10th February 2022
When dating, should you mention your stammer? With Valentine's Day coming up, people who stammer give their views and other dating tips.
Dating can be scary, with thoughts like 'Will I make a good first impression?' and 'Will my date like me?' being common for everyone. If you stammer, however, there can be extra worries of how the other person will react if we block, repeat, jerk our heads, look away, etc. And should we mention or disclose our stammers? If so, when's the best time to do it? Nightmare.
We asked people in our community for their views on whether or not they disclose, or mention, their stammer when dating. (Please note: these are people's own opinions and should not be taken as a guide — how you choose to deal with stammering is up to you.) Here's what they said…
Yes, I would mention my stammer
"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."
"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.
"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."
"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."
"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 and so it does tend to take people by surprise."
"I always make sure that I tell the other person about my stammer. 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 my stammer
"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 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."
I've never wanted my speech to define me, or anyone's perception of me.
"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 worry about setting a good impression and I guess I'm afraid of them judging me because of my stammer."
"Nope, never disclosed. As others have said, my stammer doesn't define me."
"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."
What do therapists think?
To get some different insights, we also asked a few speech and language therapists (SLTs) what they might say to someone who stammers on the subject.
"I'd suggest that you tell the other person about your stammer straight away and be prepared to talk about it. You might fear their response, but the vast majority of people won't judge you negatively if you explain you have a stammer. However, if you do get a negative response, at least you've found out straight away that the person probably isn't for you!"
"I would spend time asking yourself what are the potential disadvantages and the potential gains of telling your date you stammer. Disadvantages might be vulnerability, what people might say or do, or potential knockbacks. Potential gains would be letting the other person know what to say or do to support you, the advantages of openness and the positive things that might happen."
"With some people now becoming more aware of stammering as a difference and not defect, maybe you could have more confidence about asking for the other person's views? Would it be of benefit to you to ask "I stammer, it's the way I speak; how do you feel about that?" It will certainly give you an idea of whether they have the right attitude and will be supportive of you or not."
Other dating tips
Here's a few other things our respondents added, which might be helpful to think about:
Julia Henly, SLT:
"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?"
"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 Henly, SLT
"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 stammering is 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 — we each deal with stammering in our own way; 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 as you about making a good impression. A date is also just as much about you seeing if that person is right for you, than them making a judgement about you. Asking questions and finding out about your date can help take the focus off any negative thoughts you might be having about your stammer. It can also show them you are interested in them and what they're saying.
One last nice piece of advice from SLT Julia Henly: "Positive thoughts can help, like 'this is me and what I have to say is worth listening to!'"
What do you think? You can start a discussion in the STAMMA Facebook Support Group, or you're welcome to write an article about it for our Your Voice section. See our Share Your Story page for more details or email email@example.com
Read articles on dating & relationships written by people who stammer.