The single and couple counselors Anna Peinelt and Christian Thiel speak in her joint podcast “The thing with love” about all facets of love – and also the aspects of which people often do not know whether and how to address them themselves. Today it’s about a listener who doesn’t know whether she should tell the man she’s been dating for a while about her therapy and her depressive episodes.
Christian Thiel: The question today is: Am I actually allowed to be the way I am? Or should I pretend in my partnership? This letter from Julia really touched me.
Anna Peinelt: I just read them out: “Dear Anna, dear Christian, I’m a big fan of your podcast and I’ve learned so much from it. I’m in my early 30s and have had four attempts at relationships of two and a half years each. In February I met a new man and implemented your dating tips in an exemplary manner: No alcohol, short dates and before it got intimate, we waited eight meetings. So I am now on my fifth attempt at a relationship. We share the same values and also have a very similar picture of our future. Now the catch: Since I was 14 years old, I have suffered from an eating disorder and depressive episodes on and off. I’m currently back in therapy and for the first time I feel like I can do it. However, my partner knows neither about the eating disorder and the depressive phases, nor about the current therapy. Should I tell him about it? I’m afraid of overtaxing him and making it more difficult for us to get to know each other. I would be happy if you could do a series on the subject of demarcation, proximity and distance. According to the motto: As close as possible, as foreign as necessary.”
Christian Thiel: First of all, it’s great that she dated in such an exemplary manner. And yes, it can be what it is. Julia, you are what you are. And you deserve a man to love you for who you are.
Anna Peinelt: Yes, and actually we could stop talking at this point.
Christian Thiel: Of course we can be who we are. Her family of origin is responsible for the problems Julia has. She is responsible for changing them herself. But that doesn’t make her a bad person. We all have some experiences. Some of us need therapy because of this, others don’t. And our partner should know that too. The question is, when should she say it?
Anna Peinelt: This should be addressed before both have got emotionally involved. For me there is only as close as possible, not as foreign as necessary. Many couples are not so fulfilled because they hardly allow any more intimacy. Most couples aren’t as close as they could be because there’s still a lot left unsaid between them. And behind it is the fear of getting involved completely with someone else. Fear of losing yourself in the process, fear of being abandoned or disappointed.
This is a fear we all bring with us. But if you give this fear space, you don’t think you’re taking any risks, but you don’t experience a fulfilling relationship either. The fear that Julia has that he tells her that he doesn’t want a relationship with a woman who has an eating disorder and depressive episodes, she can’t prevent it if she keeps her problems secret. We are dealing here with fear of rejection. And she rejects herself. This inevitably leads to shame. But a very effective antidote to shame is showing vulnerability. Be it through revelations, be it talking about needs or sharing secrets.
Christian Thiel: When someone doesn’t share something important, it almost inevitably leads to problems in longer-term relationships. If Julia wants a longer relationship, then she will have to practice disclosing herself. The longer she hesitates, the greater the risk that he will feel betrayed. Because she lives with her partner in untruth. She should stand up for herself. This is real intimacy.
Anna Peinelt: Otherwise you take the opportunity to experience real closeness. And if he can’t handle the fact that she brings problems resulting from her parents’ home, then he’s not the right person for her anyway. Start the conversation, show yourself vulnerable. Give him the chance to be there for you. These distances creep in from time to time, even in existing partnerships. It’s not like we put everything on the table at the beginning and then we can assume that everything is said and we’re forever close. Because we also make experiences independently of each other in everyday life and it is important to continue to pick each other up in order to stay connected.
Christian Thiel: Real intimacy comes from being who we are, being able to communicate. And if a partner doesn’t cope well with it, then that’s ultimately not a value judgment about us. We wish Julia the courage and are happy if she has a very good experience.
You can listen to the entire episode by Anna Peinelt and Christian Thiel here: