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I Tried Being Brutally Honest with the Guys I'm Dating

"Your lack of ambition is a turn-off, and I don't see myself dating you because of it."
Illustration by Sarah MacReading

We are pretty damn good at lying. In fact, most of us can't go ten minutes without fibbing.

Of course, most of our daily lies are harmless. If I run into an acquaintance on the street and he or she asks me how I'm doing, I almost always say something to the effect of "I'm good" even if I'm hungover, $200 short on rent, and freaking out about a weird rash on my stomach. We lie every time we type "lol" at an unfunny joke, which is most jokes. We pretend to totally remember someone who claims we met at some party. These lies have been deemed OK to tell, for the good of society.


When it comes to romance, this is especially true. In terms of dating, lying is not only standard, but encouraged. Rejecting someone by "letting them down easy" essentially means to lie. That's where the stock clichés come from. I don't want to ruin our friendship or I'm still not over my ex or I don't have time for a relationship. Of course, in some instances, these clichéd responses are genuine. More often than not, however, they're a complete farce. Now, thanks to social media, we can more easily see the lies happening in real time. We can see the people who said they were too busy for a relationship just snapped a concert they were at or a Netflix binge they were partaking in. Lying is intended to protect our feelings, but is that really what ends up happening?

I spent the last four months having hopes for a relationship that never happened, and was never going to. I developed feelings for this guy quickly, and was under the impression the feelings were mutual.

At the start, we were both on the same page. He said he wanted a relationship, and I said I did too. I took this as a go-ahead to consider us dating. That's when things changed. Right as I made this ludicrous insinuation, he began distancing himself from me. Then, I started giving him shit for avoiding me and not texting me back, my number one pet peeve. I hate not being texted back more than I hate pretty much anything else. Naturally, arguments erupted. Each cycle of fights bringing forth new reasons why things couldn't work between us: I can't give you what you want right now, I don't have the time, I need to figure my life out.


My feelings were still so strong that I didn't want to give up. I wanted to believe these excuses. I wanted to believe that he was into me, but hesitant to take things further for reasons that had nothing to do with how he really felt about me. Now that it's completely over, I've come to realize that our entire saga—and many others like it from my past—could have been avoided with this one simple trick: honesty.

In 1996, Brad Blanton published the book, Radical Honesty: How To Transform Your Life By Telling The Truth. On his website, Blanton claims that lying is the "primary source of modern human stress, the primary cause of most anxiety and of most depression." Radical honesty grew into a movement urging people to be honest always—even if this honesty might hurt someone in the process. As Blanton writes, "I recommend you hurt people's feelings and stay with them past the hurt. I also recommend that you offend people. We can all get over having our feelings hurt and we can get over being offended." While there's truth to Blanton's words, this still seems like something that is easier to agree with than to actually participate in.

Thinking of all the lies I've told men in order to save face, I wonder, would things really have been better off if I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but it? Would I be less pent up, less frustrated, and ultimately, happier? Not knowing the answer, I decided to experiment with radical honesty for myself.


It started with having a very real conversation with the man I couldn't let go of. I told him exactly what my feelings were toward him. Never before had I been so open with someone about how badly I wanted them. Telling him I liked him, even though I knew he didn't like me back, taught me my first lesson about radical honesty: More often than not, honesty will leave you feeling incredibly vulnerable. I then asked him, "What are your feelings for me?" Lesson number two about radical honesty: Just because you're being truthful doesn't mean you'll get that in return. He was still skirting around this very direct question, still giving excuses, and ultimately still not telling me what I needed to hear. I realized at that moment I would rather be offended than fed more dishonesty, which leads me to lesson number three: Closure is essentially the need for blunt honesty, which is rarely received.

A week later, I went on a date. He was my type in almost every sense, but the more time we spent together the more I found myself being turned off by the fact that he wasn't really doing anything with his life. I hate myself for being so judgmental about this, but passion is a huge turn-on for me while a lack of it does the complete opposite. I got a text from him the next day asking when we could see each other again. At that moment, I knew what had to be done. I had to be radically honest. In other words, I had to be a bitch.

This brings me to lesson four: You have to accept the fact that you're capable of being an asshole. I knew that what I was about to do was going to hurt his feelings, but according to the rules, it needed to be done. I responded: "Your lack of ambition is a turn-off, and I don't see myself dating you because of it." His response was, "Damn Alison," and that was that. I felt bad, but with that bad feeling also came a sense of relief. One that I don't think I could have gotten with a lie or stock excuse. It didn't feel good to hurt his feelings, but it did feel cathartic to tell the truth. The both of us were better off in the long-run because of it.

After these two experiences, I've come to the conclusion that radical honesty is exactly what this modern age of dating needs. Radical honesty could very well be the thing that ends the issues that plague single people everywhere, like ghosting, fuckboys, false hope, unattainable closure, manipulation, and confusion. When it comes to the every day "how are yous" and "remember mes," I am going to hold on to the notion that a little bit of lying is OK. However, when it comes to romance, a lot more is at stake both emotionally and physically. That's why I'm vowing to keep it up with being radically honest with the men I date. At this point, there's nothing to lose.

Follow Alison Stevenson on Twitter.