As a certified crisis counselor and registered psychotherapist, I sit in rooms with clients as they unveil their deepest traumas.
Sometimes the person on the couch opposite of me dishes out everything they’ve ever been through in their first session.
Sometimes it takes months. In my case, even as a student of this field, I didn’t expose myself fully to my therapist until 9 months in.
But a romantic relationship is different. Instead of a first session, you go on a first date. And maybe a first turns into a third.
You start going steady. Then you end up sitting on the couch across from your therapist asking your clinician what so many clients do: “When should I tell them about my past?”
First, you are right to wonder. You are fair to be cautious. You are brave for considering it.
My partner and I met walking the Camino De Santiago—a 584-mile pilgrimage from the bottom of France across all of Spain.
We were walking solo until we stumbled into each other in an old Catholic children’s school converted into a hostel.
That night, we went for a drink for our first date. After I ordered a sangria, the waitress took his order for a Sprite.
When she left, he made quick time telling me everything there was to know about him: about why he ordered a Sprite; about his experience with drugs and alcohol which inevitably ended in him sharing his traumas with me.
Only hours into knowing him, I knew what he considered to be the deepest, most wretched parts of himself.
And I have to say there was a spirit with my partner telling me on our first date; a willingness to open up to me without needing me to react in a certain way.
It was as if he didn’t care if I never talked to him again because of it. He didn’t mind my reactions too diligently.
He had not a worry in the world that we had just met.
The truth is… there may never be a ‘good time’ or a ‘good way.’
In writing this article, I researched what other psychotherapists have suggested about how to tell your partners about your past.
Many of them listed preparatory questions to ask yourself that all seemed connected and important to the topic.
But I feel there might not be the ‘right questions’ to ask yourself before you decide to share.
I feel there may not be a ‘good formula’ out there on how to start the dialogue.
So, you can write it out first, evaluate your trust level with your partner, definitely look into your trauma responses.
Do whatever you need. But the most important question you should consider before telling your partner about your trauma is…
What is your ‘why’ for wanting to share?
Because we’re talking about TRAUMA. Something individual, personal, deeply intimate, and precious.
My partner says he told me that day in Spain because he was ready to be radically authentic with everyone in his life, independent of their response.
I told my therapist mine because I was ready to start the work with my trauma responses and triggers.
I told my partner 5 months in because I knew I was going to marry him and felt ready.
What is your why?
This is your story. It’s sacred. And even though you probably didn’t pick your past, treat the way you share it opposite of its birth—with deep intentionality.