Hi, Carolyn: I’ve been seeing a really great guy, “Joe.” The relationship looks like it’s going to gel into something more permanent. He works with my stepdad, and so knows my parents.
The problem is that my mother was abusive to my sisters and me while we were growing up. In addition to physical abuse, she used to regularly tell us that she hated us and wished we would all die or run away. It’s taken me many years and much therapy to move past this, but I will always carry the emotional scars.
Outside of her frustrated motherhood, my mom is kind and funny, and everyone loves her. I don’t want “Joe” to think less of her, and yet my childhood is a huge part of what formed me.
Do I keep it from him, gloss it over, or give full disclosure and let him make his own judgment?
One of the most common mistakes people make when choosing a mate is to evaluate what they see in someone – values, temperament, looks – instead of what they create with someone. Often what really makes a couple hum – or sputter – along is what they bring out in each other. Since the way people draw each other out is so often unintentional, it’s also difficult to predict.
Because you were so profoundly shaped by your mom, and because your ability to hum along now as an adult is, apparently, so dependent upon your ongoing peace with your upbringing, it’s of vital importance that you know this about anyone you consider for lifelong companionship: Will he advance your emotional progress, or undermine it?
This isn’t just an argument for full disclosure of your past, though. You might be able to convey the relevant information in broad strokes, as you did so effectively here, and let details emerge organically.