Trust in the Online Dating World

The realm of romance is a source of intriguing metaphors for trust. Do people really want reliability in a romantic partner? Or is a little unpredictability a good thing? Other than the obvious, what’s the difference between romantic relationships and business relationships?

And, today’s subject—how about truth-telling in the dating world? Do you want someone who tells it like it is? Or do you want them to pull their punches once in a while?

Truth in dating: is it a good thing?

Cut to the NY Times His 50 First Dates (or in her case, 3).

Looking For a Woman He Could Trust to Tell the Truth

Poor Ron James. He joined JDate the month he was divorced, and spent the next year and a half looking for Ms. Wonderful.  Along the way, he found the relationship of Online Dating and The Truth to be problematic. To begin with, a lot of people on JDate—explicitly aimed at Jewish singles, partly as a counter to intermarriage—weren’t Jewish at all. And of course, that was just the beginning.

Over that year and a half, he said, there were women he met who lied about their age, posted photos that were 10 years old, misrepresented their jobs and pretended to be more successful than they were. “A lot of the photos didn’t look like them,” he said. “I learned to watch out for sunglasses.”

Then he met Sheryl.

At Starbucks, Mr. James was struck by Ms. Daija’s looks. Her JDate photo was taken swimming, with no makeup.
“You look exactly like your picture,” he said.
“Is that a good or bad thing?” she asked.
“That’s a very good thing,” Mr. James said. The hour flew.

Cue the violins. They married this past January.

Is Trust in Romance a Good Thing?

I was once told by a date that I was the only 5’11” man she’d met who actually turned out to be 5’11”.  That was also a good thing.  But I met many women who lied about their age, and justified it because–"otherwise, they’d screen me out."  (Which I had kinda thought was the point of having screens.  And yes, I know, we men are pigs, etc.  And yes, we lie too.)

Is the truth generally a good thing? Do we want trust in romance? Or not?

As usual, the answer is, it depends. And the real question is—on what?

Think about these trust statements:

  • I trust that my partner will be faithful—and if not, I don’t want to know about it
  • I want my partner to tell me the truth–unless it’s hurtful
  • I want to depend on my partner—but not so much as to be boring
  • I want my partner to care about me—but not to be dependent on me.

Romantic relationships are one area where we demand both truth-telling of the most intimate nature—but also the ability to hold our tongue, keep a bit of a secret, to once in a while play the Jack Nicholson role (channeling “you can’t handle the truth!”).  In the trust quotient, it’s the low self-orientation factor.

That’s what Ron James seems to have concluded:

“Every day when I leave for work, she says, ‘Drive safely,’ ” Mr. James said. “It warms my heart.”
“Does it really?” Ms. Daija asked.
“That anyone cares,” Mr. James said.

It’s generally not a good thing to subordinate the truth to other values. But caring? Well, that may be the exception that proves the rule.