When and how to broach the controversial aspects of your SO with your peers

I’m going to try this first without my own personal specifics until later because I think it is a meaty topic and I want to be more inclusive of Doper’s stories. My generalized situation is that I have been dating a great guy for half a year, and we are in love, but we both each have one major thing about ourselves that is going to make integrating each other with the other people in our lives a potentially delicate maneuver. In his case it is an aspect of his past behavior and some of the residual present consequences of that, and in my case it has to do with my identity. We began and have been rocking the relationship between us with eyes wide open, and things have only gotten better. But it is now getting to the point where we have built the trust between us that needs to happen first, and it is time to start integrating each other more formally into each others lives.

So there’s a lot going on at the same time. We want to respect and support each other through this process. We want to get to eventual full disclosure with everyone on both sides. We want to be relatively in sync so that one person in not making too much more progress with one side than the other. At the same time, we want to keep a balance between being authentic and honest, and not being forced to either over share the details of his situation, or make more of a big deal out of my identity than it needs to be.

So Dopers share your stories of introducing your love to the people in your life, when there was something that was sensitive to reveal about either or both of you. Dark past, previous marriages, religious or racial differences, Romeo and Juliet situation, coming out process, whatever it may be, how did you handle it, and how did it turn out?

Well, I was 16 years younger than my first LTR, and 6 years older now, in my second. I’m also a high school drop out with no intention of moving out of the foodservice industry, an atheist, hate parties, and don’t dance. These are things that many find troubling I guess.

But it’s never been awkward. I try to be positive and friendly to all I meet, and there is no need to mention personal details to most people in your SOs life. My parents don’t bother to criticize my choices since they’ve had no say in my life since I was 18, my friends aren’t narrow-minded or bitchy, and my boyfriend’s (religious, educated, party-loving) families were nothing but kind and accepting, plus their friends have mostly been great.

Every situation is going to be so different. If your BF is a felon recovering from drug addiction and bankruptcy, or you are a thrice-divorced mom of five living solely off alimony, or your parents are religious fanatics who try to control your dating: things aren’t going to be easy.

Get realllllly drunk. You can say anything.

You are under no moral or ethical obligation to share anything with your friends or family that you don’t want to.

Honestly, I’m trying to rack my brain and think of anything I’d be obligated to tell my friends or family. The only thing I could come up with is if my SO, is on the sexual offenders list and she is obligated by law to stay away from children.
[I’m not trying to imply that’s your problem. I’m just saying that’s the only thing I could come up with that I’d feel obligate to come forth with.]

I agree with Shakes, I’m having trouble imagining a situation where a Big Reveal is necessary for friends and family.

Years ago my SO was suffering from a terrible depression, and he wasn’t a nice person to be around for most people. I often felt that other people wanted some sort of explanation of why a lovely girl like me would be with a miserable grumpy unsuccessful person like him. And it was none of their business. If there was a reason/I wanted to, I would tell them about his depression, but otherwise they can just fuck off. I loved him then and I love him now and it isn’t anybody’s business.

ETA: so perhaps you could tell us the situation?

So he went to prison and is out on parole?
And you are… what? A t-girl?

My guess, which may be completely wrong, is that the boyfriend’s friends/family don’t know that he’s interested in – much less dating – men. The BF couldn’t really keep that to himself without keeping the relationship a secret.

Even if I’m completely wrong with the above, there are other aspects of a person’s identity that are obvious to everyone who meets them. If the BF thinks this might be an issue for his friends/family it probably is best to mention it ahead of time rather than having them be surprised when they actually meet jackdavinci and discover that he’s of another race, much older or younger, physically disabled, etc.

This is an excellent thing to figure out how to do well: being integrated and more open in each other’s lives including the many other relationships lives have in them. The personal cost of trying to keep secrets about major components of our lives is just miserable. We don’t have to make this about jackdavinci’s particular situation, either.

I am pretty boring, and inhabit pretty dense regions of every demographic distribution function. That is, I am pretty typical and common in most ways you could measure. So I don’t have much to report on my personal story.

However, my hunch is that this may be at least a little relevant, or at least relevant for some of the people reading along: I have many close friends who are gay and a few who are transgender, and I’m very active in the LGBT civil rights movement, and am struck by how much support there is out there, and how fast it is growing. I try to be visible as a safe person, and I see more and more other people also trying to be visibly safe. It looks to me like homophobia is now getting shunned the way racism started to be not so long ago, and the gap is closing faster and faster.

My experience is more Northeast and less Kansas, so I’m not suggesting you have nothing to fear and no work to do, but I am suggesting that people like me who would jump at the chance to be part of your loose extended network of friendly support, well, we’re around, and more and more of us.

Have fun!

In my case, and this may or may not translate to your situation, the Big Reveal was that my SO is 22 years older than I. Clearly, there was no hiding that. How I dealt with it was to tell the people I wanted to know about it privately. I would say out loud that even I would have never expected to fall in love with someone so much older than I (and that, in fact, the first time he asked me out, I said no, because I didn’t consider him appropriate dating material.) By owning my own ageism, it sort of took the other person off the hook for theirs, and it saved some awkwardness at their first meeting him.

There are a few people who have perhaps not entirely come around to liking it, but letting them know I know their concern and, more importantly, see how happy I am has at least made them keep their opinions to themselves.

And really, anyone who wants to be a jerk to him (or me) after seeing how happy I am doesn’t have my best interests at heart anyway, so fuck 'em.

Yeah, when I met my wife I was somewhat cautious with telling my family - she was older by seven years, divorced with two children. I was raised in a religious family, and divorce was sort of frowned upon, so I expected some disapproval, but I figured everyone would come round eventually.

Sometime after we started dating, she was off to visit her friends who lived next to (and were also friends with) my sister, while my father would also be visiting.
So I had to bite the bullet and tell my dad - otherwise it was going to be awkward for my girlfriend, and possibly embarrassing. And the conversation went fine, my family like her, and after 24-ish years together, all that is in the past.

There is a huge difference between “My SO is older/another race/horribly disfigured in the face” on one extreme and “Went to jail on child pornography charge and now has to stay 500 yards away from schools and daycares”. What is an appropriate strategy for one many not be appropriate for the other.

Not sure what your exact issues are since you’re being intentionally vague, but it appears you are a gay male dating another man. Puts you in the same boat as me. I’m not sure if you are out, how you sexually identify, or whatever.

I don’t think you need to feel obligated to come out to everyone. I was perfectly happy in my last relationship without my boyfriend and I ever coming out to his parents as a couple. They simply would never have accepted it. I was his friend, and his room mate, and that was it. I was happy with that arrangement.

Currently, I am just beginning dating a 20 year old (I’m 27) and that’s a pretty damn big age difference. So we have some similar issues to deal with, about when we tell our friends and what we do together. All I can recommend is that you discuss everything with your partner and mutually agree with one another on what is best for both of you. Just make sure you are on the same page, and it’ll all be ok.

It seems like you know that people are going to be critical of your situation, for various different reasons pertaining to both of you. It’s going to be tough. I’m just now starting to tell a few people that I’m dating a 20 year old, and I’ve been told that its crazy and a mistake and such. And you know, you just have to expect people to be critical of you, and hope that over time you can win them over and they will eventually be supportive of you. And if they never are, then you can cut them out of your life and rely on your partner, and other friends and family for support.

I think the fact that you guys have been seriously dating for 6 months is definitely a good time to be coming out together as a couple to your friends and family. It helps remove a little bit of doubt and stress that other people might have. If you were fresh/brand new into the relationship, you might experience more criticism, but having been together for 6 months, you might have earned a little bit more benefit of the doubt.

I wish you luck, and feel free to PM me if you would like to share more details of your experience privately, so that I might be able to offer more specific advice. Being gay is hard and I can understand some of the difficult situations that can arise when coming out as a couple to friends and family.

I was going to answer because I’ve dealt with it and had it be a big problem, but that was when I was a teenager still living with my parents and they were actually forbidding me to date people. Now I couldn’t think of a situation where it would really be an issue. If my people just weren’t a huge fan of a guy and I was, that’s their issue. If they thought he/our relationship was Really Bad News, I would probably agree (even if I did it anyway…but you can only bug someone about something so much when they’re agreeing with you).

I was raised Jewish, and am a gay atheist. My partner was raised Muslim, and is a polysexual atheist. I am exactly 20 years older than he is. The only thing that our friends and families don’t know about us are the specific things we do behind closed doors (some of our friends know that as well). None of our friends has any problem with either of us as individuals and as a couple. That’s almost the case with our families. At first, both families were very happy with us, with one exception: our atheism. They could accept that we were gay, they accepted the age difference, but many relatives (on both sides) thought that our atheism was just a passing phase, and had to do with our sexual orientation. But that was over 25 years ago, and by now they’ve gotten used to us. And nobody has ever pried into the behind-closed-doors stuff that we haven’t been open about.

Reading between the lines he’s HIV positive and you are still in the closet. These are kind of different contexts.

I don’t see why his past has to be revealed or discussed with friends or relatives unless there is some compulsion to do so.

Re coming out to relatives, friends and workers it’s 2013. Waiting isn’t going to make it better. Most people (including relatives) probably already know. If they are anti-gay today it’s not going to be any better tomorrow. The Band-Aid needs to come off quickly.

I appreciate any advice you guys have, but the reason I was coy about my own situation is because I’m primarily interested in hearing about everyone else’s own personal stories. I’d like the thread to be about everyone, not just me.

Fair enough jack! :slight_smile:

I’m sticking with my answer: if it’s something they might notice they can like it or lump it, but it’s none of their business unless I feel like making it their business. If it’s something they won’t notice it’s none of their business unless I feel like making it their business. If he’s molested children… then I’m fresh out of useful experiences for today.

If you want people to relate to you, you’re going to have to give us some details. That way, people can relate their own stories of the exact same thing you’re going through right now. Or, if not the exact same thing, maybe something similar.

Otherwise this thread is just going to be one big guessing game of what the heck you are on about.

I don’t care what other people think.
About me, or my SO, or anything else.

And that’s my advice to you- live your life without worry what other people think.

I don’t remember when I told my family that I was dating someone with a kid (though it’s a little confusing because we were de facto FWBs before we were really dating).

Sometimes you need other people for things like emotional support or employment or money. I mean, if that’s an option, fine, but if it’s not an option for someone that’s not a failure on their part.