Although being in a long-term relationship where I did not have penetrative sex helped me realize that a sex life is very much still possible without penetration, it was still hard for me to see myself as someone who could be desirable to someone else long-term. Regardless of how much progress I’d made in talking about my pain—and I’d made A LOT over the previous four years—it still never felt easy to disclose this part of my life.
People ask me all the time: When is the right time to tell someone? And I’d tried each option: telling someone right away via texting in a dating app; telling them in person on our first date; letting them know when we decided to become intimate by blurting it out right as they were kissing my neck; or not saying anything at all and running out of the bedroom crying with no explanation after we started getting physical.
As much as I hate to say it, there is no correct answer here. There’s no easy or surefire way to tell someone about this stuff. I don’t think it’s ever going to feel like the right time because it will always feel like boiling-hot water burning your tongue after you spit it out. Your stomach will feel tight, your hands will clench in your lap. If you’re face-to-face, you’ll do your best to avoid eye contact because you don’t want to see that look. You know the look I mean.
What I have come to realize, after forcing myself to continue dating and putting myself out there, is that there is no right way to tell someone. There just isn’t. There’s no magic time for letting someone know.
The only rule that you should follow is telling someone whenever the hell you feel ready. Whenever you feel comfortable and ready to share that part of your life with them, tell them. If you don’t feel ready, then don’t. Ryan from Bumble isn’t showing up at this bar and sitting across from you and immediately telling you about his deep-rooted issues with his absent father that can cause him to have trouble trying to get close to someone. Most people do not go on dates and throw all their baggage out there for the other person to sort through and decide whether or not they can handle it right away. We don’t have to either.
I used to share because I felt like I had to. It felt as if I were keeping a secret from my dates if I didn’t let them know up front. I shared this with my therapist once, and she asked me why.
“Why do you think you owe them this explanation before you even know if you like them?”
I thought long and hard about it. Why was I sharing this info with people so quickly? Why did Jeff from Hinge get to know intimate details about the way in which I was able to have sex before I even knew his middle name? I vowed to stop doing this.