How Do I Tell My New Love About The Skeleton In My Closet?

skeleton in closet

Here's the best advice on how to reveal a big secret in a new relationship.

Everyone has personal information that they like to hold back from sharing until they really trust someone. It can be anything: an incident from your past, a family situation, a financial issue, a medical diagnosis. In my line of work, the "secret" that my clients worry about revealing is their ADHD label.

So, there are two questions at hand: first, when you start dating someone when should you reveal the skeletons in your closet? And second, do those skeletons really belong hidden away in the closet after all?

When and How to Confess to Your Date

The best advice I can give is to get in touch with your own sense of intuition when it comes to revealing personal secrets with your new significant other. Nobody will know the right moment for you, except you. Listen to your heart, and when you feel confident that your date will listen to you without judging you, calmly say, "There’s something I'd like you to know about me." Do it in a private place where you can have a thorough discussion without being interrupted.

The way you share your secret will set the example for how your date should react to it. For example, if you're flustered and ashamed, you send the message that your secret is shameful. If you're calm and casual, it will set the tone that your secret is just another fact about you, that it's not a big deal, and that you have it under control. Be ready to answer questions for your date, and walk him through any normal concerns that might come up.

But remember, if you share your secret with your date and his long-term reaction makes you uncomfortable, that could be an important signal that you two aren't as compatible as you thought.

Avoid the First Date Truth Bomb

Although you should trust your instincts about when to share your secret, there is one universal exception: avoid major confessions on a first date. First dates are all about fun introductions. Frankly, getting too personal too fast can scare people off. Dropping a huge truth bomb into the situation could ruin it. It's hard to go back to fluffy, polite small talk after the conversation has been taken to an area that feels very raw and intense! A first date is a first impression, so in general it's too soon in the relationship to share big secrets.

Plus, when you wait until you know each other better to spill your secret, there is less of a risk of your date overreacting. I know this is especially true of the ADHD diagnosis. If it's the first thing someone knows about you, they might tap into the unfair stigma in their imagination; but if you know each other better, this person will see how many interesting layers you have, and ADHD is just one more layer.

A Few Thoughts on Trust

Sometimes, I think people rush to tell their secrets in a new relationship as a test, but that's not really fair. If there is no bond of trust yet, then it's a test that your date will probably fail. If you're guilty of this habit, maybe you should ask yourself if you're deliberately trying to scare people off before they get too close.

By the same token, holding on to your secret for a long time after your relationship has become exclusive, intimate, and committed can be a betrayal of its own: a lie of omission. If time goes on and you still feel reluctant to spill your guts to your boyfriend, you might need to ask yourself why, and give some serious thought to how healthy the trust is in your relationship.

Is Your Secret Really A Secret?

This may contradict my advice above, but I want to play devil's advocate and ask you if your revelation is really a deep, dark secret after all. Does it actually need to be concealed? Or is it just a fact about you? What's the worst that would happen if you just wore it on your sleeve?

This is a question that my ADHD clients have to face sooner or later. Being upfront about having the ADHD brain type can have some unpredictable consequences, both in dating and at work. Like I said before, uninformed people can cling to an exaggerated stigma, rather than getting to know the real, flesh-and-blood person in front of them. But on the other hand, my clients gain a lot from being honest about their ADHD.

When they tell people, they don't just say, "I have an ADHD diagnosis," and move on. They explain what that will mean, in context. They can tell dates what to expect, and stop miscommunications and hurt feelings before they start. Such as, "If I don't return messages right away, I'm not playing a game—I'm just not always great about returning messages. It's nothing personal. If you want to reach me, please don't stop trying."

Be Honest and Go For It

Sharing a secret isn't just about cluing your new boyfriend into a fact about you. It says a lot more about what you think your weaknesses are, and how you handle them. There is nothing more important than accepting every part of yourself, and doing what you can to nurture your weak parts. When you're in a healthy place like that, telling your story to your new boyfriend won't feel scary at all.