Explaining Baggage

Explaining Baggage A particular challenge of dating in and out of church circles is baggage. More specifically, deciding when and how to explain the particular baggage (meaning, your notable issues or challenges) you bring to the relationship. If you bring up your baggage too quickly, you could scare people off and repel others. Conversely, if you bring up issues too deep and late into a relationship—even after engagement or even marriage, the other person may feel you weren’t honest and open in the relationship. Therefore, when to open up about these issues matters. In addition, how you explain it matters too. If you are too vague or careful, they won’t know what you are referring to specifically. If you are too blunt, this could scare someone away. So, all of these issues need to be taken into account when you explain your particular baggage/issues/challenges to another.

Typical Issues to Explain: Some of the more common issues you may need to explain to a dating partner include the following:

*Important details of your past relationships or marriage—why it ended, both side’s roles in the equation, etc.
*How many children you have, their ages, their personalities, and any notable issues they may possess.
*Whether you are or are not open to future children, and if so, how many and when.
*Any notable physical illnesses you may possess.
*If you have an STD, what it is, the symptoms and risks, and the relevant story connected to your STD.
*Any ex-spouses and what it is like to deal with them, especially relating to coparenting.
*Your drug and alcohol history, including prescription drugs, any current challnges with it, your recovery efforts, etc.
*Your true level of spirituality, including your projected future level and kind of church involvement.
*Your finances: about how much you earn, about how much you owe (including child and/or spousal support), and your general spending and savings habits.
*Your feelings about pre-nuptial agreements, if you would be needing one, and the terms for this.
*Your true regular schedule and time availability for a relationship on a go-forward basis
*Anything else that reasonably could or would be important for the other person to know as they decide to proceed with the relationship.

Suggestions for Disclosure:

Here is a simple (though not necessarily easy) step-by-step plan for disclosing your issues to your dating partner:

1) Decide what issues do or do not meet the threshold to disclose. After examining the issues you bring to the table, ask yourself if you were in the position of your dating partner, would you want to know about ____ (issue)? And why? What would the ramifications be of not bringing this issue up? Would it notably come back to haunt if you do not disclose this issue? If the answer is yes to either or both of these questions, I would recommend that you choose to disclose the issue to your dating partner. If not, perhaps there is not a need to disclose.

2) Consider the timing: bring up the issue deep enough into the relationship that they reasonably know you and have some connection with you. However, don’t wait too long. If you are very serious, even engaged or married, your late disclosure could cause resentment and friction in your relationship, possibly even cause a breakup for waiting too long.

3) When you choose a reasonable time and moment to disclose your issue, how you bring up your issue from there is also important. Work to be assertive: open, honest, clear, and direct about your issue, but done in a reasonably civil, respectful, tactful way. If you are too passive, vague, or general, your dating partner won’t really fully understand or comprehend what you are saying. If you are too aggressive and blunt with your speech, this could come across as insensitive, callous, forceful, even threatening. Look for a moderate middle ground. Most of this is tone of voice, some of it is your choice of words. For example, you could say “I understand_____, however I thought that you should know that I_____”.

4) Listen well and be patient and understanding with their response and reaction. Remember that all relationships are optional and voluntary. The other person can choose to end it whenever they wish for whatever reason they choose. They may or may not want to continue the relationship, depending on what you have to tell them and how this affects or impacts them. They may make certain requests or conditions with you to continue the relationship. If at the end you both feel OK about whatever workable agreement or compromise you come up with, you should be fine to continue the relationship. If not, disclosure of this issue very well could lead to the end of the relationship. That is the risk. However, if you at least disclosed your issue reasonably early enough, you have done your job. The other person will ultimately need to decide what to do with that information. That is fair and right.

Final Thoughts:

If you avoid the extremes with disclosure—not too much too soon, or too little too late, you have done a good job. If you bring up your issue with sensitivity, clarity, and respectfulness, you have also done your job. It now transitions over to the other person to decide what they are ready and willing to deal with from there. This is the plan of agency, and that includes decisions with dating and marriage. Respect that and the results should go as well as possible. Because in the end, “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:11.

Dr. G
P.S. If you can questions, comments, or a future article request for me, feel free to contact me at drgilchrist@yahoo.com.

2020-09-27 Randy Gilchrist Dating, Communication

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About the author

Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to drgilchrist@yahoo.com. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to drgilchrist@yahoo.com).