Should I Tell My New Boyfriend About My Past Eating Disorder?
It can't hurt to confide in your new beau, but ultimately your past is your business only, according to a psychiatrist.
Q: I overcame an eating disorder in high school, but I haven't told the man I'm dating. Do I have to?
A: No, you don't. Your past is your past, and ultimately you get to be the judge of what details you share with anyone. Also, if the eating disorder wasn't a substantial issue for you, perhaps because it was mild and short-lived, you might not consider it a major part of who you are now. However, if you view that challenge as an important chapter in your life, or if you're worried the disordered eating could return, then it might be worth bringing up.
Broaching a very personal subject like this is often easier said than done; it's normal to feel some fear at the idea of revealing something that makes you vulnerable. Remind yourself that everyone has issues they need to contend with. Sharing these less-than-perfect aspects of ourselves is part of what builds intimacy, closeness, and trust. Plus, withholding a piece of yourself out of fear it would hurt the relationship if the other person knew may leave you feeling isolated and unhappy. Tell him there's something personal you'd like to share, then make sure to explain that you take full ownership of the situation and it's not his job to counsel or watch over you. (In fact, I recommend against ever having a significant other monitor you if you're still recovering; it can create friction and codependency.) Here's the way I look at it: It's highly unlikely that a guy you care about would act judgmental or want to call it quits due to a mental health issue in your past. But if that turns out to be the case, it's better to know sooner rather than later.
Gail Saltz, MD, is a psychiatrist and television commentator in New York City who specializes in health, sex, and relationships.