The New York Times recently shared a question that was sent to their “ethicist.” The reader is back on the dating scene again after ending a lengthy relationship. The reader also lives with a complex mental health past and is uncertain about when if/when to discuss this past when entering new relationships.
What I love about this short little piece is that it acknowledges the grey area of getting close and intimate with another person. It explains:
“on dates, convention holds, you’re not obliged to lead with your weaknesses. The best way for someone to see that you’re doing O.K. is not to assert it but to show it.
AKA walk the walk, yo. Show what you are capable of on a day-to-day basis, let them see your best self. While you may feel your shadows are bigger than you, the truth is they only feel this way from your perspective. Remember you have a say in how you are perceived. You are writing your own story; make sure you’re the protagonist of it.
However, the ethicist also acknowledges:
“When you grow close to another person, the unspoken covenant is that you’re not holding back a big, relationship-relevant secret…Intimacy and candor have to be calibrated to some degree. One risk is that someone pulls away at once because [they] can’t deal with your history of mental illness, but another is that [they] pulls away later because you haven’t been honest.
No matter the relationships in our life, whether it’s our family, friends, or a romantic partner, we’re always navigating the choppy waters of trust. Knowing when to share difficult information with this person is not always a clear cut situation. You have very little control over how they will react and this is scary.
I feel like we learn this so early on, from the first time we accidentally break something and worry how our authority figure will react. Or when we’re a bit older and are failing a math class and know our parents will find out. Or we are trying to come out of the closet to our closest friends. Or if we’re falling in love with someone and don’t know if they feel the same way.
The fear of being rejected can often hold us back from being honest.
It is so, so, so natural to not want to be rejected from the pack. This is why you often see people (many in adolescence) who are in friend groups who treat them terribly. They’d rather be “in” than on the outside and alone.
Give yourself permission to take your time when it comes to sharing sensitive information with another person, especially if you’re still learning to be intimate with them. BUT, then remember that there is bravery and strength found in being vulnerable. You will grow if you share. Regardless of how the other person reacts, you have been brave. Don’t let their behavior distort how you see yourself.
And then, watch this: The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown.