How to Tell Your New Partner about Your Dysfunctional Family!
Posted On: March 16, 2019
by Robyne F. Howard Psy.D, Owner and Founder of Lakefront Counseling Group, Ltd.
One of the questions clients ask when beginning a new romantic relationship 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?
I often recommend creating an environment which fosters honesty and transparency. 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 easier when a culture of honesty is already built into the relationship.
I encourage couples 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 most couples experience in their relationship.
It’s never too late to start this and meeting the family is a perfect opportunity to start. Below are tips to help begin that conversation:
1. If you are about to introduce your partner to your family, let them know that you wanted to share more with them about your family to prepare them and help them to be 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, don’t sugar coat things because your partner might learn to not trust you, and this outcome is much more destructive than what you might be concerned about to begin with.
3. Remember that many people have experienced family losses, alcoholism, divorces and the like. A good partner will understand this and be empathic and encouraging. If they are not, this is data for you about them and your ability to have a healthy long-lasting relationship.
4. Misrepresenting yourself is one of the worst things you can do in a relationship, especially early on. Partners feel duped, misled and angry which sets the relationship up to be troubled right at the start. Know that who you are and where you have come from is exactly who you want to be in the relationship.
5. If there are things about yourself you are embarrassed by, or ashamed of getting help is the most courageous thing you can do, and for sure, beats being dishonest in a relationship.