Some see a candle-lit restaurant as an opportunity to discover all the wonderful things about their first date. Others see it as a chance to offload their personal baggage.
Courtneigh Summerrise, a gallery assistant in Manhattan, said a man once opened conversation on her first date with, “Next week, I am meeting my dad who abandoned me.” It should have surprised her, but it didn’t. She was used to men unloading their troubles before they even ordered their food. Other men have used dates to describe family problems, past relationship issues and traumatic life events.
She’s not alone. Talia Goldstein, chief executive officer and founder of match-making service Three Day Rule, said female clients complain that men are increasingly using dates to over-share about grievances in their lives — from divorce and family illness to financial strain and other problems. She said the issue has become a very common trend.
“Women seem to be comfortable sharing their feelings with friends and asking for help in different capacities, but we’ve found that men often inadvertently use dates to vent and air their dirty laundry — whether they are interested in the person they’re sitting in front of or not,” Goldstein said.
Bea (not her real name), 24, who works at a nonprofit in New York City, has had similar issues. On one occasion she even texted a man who seemed so troubled on their first date that she was concerned about his well-being. The weirdest part of all: He said he had an amazing time. “The emotional labor of absorbing the traumas of a stranger is not my job and also not what I’m trying to do in my dating life.”
Heterosexual men have fewer close friends than women
The average cost of therapy ranges from $75-150 an hour and $200 to $300 per hour in metropolitan areas like New York. The average first date costs $90, according to a survey from the Cashlorette. Given that you get wine and food on a date, it may seem like a bargain compared to sitting in a therapist’s office where generally the only perks are free tissues.
One single, Florida-based journalist who wanted to remain anonymous said her date recently revealed he was very sad to find out that his ex-wife was pregnant with a new husband. “I wonder sometimes if men, who aren’t really encouraged to discuss their feelings with each other, end up spilling a bunch of stuff to women just because they need somebody to hear it,” she said.
Heterosexual men share relatively few close connections with one another compared to women: Studies show they have smaller social networks overall and rarely share intimate feelings. While women’s socialization relies more heavily on verbal communication, men tend express friendship through activities like sports, according to a 2015 study published in scientific journal PLOS One.
Too much oversharing kills the romance
When a man dumps his troubles on the first date, Bea says it kills the romance. “You sit there listening because you are trying to be nice on a first date,” Bea said, “but in the end you hear way more than you want to hear about their personal issues to the point where it is impossible to think about them romantically.”
Some men may actually need to seek professional counseling before embarking on a stressful litany of dates. It doesn’t help that alcohol is prevalent on first dates. “Obviously men have a tendency to see women as sources of emotional support, but everyone could use someone to talk to and a professional to help them sort through problems in a productive way,” said New York City journalist Danielle Tcholakian, who is now in a relationship now.
Chelsea Reynolds, Ph.D., an assistant professor of communications at Cal State Fullerton who researches sexuality and media, said it’s possible men are not using the date as free therapy, but are simply sharing their feelings because it’s shown to increase intimacy. One 2015 study in which strangers were instructed to ask and respond to 36 open-ended questions in a lab setting led to expedited intimacy.
“It’s more likely that they’re over-sharing because they know it’s a surefire way to seduce a romantic interest,” she said. “A skilled dater might up the ante from ho-hum Tinder banter to deep talks in real life because he knows it’s more likely to get him a second date. Or get him laid.”