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.