To tell or not to tell, that is the question. At what point do you share the intimate details of your life with others? I’ve asked this before, but now that I’m trying to get back into dating it becomes a more relevant question. Of course I’m referring to being bipolar, but it’s really more than that. You don’t get to be in your 50’s without gathering a lot of baggage. I’m bipolar. I’ve been married four times. I’m a smoker. All of these things could negatively affect a developing relationship. So when do you get into these kinds of details?
I’ve gone out a couple of times with a very nice lady that I recently met. It hasn’t been fireworks or trumpets or anything, but we’ve had a good time. We met for coffee, then had a dinner date, then met a couple of days later for a walk around a local lake. Nothing earth shattering. At this point I haven’t told her anything about my past. I’ve told her I’ve been married more than once, but haven’t gotten into the details about how many times. I’ve found in the past that having four failed marriages scares people off. And I can’t say that I really blame them; it shows that I make poor decisions and / or can’t stay committed to anything long term. I’m definitely not looking to get married again, but it still raises some ugly questions.
The smoking is another issue. In today’s society people who still smoke are not accepted like they once were. It’s understandable, but it does make things more difficult. I know, the real solution is to quit. It’s just an excuse, but I’ve got so much else to deal with at the moment it just isn’t going to happen. Not now anyway. As long as you aren’t obvious, it usually isn’t something that’s asked and it hasn’t come up in conversation yet.
Being bipolar is the real problem. It’s a major, lifelong illness. It can be managed, but there is no cure and it’s going to be something I deal with for the rest of my life. So when should I tell? Is it fair not to disclose it from the very beginning? Or is it even going to be an issue if things don’t work out? Very few people understand what the illness is there are a lot of misconceptions about what it really is. Not to mention the stigma that comes from the lack of knowledge. It’s unusual for people to understand that by and large you’re just a normal person who just happens to have a major illness. If you’re bipolar, you’re crazy. How is that fair?
So here’s my thinking.
The marriage issue should come out right away. If it’s that big of a deal it’s better to find out before anybody’s time gets wasted. Having multiple divorces isn’t seen as that unusual in today’s society so it’s not likely to be a problem. And if it is, it is. There’s no changing that history so why not go ahead and disclose it from the beginning.
To me, the smoking is a non-issue. I’m extremely fastidious about my hygiene and it must not be obvious that I’m smoking or she would have said something by now. Or it’s not an issue if she does. Even if she knows I won’t be smoking around her (Unless she’s a closet smoker too) so I don’t see the need to bring it up. Not now anyway. If things get serious I have a choice; is it important enough to quit?
The big question is the bipolar issue. The way I feel about it is that it’s really not relevant now. If it seems to be developing into something more serious of course I’ll let her know. In the meantime however I’d rather she get the chance to know me without complicating things with something that she most likely won’t understand. Maybe if she knows how I am underneath the illness she might be able to accept it for what it is. At the right time. And there’s always the chance that I get my symptoms under control and manage this disease so that it really doesn’t impact any relationship. Of course I’ll be very careful to be aware of the situation so no one gets hurt. If I wait too long to tell it would really be unfair.
Maybe I’m not being completely honest with what could be a major issue. Perhaps a better approach would be to disclose it all and take my chances. She will either accept me as I am, or it wouldn’t work out anyway. But the truth is, I don’t expect anything long term developing. For now I just plan to enjoy getting out of the house and spending time with someone pleasant. There will be plenty of time to mess things up later. And even if it does progress, she’ll always have the option to move on if she doesn’t like the situation. It’s a dumb comparison, but would you tell someone on a second date that you have psoriasis? Sure, it could be an issue at some point, but why get into it until you know where you’re going?
Anyway, right or wrong that’s how I handle it. If you take the illness out of the question I’m really not such a bad person. I still have a lot to offer and bring a lot to a relationship. I have some really close friends that have no idea about my illness and we still maintain a healthy friendship. And I’ve dated some people in the past that never knew, and never had a reason to know. We still had a good time while it lasted. It’s hard enough dating once you’re in your 50’s, there’s no reason to make it any harder than it already is. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who would disagree (Including my ex wife) but I have to give myself at least some chance to have some happiness with someone. And who knows, maybe I can bring happiness to someone else. As long as I’m very careful not to hurt anyone, including myself, in the process. And when the time is right I’ll tell all and let things go where they may.
I expect that this will be controversial, so I’m always open to suggestions.