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.

5 replies
  1. Sam Bloomfield
    Sam Bloomfield says:

    The blog today about reltionships reminded me of these lyrics from Stephen Sondheim‘s Company [1970]. Trust is the foundation for all of these qualities/desires.

    Someone to need you too much,
    Someone to know you too well,
    Someone to pull you up short
    And put you through hell.

    Someone you have to let in,
    Someone whose feelings you spare,
    Someone who, like it or not,
    Will want you to share
    A little, a lot.

    Someone to crowd you with love,
    Someone to force you to care,
    Someone to make you come through,
    Who’ll always be there,
    As frightened as you
    Of being alive…

    Somebody, hold me too close,
    Somebody, hurt me too deep,
    Somebody, sit in my chair
    And ruin my sleep
    And make me aware
    Of being alive,
    Being alive.

    Somebody, need me too much,
    Somebody, know me too well,
    Somebody, pull me up short
    And put me through hell
    And give me support
    For being alive,
    Make me alive.

    Make me confused,
    Mock me with praise,
    Let me be used,
    Vary my days.
    But alone is alone, not alive.

    Somebody, crowd me with love,
    Somebody, force me to care,
    Somebody, make me come through,
    I’ll always be there,
    As frightened as you,
    To help us survive
    Being alive…!


  2. peter vajda
    peter vajda says:

    "Wanting" caring or "needing" caring? A fine line and when blurred it is the singlemost important element that defines dysfuctional and co-dependent relationships. Here, one’s own truth should never be "subordinated" to anything or anyone.

    Caring might be a value –  but if not a Core value, but an ego-driven value, well, this is where self-deception begins and relationships begin to spiral down.

    Your graphic reads: " tell me the truth; can I trust you?" It might also read, "what is my truth here and can I tell you?"

  3. barbara garabedian
    barbara garabedian says:

    In the dating world, there is a constant to remember…"one must kiss a thousand frogs before finding the prince". Along the way, truth and trust (aside from very swollen lips & cold sores), somehow tends to get lost in the shuffle.

    Ok, in relationships (in the name of kindness), people resort to the little white lie because they think that is what the person wants to hear, "…no, that dress doesn’t emphasize the extra 20 lbs".  Although it is interesting how women (in general) have less difficulty than men in saying, "… honey, that sweater looked great on you before you gained the 20 extra lbs but its time to give it up". The little white lie for something perceived as relatively insignificant such as being 5′ 9" instead of 5’11’, is something some people expect to be accepted and overlooked because of the  immateriality of the impact, and the "…everyone stretches the truth a bit" mentality.  So, I guess that arguement should also work for infidelity, yes? Wrong.

    Perhaps the reason people are willing to put up w/the larger breaches of trust is that they can’t bear the thought of going through that painful screening process all over again!  Seems to me, if you trusted someone to be faithful and they failed to measure up, wouldn’t it just be better to move on and buy Chap Stick by the box?!?

  4. Eve
    Eve says:

    I think that lying is really the main reason why there are so many disillusioned online daters out there. I’m not sure why people would lie about things like their height when the people they meet will automatically figure it out.

    It takes a certain amount of security with one’s self to be able to date honestly online. Thanks for posting the fairy tale ending for Ron and Cheryl. Gives people hope. 🙂


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