Unable to Talk About His Past

Q: I'm a recent veteran of the U.S. Army and suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. I've been working diligently with a psychologist and psychiatrist and taking things one day at a time, but it's been hard. I've had a few intermittent dates with various women, but as soon as things start to get serious, I back off because I don't want to talk about my past. How do I know when it's the right time to disclose my challenges? — Fred, 36

Dr. Susan: That's a hard one, Fred, and I sympathize with your multiple challenges. The best person to discuss this with would be your mental health professionals, as I wouldn't want to interfere in what they think is best. They have no doubt encountered exactly this situation often enough before. Seems to me it's like when you have a physical disease of some kind: when do you tell? Too soon and it shadows everything, too late and it may feel to the woman that you've been hiding something she would have wanted to know much sooner.

Your past is very much a part of you, and possibly always will be, but you're not ready to talk about it with a prospective partner. Are you sure you're ready to undertake a long-term relationship? You'd certainly want a woman who was psychologically aware and willing to be generous with her compassion and support, and obviously not too immediately psychologically needy herself. As I said, talk over your options and your fears with your mental health team.

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