self-disclosure in a date context: disclose enough & not too much

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  • #868093 Reply


    Hi I’m 30 I suck at dating, but I still try you know.. to make it short, i am since short in therapy because i grew up with a mother with most likely schizophrenia who lived her entire life in medication, my father kinda negative, single child, no parent able to help materially.. I felt very alone and anxious from very young age.

    I still managed a lot in my life and even though I love them anyhow, it’s still hard cause even when my mom has been stabilized early, she suffers the social consequences of all medicine. In my social and work life I’m confronted to people that are successful as well but all have kinda normal families, even if I can’t name a normality but basically they come from families with good jobs, they have siblings, family meetings, can talk freely of anything that happens at home without feeling bad. at least the things that are embarassing for me that comes easily (parents jobs for instance)

    And this thing I find again in my dating life. That’s just how it is around me. It may not be your case, but for me first discussions of people are very quickly about family.

    And of course I struggle as my psychologist knows, between not sharing anything (so making no connection) and willing to share, but a deep fear not to be understood, share too early, sound like my life has been that bad, that maybe i am sick as well.. all these symptoms. Because when I tried, i was slowly rejected by the person. So I’m always in doubt.

    Having a new date soon, I would like to ask for advice of maybe what to say to help me engage the conversation, or also respond if any questions about family during the date, in order to try and overcome this fear, or avoid talking too much (if you think it’s too much for a first date). I don’t know if that’s too much. Because people around me just acted as it was shameful family wise, I just grew up with the idea to keep silent and be embarassed.


    I am looking for real sound advice, for acting with the questions, rather anticipate them, etc etc… anything will do. Some phrasing, some things. I really look to improve my behavior on a date, unfortunately i have to work on it, in order to integrate some kind of automatic behavior that will help me overcome the shame, the anxiety, the fear, and avoid having 100% superficial dates where no connection is made. In general I thus avoid asking questions about the guy’s family. But maybe one option could be to do that myself?

    Thanks in advance for any tip, it just really matters to me ! If I can prepare something for each situation to help me destress and have a better contact with the guy, I’d a happily use that.

    #868100 Reply


    Hi Pam. IMO you do not sound ready to date. I would say that you should be talking all this out in therapy and learn to be confident and be yourself or at least first figure out who that “self” is. You are insecure and also overthinking and too self conscience to be dating at the moment and I worry that if you do try to date now…you will have negative experiences that will make you even more nervous. Good luck.

    #868103 Reply

    Liz Lemon

    I’m sorry your family life was so hard growing up, but I’m glad you’re getting psychological support.

    I think on a first date, there’s no need to go into a lot of detail about your family history. In fact, dumping a lot of intense personal stuff on a person on a first date is a surefire way to overwhelm them.

    I totally understand that you don’t want to have superficial dates, but being wise about how much information you share early on is not being superficial. It’s having good judgement. You can (and should) get to know someone over multiple dates, and make connections, based on shared interests, hobbies, opinions on current events, lifestyle choices etc– stuff that’s about YOU, not about your family history. As you get emotionally closer to someone, you gradually reveal more details about the “skeletons in your closet”, so to speak. It takes time to get close to someone and develop the intimacy that’s needed to go into a painful family history.

    If a date asks you questions about your family on the first date, you can say something very generalized that isn’t a lie, but there’s no need to go into a lot of detail. You can say you’re an only child, you don’t see your parents much (do they live far away? that’s a good reason for not having a lot of contact with them). Or maybe you could say something like, “my mom struggles with some mental health issues, so we’re not very close. But I’d love to hear more about your mom.” A respectful guy will not probe or be rude about that.

    I don’t know how old you are, but honestly when I was dating I never had anyone question me about my parents on the first few dates. On our 1st date with my current bf I think the only time our parents came up is to establish where they lived (what city, etc). Certainly not what they did for jobs, or anything about their history, etc. We talked about ourselves, our kids, our interests. I’m in my 40s so maybe if you’re younger, it’s more important. But when you get to be my age, not so much, I think.

    The thing is, honestly the majority of 1st dates don’t go anywhere. It’s sad but true. So there’s no need to share your life story with a guy on the 1st date. Let some time pass and get to know each other before you dig all that stuff up. Good luck!

    #868104 Reply

    Liz Lemon

    Peggy has a very good point. You need to figure out who your “self” is, OUTSIDE of your family history. You shouldn’t let your parents’ issues define you. It sounds like at this moment, you are letting your upbringing define you, and that’s why you struggle with how much to disclose on dates.

    If you have a firm sense of yourself, you will naturally know what not to disclose on a 1st (or 2nd, 3rd, etc) date. You will be focused on presenting your SELF to the guy, and not hung up on your past. So work on figuring out who you are NOW– not your past. What are your interests, beliefs, passions? You will naturally want to share that with a guy when you have a healthy sense of yourself. Again, best wishes and good luck!

    #868157 Reply


    You’ve posted about this previously?

    You mentioned ‘shame’ in your post… You are carrying a burden that is not yours.

    I’m glad you are getting counseling!

    #868187 Reply


    This post really resonated a lot with me. Like you, my mother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia when I was a baby, so it was something I felt I had to hide my entire life. But I think people are a lot more understanding about mental health issues than previously. She passed away a few years ago, as had my father and only sibling, all at relatively young ages, so I essentially have no family. It’s absolutely nothing I’m ashamed of, but I can understand your discomfort. I always brace myself when the date inevitably asks about family, and I generally remain vague, like, “oh, my family lives out of state”. And if they ask specifically about parents or siblings, I do mention they’ve passed away, but I definitely don’t dwell on it and try to move the conversation along to another topic pretty quickly. It’s Resy nobody’s business, especially on a first date to reveal so much about yourself and your life. Generally I try to keep first dates pretty light. But I don’t feel that I’ve ever been looked down upon for having a “non traditional” upbringing. And if anyone does judge you for it, would you even want to be with someone that lacks that kind of empathy and understanding?

    As was mentioned before, your family doesn’t define you.Maybe you should take this as an opportunity to discover what you’re really passionate about and develop new interests, so not only will you have plenty of other things to discuss on a date, but it could bring more fulfillment in your life.

    #868198 Reply


    Daisy, i send you positive waves and wish really the best for you. I think these days that probably someone who could understand me best is someone that lived approximately the same. I am sorry to read about these tragedies. Before your mom passed away, did you ever get questions and what was your way of answering them? I am quite curious. Or did you always kind of avoid talking of it like I do? I was also very young, I think it showed definitely in her when I was 5 years old. She never ever worked since then. I tried to reveal it to 2-3 dates and I never got a little real sincere empathy in return, i didn’t feel understood, if I was they wouldn’t cause me that pain. On one hand it is hard to tell. On the other hand, I feel like I can’t stay without saying anything. This all is part of me so much. My strength… etc it explains so much. Without knowing I am not sure my values would shine so much. So I struggle with that. It has been a constant pain, and only if you know this pain you see me as I am. I feel like my person can’t be « seen » in one superficial date most likely to end in nothing ….

    #868237 Reply


    The one thing I’d recommend in addition to the advice above is, if you do end up talking about family on a date, do not bring those past attitudes you’ve gotten from previous guys you’ve dated who have been put off by your family history and project them onto the new dates whom you do not yet know, don’t assume that anyone who learns of this will respond negatively (even if some people will). It sounds like you feel shame so assume your family history sounds defective and like it will push people away, yet you have no idea how each new person will respond to learning about it.

    I really like Liz’s suggestion of saying “my mom struggles with some mental health issues, so we’re not very close. But I’d love to hear more about your mom.” That seems like a solid way to put a boundary out politely so you don’t overshare before you get to know someone better and trust them down the road but still stay engaged in the conversation and curious to know them better.

    I once went on a date with someone who also had a very complicated family situation, and it came up in our conversation (I think I’d asked him if he had any siblings, not a loaded small talk question most of the time!). It was absolutely horrible, but it wasn’t because of oversharing. It was because he anticipated I’d run away screaming as he’d mostly dated women who wanted a man with a tight-knit family and treated him like he was defective upon hearing he was not close to his. He immediately got incredibly defensive, figured any date was over once any little mention of family came up. He didn’t hear my actual response at all,
    because he’d already imagined everything I’d say. He was so triggered, and then I felt absolutely awful that I had said anything because I’m not looking to upset anyone. That’s what made me want to run away, because I felt like he dumped his baggage on me by projecting, not by oversharing, and wasn’t ready to date in a healthy way yet.

    #868283 Reply


    Hi Pam- thank you, I appreciate it. I feel like my circumstance growing up may have been different that yours. My mother started showing signs of schizophrenia when I was about 2, and by the time I was 5, we were completely separated from her and she lived in a group home (her illness was extremely severe) until she eventually passed away a few years ago. I saw her maybe a handful of times as a kid. Whether it was the right decision or not, we were kept away from our mother, so we weren’t really exposed to my mother’s illness. As a kid a lot of the time I would just tell friends my mother died, which was a lot easier to explain than the truth. So other than the first few years of my life, which were very unstable, I grew up in a very stable environment, where it was easy to not confront my mother’s illness.

    In terms of dating, I usually don’t go into detail about my mom. I think it might be easier for me not to talk about her, just because she was never really a big part of my life. So unless the person specifically asked why I didn’t grow up with her (which most people don’t ask), I’m usually met with empathy, and surprise that I’m as well-adjusted and happy despite all I’ve had to go through in life. I genuinely feel showing strength in character far outweighs any sort of negativity that comes from having a mentally ill parent. And wouldn’t you want a partner that you know can weather hardships in life and maintain their strength? And you also have to remember that many people have complicated family situations. And again, if someone is going to judge you based on your mother’s illness, than that person doesn’t deserve your time anyway. Also, some people might just be awkward when you mention it to them and just not know what to say, not necessarily that they’re judging you

    I’m glad you are seeking therapy, so maybe if you’re not at that point where you’re feeling like you can stand strong and be confident in yourself, in spite of your past, than maybe that should be your priority before you find your partner.

    #868353 Reply


    Hey Pam I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    Think of the first dates as moments to just enjoy yourself and get to know the person and decide if YOU like them enough. You don’t have to treat it like a job interview. You can talk about yourself as an individual, your likes, hobbies, needs, plans and just general stuff.

    If family comes up, just answer it in the context it was asked,nothing more nothing less. Usually people ask questions like where’s your family at, you just say they are at…., i visit them from time to time (if you do) ” then that’s it. Or stuff like are your parents still alive/together, you can just say yeah, he/she lives at, they’re not together though” that’s it. If someone ask why, just say it didn’t work out.

    That way you’re not lying, you’re talking to someone you don’t know well enough divulge deep stuff to,yet.

    Remember the focus is on you as an individual not your family history. And as an individual who has anxiety issues, I’d say you need to protect yourself from any triggers, which means you don’t have to go into deep subjects until you’re ready and you’re coming from a safe place inside you.

    #868370 Reply


    Thank you ladies, really touched by these messages and support. I just found out one of my best ex dates who withdrawn similarly weirdly, whom I really thought may become my boyfriend and we shared so much hobby wise etc deleted my number from his phone, and this got me crying so hard so definitely feeling supported somewhere gives me strength to go through those disappointing moments.. it was exactly a situation where i stayed superficial and hobby wise, and he complained i didn’t open up, and when i did, he wasn’t there for me. I think definitely i’ll try to remember the “my mom struggles with some mental health issues, so we’re not very close. But I’d love to hear more about your mom.” and test it soon when the question comes up. I’ll let you know if I test it.

    Daisy I feel you, and probably as hard as it sounds, you were saved from the situation by the tragedies. I have lived 30 years with the social, financial, and health mental issue of both my parents (lets say my dad also in a way) and trying to make my life the past 10 years even more confronted to the “outside” world. I still believe my mom is an amazing and beautiful woman, but definitely not a person I could easily present to a guy that has grown up “normally” with two supportive parents.

    Daisy I completely feel you also when you say you want a “strong” partner, but unfortunately most of this thought is i think here because of what we lived. I have only dated one guy, this year, a couple of times, who opened up to me on date 2 about his depression. And that made me so happy and strong I could almost reveal mine, but unfortunately circumstances made it different, and his interest in me was not sufficient. But only that single time I felt like I was facing someone that could potentially understand me better.

    The others mostly directly say “I wouldn’t be able to live far from my parents and siblings” or that they meet them often next to sharing absolutely 0 weakness, and in that case for me it’s obvious that there is nothing special. Nothing that had to make them strong enough. And for the worst, it happens eventually to be the case, since I discover often they lie about themselves, while they have no reason to (like a college degree), and I wouldn’t even lie myself with my story, and or they slowly disappear when I open up.

    So I completely completely agree with you, but maybe my main issue is I don’t find that strength often in people. And I miss it. I had to go do my own route, rely more on myself, and people that grew up with both supportive healthy parents seem often not to. Which will then make myself feel directly as an outlier at the same time, from their first comments.

    Thank you Erin, btw, for most dates I used those “basic” answers, but yeah maybe I still need to fight too much the fact that their typical healthy answer make me feel sad and withdraw for a couple minutes during the date. So maybe using the sentence above will help the person understand a bit more from me, without me having to be too much the victim of the situation and give me a possibility to rebound on him to ask him questions.

    #868430 Reply



    Your family history doesn’t have to be the focal point of your dating,you are.

    It’s creepy and uncomfortable when someone wants you to divulge too much about your personal life during the first stages of dating, what is the rush?

    Also remember that when dating, there will be people you connect with and think they may be ‘the one’, only for them to go poof with no rhyme or reason. It happens to everybody, even those who come from ‘Normal families’. There’s a dozen threads here on guys who just cut contact after dates or straight up ghosted in relationships.

    You don’t have to be so heavy on the info, not because you don’t want to scare off the guy, but because to deserve to have a good time without the cloud of your family history hovering.

    The time will come for heavy topics, and usually when it does, it won’t feel like a confession at the priest, it will feel like opening up to someone who has become a friend, it will be organic.

    Your mom’s issues are not your own, you don’t have to carry that burden with you.

    Also remember, you are not responsible for anyone’s feelings or how anyone feels.

    #868509 Reply


    Yes Erin, i initially avoid bevause i don’t want to drop that on them. But the problem is they ask, and that’s the issue. I got my date now and it was a really nice guy with probably close personality to minewho didn’t ask, and I felt rather comfortable to ask him some stuff myself, after our discussions here. Also we will probably meet again. But the question that I get usually lately didn’t arise. Which is nice. And when I talk of disclosure I only tried dropping after a couple of dates …just indeed may be some guys that expect their normal families to be reflected. Maybe the guy I met today is smarter and more open minded than this. We will see :) I am confident for now. However if you come up with more conversational tips, feel free to drop I never have enough .

    #868570 Reply


    If you feel like you just have to carry that weight around all the time and can’t separate if from yourself as an individual then maybe you’re not ready to date anyone.

    What will happen is that you will end up projecting your fears and anxieties on these guys and sabotage yourself in the process.

    I was raised under similar circumstances, with mental disorders, divorce, deaths, more mental disorders and substance abuse from guardians in my life.

    But that not the first thing I think about when I go for dates.

    I think that you’re still processing the past and haven’t healed from it yet to detach yourself from it and be your own person.

    We are not defined by such things, and we’re also not responsible for other people’s feelings.

    You’re still attached to the trauma which is why you can’t see anything beyond it.

    #868703 Reply


    I will stop posting here. I post here since I am working on myself and there was no need to go and look for older posts of mine where I still wasn’t in therapy. By posting now I am looking for means for short coping. Because these questions arise anywhere actually. Dates but also work and new friends. It hurts me like hell to hear I am not making any effort and this was not the point now in making this new post under a new nickname (for the purpose of a new me, working on myself)…… people are harsh, even on the internet! Thanks ladies for the lovely advice here and I ll try to think more than I am worth it besides those family stories..which I already know. But then be more detached

    #868841 Reply


    You think i was cruel digging up that old post. Yeah i understand that but the point is that 3 months ago many people told you your family is not the issue. You are. And now its the exact same thing again. Youre not hearing anything people tell you. I can also understand that. Its hard to change habits. Thats why i and others said its very good you are seeking help. But for dating tips about how to bring up the family wont help you. Youre 30 and want a boyfriend and maybe a family. Which i totally wish for you to happen. But to attract good guys you need a whole different attitude which is not ‘help what when he find out my family is nuts’ but a whole healty confident happy as im happy single and doing good but i wouldnt mind finding a good man. When that attitude is not something your parents taught you, you need to adress that first and do the hard work for selflove. If you read this website t from ny has great tips for books and you tube channels. So you are sort of stuck in victim mode and thats not an accusation but a fact i can deduct from your posts. So go find a support group as to finish this phase. And move on realizing you are not your family and you have enough to offer to be a good partner and maybe mom. But like i said you need to work on the foundation not the veneer. That will give you the best results.

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