One of the questions clients, who are beginning new romantic relationships, often ask is how to tell your new partner about the challenges and traumas in your family of origin without overwhelming or scaring them away.
When do you tell them that your mother may be ending her third marriage, your father is a recovering alcoholic and you lost your brother to a car accident?
Encourage couples to have open and honest meetings with each other
Experts suggest that encouraging an environment which fosters honesty and transparency is a good way to begin a new relationship. Being open, honest and vulnerable encourages your partner to do the same.
Mistrust triggered by dishonesty or withholding important information can damage the strong foundation most couples are trying hard to build. Introducing family challenges and struggles then comes more easy when a culture of honesty is already built into the relationship.
Couples need to have regular meetings, at least monthly and preferably bi-weekly to check in on their relationship. Asking questions like – ‘How are we doing? Is there anything you are concerned about, or we need to talk about?’, helps to foster an open dialogue about all the challenges and successes which couples experience in their relationships.
It’s never too late to start this and sometimes meeting the family is a perfect opportunity to start. Below are tips to help open that conversation –
1. Inform your partner before introducing him/her to your family
If you are about to introduce your partner to your family, let them know your plans and share more with them about your family to prepare them and help them feel more comfortable.
Either scheduling a time to talk or naturally introducing this when it feels comfortable are great approaches.
Do this at least a few days ahead of time so that your partner has time to think about it and ask questions at a later date.
2. Be direct and honest
Be direct and honest, do not sugar coat things because your partner might learn to not trust you.
This outcome is much more destructive than what you might be concerned about to begin with.
3. Expect empathy, else stay away
Remember that many people have experienced family losses, alcoholism, divorces and the like. A good partner will always understand this and be empathic and encouraging towards you.
But, if they fail to empathize with your pain, then this a warning bell for you about them and your chances of having a healthy long lasting relationship with them.
4. Never misrepresent yourself
Misrepresenting yourself is one of the worst things you can do in a relationship, especially early on.
Partners feel duped, misled, and angry which eventually sets the relationship up to be a troublesome right from the beginning.
Know who you are and where you have come from. This is exactly who you want to be in the relationship.
5. Get help
If there are things about yourself that embarrasses you or give you reasons to be ashamed of, getting help under such circumstance is the most courageous thing you can do.
This is for sure will benefit you more than being dishonest in a relationship.