Traditional advice tells you to steer clear of these three topics early in a dating relationship. But after a man asked me on a first date to briefly describe my attitude about each of these issues, I saw the wisdom of broaching them right away.
He’d shared with me that on a first date with a doctor, she got embarrassed at the use of the word “sex.” After a dozen phone conversations, emails and IMs with him and during our coffee date, I experienced him as a gentleman, never salacious or raunchy, so I doubted he had been with her. By her reaction, both verbal and nonverbal, he deduced she was uncomfortable discussing the subject philosophically, even though he wasn’t asking her preferences or experience, just her general attitude. It told him she was not as relaxed about the topic as he needed in a sweetheart. He didn’t date her again.
I saw the need to understand a potential suitor’s position on politics when having a drink with a man who hadn’t listed a political preference in his profile. We were having a nice time until politics entered the discussion. He commented that a current high-ranking politician was one of the most brilliant men ever in that position. I nearly spit my wine across the table since this was the most ridiculous assessment I’d ever heard. I laughed, as I thought surely he was being sarcastic. He wasn’t. It was good to find out that we had 180-degree opposite political perspectives and we needn’t waste any future time getting to know each other.
Some couples like James Carville and Mary Matalin can endure having opposite political points of view, but I would grow weary constantly debating such polar perspectives. You can agree not to discuss them, of course, but it would be hard for such glaring differences not to leak out.
For six months I dated a man with very different religious views. At first it wasn’t an issue, but as we got to know each other more he insisted I go to confession — even though I’m not Catholic — to cleanse my sins. When I informed him I was not going to confession, he told me he was concerned because he didn’t want my soul to go to hell. He could not understand how anyone could believe differently. Needless to say, this was a part of why I broke off our relationship — not that we had different religious practices, but that there wasn’t room for each others’ beliefs.
When the gentleman asked my overview of the three topics, I saw that he was trying not to waste either of our time if we felt the others’ perspective was a deal breaker. He shared his point of view as well, and we both were fine about the others’ position.
I now try to initiate a similar discussion before I agree to meet a man. I don’t want minute details on his sexual preferences, political leanings, or religious practices, but if his overview tells me he is off the scale of my comfort level, best to not even meet. I’ve been disappointed when I’ve taken time to learn about a man and meet him — or even date him for weeks or months — then learn he has views or practices that are repellent to me — especially if he expects me to participate in them.
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