(Life Wire) -- After a long stint of online dating, Gemma Halliday had finally found the needle in the haystack she'd been looking for: an attractive, gainfully employed guy with "nothing weird or scary about him" -- or so she thought. "It was very 'Desperate Housewives.' In the back of my mind it was like, 'What happens if she wakes up?

"He seemed really nice," the 31-year-old romance novelist from Los Gatos, California, says of her first phone call with the suitor. ' " When to drop the bomb As strange as the news was, Halliday appreciated his honesty.

#Castle BTS 22: I got the word that I booked Beckett on May 4, 2008.

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Good decision, says Kimberly Flemke, a therapist on staff with the Philadelphia-based Council for Relationships, a nonprofit relationship-counseling group.

"If you have a big secret, you want to have that trust established first so you know that the person is going to honor your privacy," she says.

But for other daters with secrets -- a history of sexually transmitted diseases, a conviction for drunken driving, an obsession with "Star Trek" -- the tell-and-then-kiss approach doesn't necessarily work. Throughout his 20s and 30s the body-care products salesman suffered from severe psoriasis, a red, scaly skin condition that covered 20 percent of his body.

Besides the itching and discomfort, there was the painful matter of having to tell a date that things might look a little "unsightly" but that "it's not contagious." Rather than share those details over an initial cup of coffee, "I got to know [the person] first, and if I thought we might get intimate, I would tell them," says Gilbert, who is now married and completely psoriasis-free, thanks to medication he has been taking for five years.

"If somebody sits down on the first date and says, 'I'm into spanking,' even if you are into spanking, [too], you might react negatively to that." On the flip side, "withholding information like 'I'm a cross-dresser' till the wedding night" is bad form, he says.

Once you're seeing the person a few times a week and sleeping together, it's time to come clean about any secrets that could affect the relationship.

"Instead of dropping a bomb and watching the person sit there and absorb the information, say that if you didn't see the relationship going somewhere, you wouldn't have said anything," she explains.

It's perfectly acceptable to tell your partner you're nervous about how your big reveal might impact the relationship, she adds.

"The idea was to chronicle my commitment to staying single for six months," she says.