When Do I Tell Him?
How to share sensitive information to your date.
I met with Jane, a student of mine, catching up on her life and specifically her dating life. She shared that she had been dating someone for a while but that it did not work out.
“At first, he was very into me. We were getting serious – he’d even met my parents. Then, he started to pull back and he eventually broke it off.”
“What happened?” I asked her.
“Well, I shared some vulnerable information with him, and I think he was uncomfortable with it.”
I could not imagine what this incredible girl could possibly share that would turn someone away. She was a gem: beautiful, insightful, smart, successful, and deeply caring.
She reminded me that her hearing is slightly impaired and that she uses hearing aids to make up the deficit. She felt that as soon as she told him about it, it was the beginning of the end.
Now Jane’s hearing aids are invisible to the naked eye, and in the seven years that I’ve known her, I’ve never once had to repeat myself. I was surprised by this guy’s response.
“How did you go about telling him, and what exactly was his reaction? Are you sure you didn’t break up because of something else?”
She explained, “I was terrified to tell him, and I felt myself fumbling over my words because I was so nervous. I feel so hurt that he rejected me, but more importantly, I am now confused as to when to share this important part of me over the course of dating someone. I don’t want to turn anyone else away from me, but this is information that needs to be shared. I feel so stuck.”
My heart was hurting for her. Even her parents had told her to keep it a secret from the people she dated, out of fear that no one would want to marry her because of it.
Everyone has vulnerabilities that we are reluctant to share. What’s the best way to share this type of sensitive information and when is the right time?
Here are three key elements needed in order to open up to someone you are dating:
The Right Person
When a friend of mine dated her now-husband, she told me that from the get-go she felt completely comfortable to be herself around him. There were plenty of people she’d dated that she felt insecure around, or had been unable to be herself with. Oftentimes, feeling that you can open up to someone is a reflection of the other person, indicating that the relationship is comfortable and safe for you.
Jane felt extremely nervous to share something important with the person she was dating. Sometimes feeling guarded or nervous to share who we really are is a reflection of the other person rather than ourselves. We should first examine the relationship and internally ask, Can I share my earnest thoughts without feeling that they will be brushed aside or judged?
Sharing vulnerable information with a person that makes you feel less than comfortable will not lead to a deeper connection. Rather, we must only share such things with a person who has proven that he or she has earned the right to hear our story.
The Right Time
Shedding all protective gear and opening up the first time you meet someone is not a good idea either. Sharing intimate information right away will not lead to a greater sense of closeness. Over-sharing leads to disconnection and awkwardness. Sharing too much, too soon is a lack of discretion that can cause the other person to turn away and will ultimately be detrimental to a relationship.
Real vulnerability is sharing things little by little with the person who has proven his or her respect, loyalty, and love. It is okay to have some form of a protective mask on initially, but with time it should only be removed slowly, until you make yourself vulnerable with someone who has earned the right to hear your story and will hopefully reciprocate.
The Right Delivery
It takes courage and confidence to share a vulnerable piece of oneself with a potential mate. Imparting the message in the right way is an essential element to sharing vulnerabilities.
It is possible that had Jane been more confident in her delivery about her medical needs, the other person may have received it in a more neutral fashion.
The advent of technology has helped all of us in numerous ways. Hearing aids are one form of technology that makes one’s life easier. Describing her hearing aids as merely a technological need (she has no genetic disposition or any further medical issues) enabled Jane to describe her situation with more confidence to someone else in the future.
No matter how confident we are when delivering these tender parts of ourselves, sometimes the other person may still reject us. Although we always hope that our vulnerabilities will be met with love and acceptance, sometimes that is not the case.
I gently shared with Jane that although the boy may have been overacting, it is possible that he had concerns about her health and was not ready to embark into a marriage because of them. Perhaps he was concerned with the genetic predisposition for his offspring, or about her hearing worsening later in life, or if the problem could be attributed to a more serious undiagnosed disease. Yes it would have been more considerate to discuss these issues and get the concrete facts needed to make an informed decision, but we have no control over another’s reaction, and sometimes a negative one can be a blessing in disguise, saving us from future heartbreak.
Not everyone will be comfortable with our imperfections, but we are looking for just one match. Viewing this part of the process as God’s way of helping to rule out the people that are not right for us can help us keep a positive perspective. After all, we don’t want to be with someone who doesn't appreciate us in our entirety.
Knowing we are good enough, whether we are rejected or not, can give us the confidence to share what is necessary and handle any subsequent rejection.
Other students have confided in me that when they’ve shared their vulnerabilities, it was the very moment in time that their relationship truly flourished.
It is crucial that we come forth with our vulnerabilities by sharing accurate information with the people we date. This free flow of honest and appropriate communication is the key to taking the next step in a relationship. The best way to talk about our vulnerabilities is to do so with the right person, at the right time, and with the right delivery. You’ll be glad you did.