Q. I moved back to Boston about eight months ago to be closer to my family, particularly my father who is suffering from cancer. Since I moved back, I’ve been online dating and also actively trying to meet guys when I’m out. I’ll be 33 next month, and I’m feeling a lot of pressure to settle down and meet the right person sooner rather than later.
Just recently, we found out that my dad’s time with us is limited because his chemotherapy isn’t working. While we are all heartbroken, my Dad is adamant that he wants us all to go on with our lives during the time that he has left, and to live life as normally as possible. He wants me to continue to be social, date, and enjoy my life, so I have been trying to do that while still finding time to spend with him.
Just recently, I went on a great date with a guy who I met online. After our second date was going really well (or so I thought), I decided that “full and fair disclosure” was the best course of action, and let him know what was going on in my life. I thought that it would be better for him to know what was going on and make an informed decision about whether to keep seeing me, rather than hold back and then have to let him know what was going on after I/we possibly became more attached. Well, despite having what I thought was a great date, he told me last night that although he thinks I’m great, he doesn’t think that we are compatible for a relationship. Now, maybe this had nothing to do with what I told him, but I think it may have at least played a part.
So I guess my question is: In the scheme of the “getting to know you” dates, how soon is too soon to disclose this information?
NOT SURE IN BOSTON
A.I remember being on a date years ago, when my mom was in the middle of treatment. I had made a decision not to talk about my mom’s illness because it was a first date and cancer talk is a bummer, and really, it was none of the guy’s business. But because of my self-censorship, the date felt dishonest — because 98 percent of my brain was focused on my mom at the time.
I’m telling you this because I never quite figured out how to date during my mom’s treatment. I have some perspective now that she’s gone, but I still struggle with disclosure. It’s difficult not to say, “My mom died last year and sometimes I just watch old episodes of ‘Moonlighting’ and cry.”
My advice is to bring it up without a big speech. Don’t make it a serious, “I have to tell you something” talk. You can even admit that you don’t know how to share the information. You can say, “I don’t know how to bring this up or characterize it on a date, but my dad is sick and that’s a big part of my life right now.”
For the record, I don’t think that your dad disclosure was the reason that your second date didn’t lead to a third. It might have helped the guy make a decision that he was going to make anyway, but I can’t imagine that he did a 180 based on the information.
Also know that there’s no pressure to do everything at once. It’s lovely that your dad wants you to go on with your normal life right now, but things aren’t normal anymore. Your priorities have shifted. It’s OK to give yourself a break, even if you’re 33 and want a partner. Sometimes it’s just impossible to multi-task.
Its all about the presentation. He’s going to take the cue from you. If you are able to share it with him rather matter-of-factly early on, he should take it in stride. And if he doesn’t, well then, he’s not a keeper.
I don’t understand why your dad’s illness (and my sympathy on that, by the way) is a Big Disclosure item on a date. To me, if someone said “There is something you need to know about me before we can continue dating,” I’d think STD or criminal record or some other topic that directly relates to a relationship.
Been there with both my parents (cancer for both). While I was caring for them, I did go out and date, but like Meredith, my mind and heart were back at home worrying about making my parents feel comfortable in their last days. It took a huge toll on me physically and emotionally. But I wouldn’t have traded a moment for any date — online or offline.
Speaking from the other side of the table, I was on a first date about a year and a half ago when the guy mentioned that his dad was in the hospital with cancer. Honestly, it never occurred to me to run away. Sadly, his dad passed away a few months ago. However, I’m so very glad I stuck around, because we’re getting married this weekend. My advice: The right person will just accept your situation as part of the whole package that is you.
I was not online dating when my mom got really sick — I was introduced to a mutual friend and we started talking getting to know each other. My life was so crazy at the time with my mom’s Alzheimer’s that the first date we had, watching Sunday football, I had to cancel due to a situation with her. I explained and we rescheduled. He knew what he was in for and we live together now. If I were dating online and there wasn’t an incident to explain such as a cancel, I think I would wait until the third or so date just so you can get to know the person better before revealing this.
For everyone who’s missing someone a little extra today because of this letter, I’d like to give you a big ol’ hug.
MCDIMMERSONColumn and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Letters can be sent to Meredith.Goldstein@globe.com.