Thursday, September 13, 2012

When Do You Tell A New Potential Partner About Your Health Status?

I have a friend who is HIV positive.  He has been so for more than two decades.  He still wrestles with the question of when to tell someone he is dating about his status.  He doesn't want to scare the person off, but neither does he want to mislead.

I have a twenty-seven year old friend who was just diagnosed with celiac disease.  She wants to continue to throw herself headfirst into romance and not have to explain her diet restrictions to a new potential boyfriend.

A thirty-five year old friend lives with depression and has to continually adjust her medication as her symptoms change.  She doesn't like to admit even to herself that she wrestles with depression and often ends relationships before her symptoms require conversation.

This is a complicated area and there is no one right answer for all situations.  Balancing honesty to another with your own privacy needs is a tricky equation.  Your health and its requirements is your business -- up to the point where you and your friend start to feel really interested in each other and inch towards commitment.  It's still your business, but just like other aspects of your heart, mind, and soul, your health starts to stretch to become shared ground.

So, what might be some considerations for telling?

  1. Wait until he/she starts to matter to you.  But don't wait too long.
  2. Be willing to answer questions, even before he/she asks them.
  3. Be as comfortable with your condition as you want your potential partner to be.  Your own acceptance level of your condition will have an impact on his/her experience of the situation.
  4. Give him/her time and space or attention and empathy.  You probably needed a combination of these elements, and so might he/she.
  5. Lean on your friends.  That's always a good thing.

How did you decide when to tell your partner?  What happened when you told him/her?

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