True confessions after a third date…

So I was schmoozing with a bunch of people and we were talking about having to bring up “sensitive” issues when you’re dating someone. I’ve heard the old adage of the third-date rule myself, which in a nutshell stipulates that you need to reveal any earth-shattering factoids about yourself by the end of the third date. So my peeps were giving examples of things that they think that people need to share at the end of the third date, namely including a history of a depressive episode or having been molested or raped. 

I have a hard time accepting this. In the traditional frum 10-dates-and-you’re-it-community, a guy or girl says she once had to take medications or has been molested is – most unfortunately – toast, even if the person have been treated and has been stable and functioning for several years. People are frightened when they hear this kind of information, despite the fact that both are unfortunately so common.

I tried to argue with the chevra, stating that – for example – there is a difference between someone experiencing a depressive episode where they cried a lot and had feelings of guilt and hopelessness and a depressive episode that results in hospitalization or a suicide attempt, but to no avail: they argued that people have a “right” to know if the person they marry has ever been depressed since it indicates a predisposition. Even if this were true, why do you need to hear this after the third date? When you hardly know someone, such pieces of information is more likely to influence everything thta the person does or says afterwards, particularly in a community where issues of mental health is still so stigmatized.

And what about a person who has been molested? Again, the chevra argue that people have the right to know this because – get this – “48% of boys who have been molested go on to later have some sort of homosexual experience.” (And what percentage of boys who have not been molested have some sort of homosexual experience…?) Even if this outlandish statistic were true, that still doesn’t change the fact that a person has a right to maintain his or her privacy, particularly before really feeling invested in a relationship! Suppose, for example, a guy who was once molested is trying to keep this info under wraps but tells someone after a third date because his rabbi told him that is what he has to do. Not only is it likely that the girl will get freaked out, but what are the odds that the guy will be able to maintain his privacy and the whole community will not find about this? And if the first and second girl respect his privacy, what about the fifth and sixth? What if someone asks her best friend why she stopped dating that nice guy after the third date?

I agree that people who are about to be married should ideally feel comfortable sharing their life experiences with each other. The difference is that once people actually have a relationship with someone, they can hear information and place it in a greater context. They have a better appreciation of whether – and how – this person is affected by their experience. They have a greater respect for the person’s privacy so that if they decide that this is something that they can not deal with they may be less likely to spill the beans to someone else.

While I understand that in some segments of the Orthodox community the third date is some sort of symbol that things are going well, I can’t imagine that it changes the laws of social interaction completely. It doesn’t change the fact that three dates is not enough to really feel that you are in a relationship with someone. It’s hard enough for so many people to get married because of their “stigmas” – shouldn’t they be able to at least have a chance to demonstrate who they really are before being forced to hold up the scarlet letter? And if people are afraid that once people actually know each other better – like after, gasp, the tenth date! – they would be more likely to overlook these “major” issues – well, that maybe that ought to tell us something about whether we really have the “right” to about certain things so early on in a relationship.

What do people have the right to know early on? Where do we draw the line? Does a person need to reveal that they had issues of self esteem at fourteen? Does someone need to share that their grandparents all died from heart disease, suggesting that there is a predisposition in the family? Does a person need to reveal that in fourth grade he or she was jealous of a friend and stole a watch before returning it the next day? I mean, maybe it suggests a predisposition. Does someone need to reveal that he or she was depressed and took meds for a few months after losing a parents in a tragic accident? Does someone need to reveal that he or she was once grabbed by someone but he or she managed to run away before anything really “happened”? Does someone need to reveal that that he or she was depressed but DID NOT take meds because he or she was afraid what it would do to shidduchim? Where does it end? And does the fact that people feel that they would “like to know” something about the person mean that they actually have a right to know it straight up? Maybe we should all hand in a complete DNA report at the end of the third date.