Sharing/ Disclosing about your 'stuff'

Everyone has ‘stuff’. True, some is more heavy than others. There is an adage, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Revealing information that may ruin a shidduch is understandably very difficult, but keeping it secret creates a constant anxiety and a barrier to mutual trust and sincere communication. Marriages have enough problems without adding secrets. – Dr. Twerski 

Opening up about your private issues on a date can be a scary proposition. After all, you don’t know how they will respond. They may be shocked, discouraged or may determine that they don’t want to proceed with the shidduch. But there are many people who will respond supportively. Either way, the admission is important.

Disadvantages of omission (not sharing something that ought to be shared)

Omission usually occurs when someone refuses to deal with an issue because of potential consequences such as negative reactions. Hiding something important takes a toll on both of the couple – the lying, the second guessing, etc. Additionally, these things end up becoming known and the surprise and betrayal that the other person will experience when they find out can quickly implode the relationship.

Disadvantages of denial (failure to admit the truth, even when asked) This is an outright breach of trust. After a blatant lie, trust is hard to rebuild. Benefits of sharing

There is no denying that this can be an uncomfortable conversation, but the potential benefits are huge. By sharing you are beginning to build the all-important earned trust in the relationship.  You are also getting a feel for how the other person can handle your ‘stuff’ and uncomfortable topics in general. Lastly, if this does evolve into a marriage, you will have an ally who will support you.

How to share

  • You want to build your marriage on solid trust and open communication, even if it is uncomfortable.
  • You want to know that the other person knows you and accepts your ‘whole package’.
  • You will survive if the other person determines that they are not ready to deal with this.
  • When the point has been reached when the feelings are that there is significant possibility that this may “actually work”, it is then time to disclose. The primary topic of the very next date is disclosure. At this point of the developing relationship, a level-headed decision can be made by the prospective Shiduch. She/he has enough interest not to dismiss the Shiduch out of hand. Yet not so involved that she/he will be blinded from protecting herself/himself.
What to share
  • Share as much as necessary for the other person to get a good understanding of what is going on for you and how it might impact their life. Don’t share extra details.  As applicable, talk to a Rav about how to share details that may touch on lashon hara.
  • You might ‘drip’ the info a little at a time and see how they respond before sharing more. But, don’t minimize or omit important details because you aren’t sure of their response.

Wording you might use

Entry point. Prepare the other person for a difficult conversation and that they should be prepared to hear something private and potentially uncomfortable.
  • “I want a marriage built on trust and open communication. I want to share something with you, but first I need your reassurance that you won’t share it no matter what happens between us.”
Introduction. Frame the upcoming information in context of the person you are now.
  • “When I was younger I had a struggle. I have since worked through it and I learned so much from that.”
  • “So much of who I am is because of the way I was treated as a kid.”
  • “My relationship with my parents is complex….”
  • “I am not happy about what I fell into, but I am proud of my progress.”
The issue. Share fully. You might also include how you felt about it then and how it impacts your life now.
  •  “When I was [ages] which was [number] of years ago, I had easy access to the internet and I …. “
  • “I was bullied by an older kid on the bus….”
The growth/ recovery journey. As applicable, share how you have moved along on a growth or recovery journey to address the issue.
  • “Then [something happened] and I realized that it was a bad place for me. I reached out to [mashpia, counselor] and we worked out a plan. BH, I have not succumbed in years.”
  • “I spent lots of time at my friend’s house. I learned so much about healthy relationships there.”
  • “I have some more work to do in this area. I am working with …”
What you learned. As applicable, share what you have learned from the experience.
  • “While I don’t wish this on anyone, in a way, it was a blessing. I learned so much about myself and how to deal with stress.”
  • “Because of this situation, I have gone to therapy and have learned new skills.”
  • “Because of what happened to me, I am so much more sensitive than many of my peers.”
Invite questions. Show your willingness to have conversations about difficult topics.
  • “I am glad I got that out in the open.  We can talk about it if you want to know more about my journey or anything else.”
Extroduction. Once again express your vulnerability and trust in them.
  • “I will totally understand if you want to think about this all and if you want to talk to someone. Please do respect my privacy and only talk to someone who understands these things and can hold confidentiality.”
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