When is the Right Time to Disclose Your Disability to Your Partner?

When is the Right Time to Disclose Your Disability to Your Partner?

When should you disclose your disability?

When I started coaching singles, my goal was to give advice as grounded in science as possible. Then I started working with Adaptations and got hit with a question that has been baffling me ever since.

WHEN SHOULD I DISCLOSE MY DISABILITY?

As I’ve learned over-and-over, this is one of the biggest dating questions for people with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities and other neurodiverse diagnoses.  With just a quick search, I found tons of discussions about it, both in the physical disability community and the neurodiverse community.  Here is just a sampling:

My opinion?  First, a few caveats:
  • I have no personal experience with disclosing a disability because I am neurotypical (as far as I can tell)
  • I can’t find any scientific evidence to support or refute my opinion
  • My opinion about the matter is largely based on the life experiences of people in the neurodiverse community who have been kind enough to share their thoughts with me

Now you’re ready for my opinion…

YOU DON’T HAVE TO DISCLOSE YOUR DISABILITY IMMEDIATELY

Your disability isn’t who you are.

But when you disclose your disability too quickly, it’s how your potential partner will define you.  Everything that makes you amazing will be seen through a lens of disability.

You have the right to control the lens through which people see you.  You have the right to present yourself in the most flattering way possible.  You have the right to tell your life story in any way you want.

If you want to disclose your disability right away, go for it.  That’s your choice.  But nobody should say you have to.  Your neurodiversity is just one facet about you — and it shouldn’t be the most important one.

In fact, it would be hypocritical of the world to expect immediate disclosure.  Think about all the complicated neurotypical issues that singles explicitly avoided discussing early in relationships:

  • family problems
  • anger issues
  • debt

You think those issues are any less important to the future of a relationship than a neurodiverse diagnosis?  I think not!

WAITING UNTIL YOU’RE IN A COMMITTED RELATIONSHIP IS TOO LONG

You can’t wait forever to disclose your diagnosis.  As you start getting serious, there are conversations that should be had.  Each of you needs a certain amount of information about the other to decide whether to commit for the long term.  Disability is one of those things.

Strong relationships are built on open and honest communication.  Disclosing your neurodiversity is part of that.  Just remember that nobody says disclosing your disability has to be a negative thing.  There are many positive aspects to your neurodiversity.  People with autism spectrum disorder tend to be more honest than average.  People with ADHD tend to be more creative than average.  People with learning disabilities tend to be better problem solvers than average.

How will you accentuate the positive?  How will you accentuate your positives?  

WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO FOR YOU?

There is no definitive answer to that question.  There are, however, a lot of opinions.  Let’s bring those opinions together and start a huge conversation.

The conversation starts with YOU:

  • Write about it.  When have you disclosed your disability in the past?  And how did that go?  Are you going to do it differently next time?  Add your thoughts in the Comments, below.
  • Then spread the conversation.  Spread it to with therapists, psychologists and social workers.  Share it with neurotypical friends.  And definitely share it with your neurodiverse community.  Use these:  Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn StumbleUpon

QUICK REVIEW

  • You don’t have to disclose your disability right away
  • But you have to disclose your disability before the relationship becomes monogamous
  • You have to decide for yourself when the time is right
  • Share your thoughts in the Comments, below
  • Spread the conversation Facebook Twitter Google+ LinkedIn StumbleUpon
Jeremy Hamburgh
Jeremy Hamburgh
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