In her former life, Emily “Gynomite” Gordon was a couples and family therapist licensed in 2 1/2 states. In this life, she would love to take a crack at your emotional dilemmas. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org- all emails stay confidential. You can also check her out on her weekly column over at Lemondrop. Today, Gynomite takes on breaking news in a new relationship.
I’ve been dating this guy for a few months, and we are officially boyfriend and girlfriend, and things are going really well. Here’s the problem. I have a few, like, secrets in my past. Nothing that affects our relationship now at all, but stuff that is important to who I am, and stuff that I feel like someone who really cares about me should know about. Like religion/past relationship/drug use stuff. I don’t to tell him too early so he thinks I’m a confessional weirdo, and I don’t want to wait too long to where he’s like “Why did you never tell me this?”. I am confused.
As a girl who also has fun past experiences that just don’t seem to work their way into conversations, I feel you. Let’s see if we can figure out a timetable.
First, I like that these issues are ones that wouldn’t affect your relationship but are nonetheless big deals. I especially like how you put that: important to who I am.
I have a bit of a thing about the notion that in relationships, telling someone about your past means that you’re automatically closer to them. It doesn’t. Telling someone about your past is just facts. Talking about why those past events are important to who you are is more than facts- it’s intimacy. So just make sure you’re always gut-checking yourself to ensure that the confessions will always help him know you better. Also be sure that you’re not using past experiences as excuses for your behavior now. None of this “Well I had a bad breakup so if I act psycho, that’s why” mess.
As a side note, some people think you should just throw your whole self out there from the very beginning and let the guy deal with it, and if he doesn’t like it, that’s too bad because this is just how you are, and I disagree with this angle as well. Think of the last person you dated long term, and all the weirdo stuff you found out about him/her along the way. Now go back to your first date with that person and imagine hearing all of that crap that night. Are you still at the table? I didn’t think so. Discretion and grace with your life story is the mark of a beautiful person.
Ok, so what I do with my stuff is divide it into sanctums. Outer, middle, inner. Put all your stuff along this sanctum and then test the waters with your new man with some outer sanctum stuff. Never tell him any of your weird past stuff without a certain amount of reverence to both your past and to your relationship, and never do it apologetically. If these things make you the woman he fell in love with today, you have no need for apologies. Just tell him why you want him to know these things, kiss him, and let him digest. Then wait a bit, and repeat as necessary.
Good luck to you.