May 31st, 2007 by Nina Atwood
Julie has a teenaged son. Being a single mom, she’s a bit stressed out. Her son, lacking the day-to-day infuence of a Dad and a solid family, acts out. He talks back, doesn’t always comply with her rules, and sulks around the house. Julie wonders if she should tell men on a first date that this is the center reality of her life. What if a guy thinks she’s looking for a surrogate Dad? What if a guy shudders at the thought of having to bypass the hormonal teenager to court the Mom?
What about you? Do you have something major in your life that you’re uncomfortable sharing early in a relationship? Here’s the reality – with vital statistics, such as children and number of marriages, it’s best to tell right up front. Here’s why.
When you withhold important information in the beginning, out of the fear of scaring them away, you save yourself some immeidate discomfort but may sacrifice in the long term a budding relationship. Later, when the truth comes out, the other person may feel manipulated. The end result is a loss of trust. After all, if you weren’t forthcoming about this, what else are you hiding?
By telling right away, you accomplish a couple of things. First, you send a message of self-respect and strength. It says that you care enough about yourself that you’re willing to take the risk of someone being turned off about the circumstances of your life. It says that you’re wiling to let those chips fall because if that person doesn’t like your life circumstances then you aren’t right for each other, and that’s okay. There’s strength in that stance.
Second, you communicate respect for the other person. The message is that you have a right to know the most important information about me so that you can make an informed choice about whether or not you wnat to become involved with me. It says that I respect your right to choose and I won’t manipulate you with a false impression.
In this, as in all things, the devil is in the details. While sharing your vital statistics is empowering, sharing the down-and-dirty details of just how bad your kids act at times, or your sex life with your ex, is not. The details are only appropriate as they inform about who you are, and you reveal that in layers as time goes on. In the beginning you give the broad brushstrokes. Later, as trust and intimacy build, you share more. The main part of your time together should be spent on the now, on connecting in a positive way.
For lots more information about how to communicate early in the dating game, read Date Lines: Communication from “Hello” to “I Do” an Everything In Between.