Dating someone with a BFRB
Dating someone with a body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) presents its own set of challenges, which someone without the disorder may find it difficult to navigate. Living with BFRB disorders can cause individuals to feel extremely vulnerable. It can lead to isolation, loss of confidence and feeling of shame. So, perhaps the most valuable thing to do is to take a moment and place yourself in your partner’s shoes. Imagine what they must feel like, if you really get what life must be like with BFRB disorders, compassion and acceptance will automatically show up. You will understand that like anyone, your partner just wants to be treated with love, compassion and acceptance.
You are not their therapist
When you care for someone, it’s tempting to support them by trying to act as a surrogate therapist. The problem is you are not their therapist. Trying to play that role will be emotionally draining and could make you resent your partner. You are not responsible for providing therapy to your partner. This is why you should gently guide your partner towards working with a therapist, a therapist an help them improve how they deal with the disorder in and outside the relationship, and if your partner already is engaged in therapy, be open to hearing what he or she has to say about therapy and support them to implement what has bee discussed in therapy. On the flip side, it is also important to respect the confidentiality of the client-therapist realtionship and not expect or pressure your partner to talk about what is discussed in therapy.
If you are in a serious, long term relationship and the hair pulling is impacting on your relationship, it would be advisable to consider couples therapist, some of the issues that trigger your partners behavior might be based on your relationship. Working with a couple’s therapist can take the pressure off your partner, rather than encouraging them to do something on their own you are inviting them to join you in therapy.
Tips for dating someone with BFRB
Reassure but don't make promises that everything will be okay
The words we use day in and day out with our partners are powerful. Quite often, we don’t realize how much of an influence on our partner those words can have. And because of that we have the ability to impact the quality of our relationships through the words we use daily. It is importatn to reassure, but only of the things within your control, e.g. I am here for you, I am proud of the work you are putting in, I am here to listen if you need to talk about it, etc.
This may sound cliched, but open communication is vital in any relationship and even more so when your partner struggles with a BFRB. Be willing to talk about trichotillomania openly and in a non-judgemental way. Be willing to learn about the disorder and listen to how your partner is affected by it. It is also okay to talk about how it affects you, as long as you do so in a way that does not make your partner feel guilty, but rather makes your partner feel like they can trust you are being open and honest with them. Chances are he or she probably thinks you think or feel far worse than you do, so letting them know can often make them feel at ease.
Together with your partner, identify what triggers them to pull. Then be willing to remove triggers where possible, such as closing or removing mirrors from bathrooms or using dim lights in pulling environments.
Just be there for your partner at all times. As complex as BFRBs can get the best thing you can do is be there and let them know you care.