Should I reveal my colourful past?

3rd October, 2009

Dear Economist,
I have been divorced since 2007 and decided to start dating three months ago. I am not terribly shy of men, but I am very insecure about me. I recently met an artist whom I find extremely HOT! I am curious to know how much information about myself I should divulge to him. I have made some bad decisions in my 42 years. I am stable now, but fear some of these things may affect his view of me. What would be the benefit of opening up to him before we hit a home run?
Sincerely yours,

Dear Seeking,

It seems to me that this is all about switching costs, a concept formalised by Paul Klemperer, an economist at Oxford University. If breaking off this relationship will be painful for you but easy for him, you had best get the skeletons out of the closet immediately and hope he doesn’t run a mile. It would be worse to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

If, on the other hand, your own switching costs are low, there is every reason to keep your mouth shut. Enjoy a few “home runs”, and if he later discovers that you are a former prostitute, a recovering alcoholic or a fan of Boyzone, at least you had your fun while you could.

The case for discretion is even stronger if your new beau has his own switching costs. In this case, once he has committed to the relationship he may find himself stuck with you even if he later learns the stark truth. Keep your secrets to yourself, give him a taste of what’s on offer, and wait until he’s hooked.

Come to think of it – my own wife has confessed to a few former indiscretions recently that might have given me pause for thought earlier in the relationship. I am reasonably confident that she was never a call girl. But when it comes to Boyzone, I wish I could be that sure.

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