Dating & stammering
For Valentine's Day, we asked people for their experiences and tips on dating when you stammer, and if they'd mention it on dates.
Dating can be scary. 'Will I make a good first impression?' and 'Will my date like me?' are common worries for everyone. If you stammer, however, there can be extra anxiety around how the other person might react if we block, repeat sounds, jerk our heads, etc. Also, should we mention our stammers and if so, when's the best time to do it? Nightmare.
We asked people in our community, including in our Facebook group, for their dating quotes and experiences.
"As someone who stammers, just the thought of asking someone out is enough to petrify me. So the invention of dating apps has been a godsend!"
"I worry about setting a good impression and I guess I'm afraid of them judging me because of my stammer."
"I used to date a girl called Nikki way back in 1990. Before mobile phones. I used to phone her house and dread one of her parents or siblings picking it up first, as I struggled to say her name.
'Many times her family must have thought I'd phoned them whilst I was suffering with constipation as all they heard was "Is NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN" before they passed the phone to her."
"I have stammered since the age of 3. I met my husband on the Internet. The first time we met, he asked me if I always spoke like this or was I nervous. I told him that I had a stammer. It obviously didn't bother him when he asked me to marry him 3 weeks later. We celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary in March."
Would you mention your stammer?
Note: the following are peoples' own opinions and should not be taken as a guide. There's no right or wrong thing to do. How you choose to deal with stammering is up to you.
Yes, I would mention it
"The nice thing about online dating apps is the ability to tell people in advance that you have a stammer. It weeds out the cruel people and gave me the safety of knowing they knew in advance. Sometimes that helps when I'm going to meet someone."
Telling the person near the beginning of a date can be a good idea to alleviate pressure, as they might be wondering whether or not to acknowledge it." (Maddie)
"When I've been communicating with men, I have spoken about my stammer and they seem to be understanding and usually tell me it's OK, which is a reassurance."
"One thing I've learnt is that it's probably a good idea to disclose your stammer on your online dating profile. Don't put it at the top. Instead, put it at the end as one of those 'other things' that describe you. I wrote something like, "One other thing about me is that I have a stammer". I added that it gave me drive and determination, and said that I was very happy to chat about it. This marks you out as being honest. Stammering also makes you interesting, and when it comes to internet dating, interest is everything."
"Telling the person near the beginning of a date can be a good idea to alleviate pressure, as they might be wondering whether or not to acknowledge it. On one first date I stammered a lot near the beginning, partially due to how nervous I was and partially due to the fact I'd drunk quite a bit. My date started laughing and I calmly explained to him what a stammer was. He looked very embarrassed and apologised. It has never been an issue since and we are still together a year later."
"I've found that if I don't mention my stammer, I subconsciously try to hide it on dates and it not only makes me stammer more, it also means I don't say what I want to say and don't show my true personality."
"In the past when messaging I didn't mention it because my stammer is just one aspect of my make up. But once it came to meeting face to face one of the first things I'd say would be, "I have a stammer". I'm mainly covert so it does tend to take people by surprise."
"I always make sure that I tell the other person about it. Even though I stammer, I was always confident and assertive for which I always got the feedback that this quality makes me attractive and desirable."
No, I wouldn't mention it
"In all the first dates I've been on, I've never told the guy that I stammer, nor do I mention it on my dating profile. As a covert stammerer, I hide my stammer most days. If I decide to tell someone, I make sure I suss them out first so I can work out what kind of person they are and if I can trust that they're not going to react negatively when I tell them."
"I've never told anyone — not because I'm uncomfortable as such but because I don't see the big deal about it; my speech isn't who I am."
I've never wanted my speech to define me, or anyone's perception of me." (Oli)
"I never explicitly mentioned my stammer on a dating profile or in an introductory message. I've never wanted my speech to define me, or anyone's perception of me. When my date would inevitably notice, things would go one of two ways: we'd talk about it and hopefully move on to more dates, or they'd get a bit uncomfortable and I'd know the relationship maybe wasn't worth pursuing."
"Nope, never disclosed. As others have said, my stammer doesn't define me."
Other dating tips
Here's a few other things people said, which might be helpful:
"Dating with a stammer can be horrible. But your stammer won't matter to the right people. Use it like an idiot indicator; if they react negatively to your stammer they're not worth dating."
"It helps if you meet online first to break the ice and get to know each other through texting. Then you can open up to them about the stammer. That's how I met my wife."
Julia (speech & language therapist):
"I think it's important to challenge beliefs about fluency being attractive and stammering less so. Who makes us feel this way? Is it because society favours fluent speakers? Actually though, what is true attractiveness about? What do you value in a relationship?"
"If someone doesn't want to date me because of my stammer then that's fine, but if they are that shallow then they don't deserve to date me anyway."
"Many, many years ago when I was dating I told nobody, including my dates, I stammered. I was ashamed of stammering and tried to hide it. I am wiser with age."
"You might think that someone else who stammers would be ideal for you. Don't automatically use stammering as a criteria for finding a mate. There really are jerks who stammer."
"I was always crippled by stammer-related anxiety when trying to flirt with girls. However, by the age of 25 I realised it was actually a real asset! For example, if I was taking ages to introduce myself to a girl at a party, by using eye contact in the right way I found stammering becomes quite flirtatious in itself."
I think it's important to challenge beliefs about fluency being attractive and stammering less so." (Julia)
"If someone does react badly, explain to them what stammering is. If they continue to react badly, just get out of there — they're not someone you want to spend your time on!"
"I have accepted the way I speak and it's made me highly aware and sensitive of different people and situations. Due to that, my dating life has been good so far."
"I think the key is to 'own' your stammer and try to be confident about it. Try not to show that you are anxious about having a stammer. Obviously it's a massive hurdle to confidence, but when people realise that you are not nervous, you just have a speech impediment, it is endearing and just a great asset to one's personality. I've had a severe stammer since infancy; I'm now 31 and happily married, still a severe stammerer!"
"If the other person don't accept your stammer, just remember everyone is different and it can sometimes take time to find the right person."
"I was given one bit of advice that I found really helpful: become the person you want to date. I internalised this phrase. For me it means: find things you find interesting and do things you like doing. Self-help gurus say things like, 'the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself'. They're probably right."
Telling people that you stammer can be scary. If you don't feel comfortable doing it or if you don't feel the need to mention it, that's your prerogative. As mentioned, there is no right or wrong thing to do.
Try and remember that dating is a two-way thing. Your date is most likely to be just as nervous about making a good impression. Going on a date is about seeing if the other person is right for you, so try and focus on that rather than what they think of you. Asking questions and finding out about your date can help take the focus off negative thoughts you might be having about stammering. It can also show that you are interested in them and what they're saying.
If the person reacts in an unhelpful way it might be because they don't know what stammering is and the best way to respond. If it feels comfortable, educate them and tell them what things they could do that would be more helpful.
To end, speech & language therapist Julia Henly left this nice quote: "Positive thoughts can help, like 'this is me and what I have to say is worth listening to!'"
Read articles on dating & relationships written by people who stammer.
This is an updated article that was originally published on 10th February 2022.