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Disclosure #2: How Do I Tell My Boyfriend About My Illnesses

Question:

I have several mental illnesses (bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and various problems with anxiety) and am also in recovery for several addictive behaviors. Despite this, I have been a high-functioning member of society, managing to complete a college degree, remain consistently employed since college graduation, and live independently; therefore, many people, including some members of my family, do not know the extent of my illness. I have been fortunate enough to have a supportive family, a small group of friends and acquaintances with potential, and an understanding employer. Unfortunately, I have also lost a few friends and some professional respect due to both my illness and inappropriate disclosure of my illness. I am concerned about relationships with the opposite sex, if I should choose to become involved in one. Assuming that the gentleman with whom I am involved is neither in recovery nor living with mental illness, at what point is it appropriate to disclose my conditions, if at all?

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Answer:

Realistically, many men you might get close to will have some difficulties with your conditions and would probably not choose to get close to a woman who they knew from the outset could become seriously ill. I’m thinking that if you disclose your illnesses too early in the process of forming a relationship, you’ll frighten him away. Conversely, there will come a point in any relationship that is moving towards permanent life-partnership where you will need to inform him of what you’re facing – if only because he will be facing those difficulties too and to keep him in the dark at that point would be dishonest and unethical. He should be clued in on what you are managing and the potential for how those conditions can get out of control before he makes any permanent commitments to you. So, in my opinion, you should disclose this information about your health after a relationship has had a chance to become established some without the specter of illness hanging over it, but before you move in with each other or get married or anything serious like that. This said, I think you are perfectly within your rights to present the information in a positive light, emphasizing your stability and good management of these conditions. He doesn’t need to be presented with only the negative possibilities.

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