How to Share a Health Secret with Your Partner
Embarrassment, shame, or the fear that your partner will want to end your relationship. Any of these could be the reason for not being forthright about a particular health condition. Whether it's a sexually transmitted disease, a chronic disorder like multiple sclerosis, or an invisible but life-impacting illness such as fibromyalgia, there just hasn't been the right time to discuss it.
What Should You Tell?
And how much of your privacy should you share? Here, Dennis Lin, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and Lisa Rene Reynolds, Ph.D, outline the top 10 strategies for telling your partner--comfortably and confidently - a health secret.
Timing is everything. You don't want to lay out a complicated and possibly life-changing health condition when your partner's distracted, tired or stressed out. Instead, make sure you have ample time, space and privacy so that the person has time to absorb and react to it.
Start by explaining that you have decided to share the information because you feel that your relationship is growing more serious, and that there is something the other person should know about you.Certain health conditions, like an STD, obviously, are embarrassing to discuss. Others, such as diabetes, carry no stigma but may impact your partner's life.
Don't just blurt it out and wait for a reaction. Tell your news in small, incremental stages. You might start out by saying, "I feel like there are some things we haven't talked about before and we should." If, as the conversation progresses, you feel that the person is not taking it well, pick another time and rethink what you want to say. "Give it a day or two and think about different wording," Reynolds says.
Rehearse and practice what you want to say. Try writing it down, rereading it once you write it, and running it by someone you trust.
Be honest and upfront about your condition. If you are looking to be in a serious relationship with this person, honesty is especially important.
Think carefully about what you'll be discussing. If it concerns an STD, you obviously must disclose your situation, as you should if the two of you are serious and you have a chronic illness that could ultimately affect your partner. You don't have to disclose every little ache and pain that comes up. Ask yourself the reason for disclosing something. Does the person need to know? Or do you just want to get it off your chest?
Give your partner an opportunity to discuss his feelings. Tell him that you want to hear what she is thinking and feeling about the news he has just received.
Watch carefully and be sensitive to how your partner is taking your news. Don't get defensive if he is not immediately supportive and concerned.
Tell your partner what you've done about your condition, what the treatment is, and what the longterm outlook is. If it concerns an STD, tell him what the protocol is for him to be tested and possibly treated.
Remember, time is on your side. Often, the person on the receiving end of a health secret just needs to have a day or two to process the news and work out how to handle it. Chances are that the initial reaction won't be the one your partner will have two or three days from now.
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