How Important is Disclosure in Relationships?

Question: Dear Luise: I have a past that I am not proud of. My childhood was horrible and as a young adult I acted out in every way imaginable. I’ve done a lot of personal work and know that I have made deep changes. I’ve become a mature, stable and contributing person. My question is…who has to know where I came from and what I’ve been through? If I don’t disclose it, I feel that I would be building relationships on a foundation of dishonesty. However, if I do “come clean”, that will open up a can of worms for sure! No one who knows me, now, would ever guess who and what I once was. It was despicable. Have you ever run into this kind of a dilemma before? I honestly don’t know how to handle it. Thank you in advance, Gail

Answer: Dear Gail: Welcome to my website. The way you describe your present life, it sounds like you are definitely not the person that originally evolved out of that horrific childhood. What an accomplishment! And now you don’t want to drag that trash around with you. Of course you don’t! It must feel like another lifetime! First of all there are many different levels of friendships and relationships. I would certainly never suggest that you opt for disclosure when you are in a casual and superficial situation. When a friendship deepens, I can only tell you that it usually isn’t safe to go so far as to give out the kind of data. Friends come and friends go…and so do confidences.

A special, one-on-one love-relationship that becomes monogamous is something else. What you need to consider is the grief that person might feel for you and/or the shock your experiences might produce. I would suggest that in such an intimate situation you ask that person to accept the fact that you have been down a long, hard road that took you into the pits of Hell, and that you are not going to elaborate. It’s a fact and it’s over. You are not going into the details, ever. You are in good health, are not wanted by the police and have become an upstanding citizen. Then, stick by your guns. View any curiosity and demands for details as a possible indication that you misjudged that person. By handling it this way, you are not misrepresenting yourself or being dishonest. Your integrity is in tact and you can hold your head up high. Blessings, Luise

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