeping with someone the night before, but I really wanted to explore where this went. I said yes and we Lyfted back to my place to pick up my car.
We got the goods, went back to his place, and got stoned. Then we demolished a couple double-doubles, some loaded fries, and two shakes. Full, lethargic, and satisfied, I realized I wasn’t sober enough to drive home. He lent me a t-shirt and sweatpants. We brushed our teeth and headed to the bedroom.
It felt surreal as we laid next to each other fully-clothed. What was I doing? How had I let it get this far on a first date? I didn’t feel right kissing him. “Good night,” I said.
“I guess that’s it,” he said.
“I need to tell you something,” I said. “I slept with someone last night, so I don’t feel like it’s right to kiss you so soon.”
I couldn’t believe the words were coming out of my mouth. I wondered if he was going to think I just wanted to sleep around rather than have a committed, monogamous relationship, which was my end goal. I was worried I was killing whatever connection we had and missing out on something real, rather than the non-committal fun I was having.
Instead he thanked me for being honest.
“Do you want to snuggle?” I asked.
“Yes!” We innocently intertwined, massaged each other's shoulders, and played with each other’s hair until we fell asleep.
In the morning as we drank our coffee, he told how he was once faced with a similar situation only hours apart. Both of us were relieved we could be so open. I realized I could tell him anything, and he felt free to do the same.
I knew I had met a potential life partner. Compared to the connection I felt with Nigel, all my other dalliances seemed shallow. I shut down my hookups. By the time he asked me to be monogamous, we already were.
During the month we’ve been dating, I’ve been less stressed in this relationship than any other. l realized I don’t worry about possible issues in the future because I know we will be able to talk about them. I don’t worry about him finding out something about me that I’ve been hiding. We openly tell each other how we feel without fearing we will scare the other person away.
When you’re completely open and honest, it might seem easier for people to judge and reject you. But you free the people around you to express their truest selves. I now have a community of people who love me with all my flaws, and I know who they really are. Strangely enough, honesty makes life easier.
Alison Kawa is our Marketing Director and User Happiness Agent. Her passions include building communities and making genuine connections. Come to one of our interactive dinner parties, and she’ll happily share a Five Breath Hug with you.