You know that beginning stage of a relationship, when you feel like you've met someone that you connect with on a million different levels, and you feel like you can share just about everything with them? Those moments can be so incredibly exciting — but also very nerve-wracking. Because for all the excitement that exists in that initial flush of emotion, there's also one pressing question that seems to exist: Will this person still like me if I tell them that?
The "that" can be anything — it can be the fact that you don't want children, that you have an STI, or that you indulge in certain kinks during sex. Many of us have that one thing we're a little worried to share with our partners. The question is, when is the "right" time to share it?
According to Jane Greer, PhD, New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, there is no "correct" time. "Every relationship hits milestones at different times," she says. "For many people, quality of time is very different than the actual length of time you're with a person." So in some relationships, the right time may be in two weeks. In others, it could be two months.
That's a frustrating non-answer, sure, because it's ambiguous. But Dr. Greer argues that there are certain moments that point to what may be a good time to open up. "It's more about what's going on with your relationship with your partner," she says. So if you're on your third date, sex looks like it's on the table, and you have an STI, that is important for you to disclose to your partner, that's the right time. But if you're on your third date, sex looks like it's on the table, and you had HPV that has since cleared and your partner isn't at risk, you don't necessarily have to disclose that information at that moment.
Kinks factor in a lot of the same way, says columnist and relationship expert Dan Savage. "If you met your partner in a more 'vanilla' context, it may be inappropriate to start unloading your kinks over the first cup of coffee," he says. Instead, get to know each other sexually first, and then have the moment where you show your "kink card," as Savage likes to put it.
The most damaging part of the notion of the "right" time is that people feel pressure to share things before they're ready — and that's really the most important part, according to Dr. Greer. And this obviously is not just pertaining to your sex-related secrets. Whether you've experienced past trauma or are worried about opening up about your mental health, both experts were almost frustratingly simplistic on this issue: Wait until the time feels right to you.
"It's all about trusting your gut, and trusting your judgement that this person is someone worthy of sharing those secrets with," she says. "So if you're moving toward exclusivity, and you're becoming more woven into each other's lives, the 'right' time will just present itself," Dr. Greer says. "You want to ensure your partner's values match up with yours." She adds that, if you're currently seeing a therapist, they might be able to help guide you in not only recognising when the "right" time for you is, but navigating those tricky conversations, too.
And there's nothing to be scared about, both Dr. Greer and Savage agree. The type of partner you'd like to move forward with is someone accepting of the hidden bits of you. So ditch the notion of the "right" time and trust that you'll know when your moment comes. Chances are, your partner's got some things they want to share with you, too — and then you'll be well on your way to establishing an even stronger bond.