Telling The Truth: How To Be Honest About Trich with Romantic Partners
Starting a new relationship is exciting! And it can be a little scary too. You’re getting to know each other, and as you do, youre learning more details about each other. While getting to know each other more intimately is part of building a relationship, it can also leave you feeling vulnerable. What will that person think of me? Will I be judged? When you’re living with a condition like trichotillomania, connecting with someone can bring added worry.
One of the emotional struggles people with trich and other body-focused repetitive behaviors (BFRBs) often mention is the fear of being judged by others. Shame, fear, and embarrassment are constant companions for many. These emotions can make being open and honest with a new partner much more challenging. You know you need to share your truth but when is the right time to do that? And how? Will they understand?
Knowing when the right time to share, and how to share, isn’t always clear. Some people just put it all out there right up front. Others may try to conceal their condition as long as possible. For many others, finding the right time and space where they feel safe speaking their truth is a struggle.
The important thing to know is that while honesty matters in a relationship, there is no right or wrong way to share personal information. There are some ways to approach the topic that can lessen your fears and help ease that feeling of saying too much.
Before You Share
The pressure to share your truth can be intense. It may come from within yourself or from others. Depending on the visibility of your hair loss, your partner may already have mentioned it or asked questions.
The most important thing to know before you share anything is that the truth is yours and the decision to share and when is yours as well. It is your truth. It is your decision.
Why Honesty Matters
Part of building your relationship is getting to know each other on a deeper level. When you choose to be open and honest, it builds trust. It is that trust upon which healthy relationships can grow.
Trust is built from being vulberable and being transparent. Think of it this way: You go to great lenths to hide your hair loss. You don’t let your partner touch or stroke your hair. You pull away, not because you don’t want to be touched but you are trying to keep them from seeing that you’ve concealed the hair loss. What you see as protection, they may experience as rejection or disinterest.
Building trust takes time so revealing your trich right away may not feel right. You will be revealing a very personal truth, and you want to have some confidence that your partner will be supportive and mindful of your feelings. It’s ok to take your time.
Sharing Your Truth
When you feel ready, there are things you can do to share your experience with hair pulling. You can do it in a way that feels safe and also helps your partner understand your experience. Here are some tips that can help you navigate this experience and some insight from others who have been there:
Now or Later?
You might feel like telling someone right away about your trich is the way to go. You’ll know right away whether they are someone who can be supportive or not the right fit for you.
On the other hand, there’s some wisdom in getting to know the other person first. In the early days of a new romantic relationship, you’re just getting to know the other person and haven’t had time to build an emotional connection yet. It’s that connection that fosters empathy, compassion, and caring.
Whether you’re Team Now or Team Later, the choice is yours to make.
Finding the right words in the moment can be challenging because you’ll probably be feeling tons of emotions. Practicing how you want to share your condition can help you be ready for when the time comes.
Ask a trusted friend or even your therapist to help you prepare. They can be a great source for feedback and understanding how another person might hear what you share. Practicing also helps you gain confidence in talking to someone else about your condition.
Choose the Right Time
Choose a comfortable time and place where you won’t be interrupted. You and your partner will have a lot to talk about. Constantly being interrupted can make it hard to have the discussion.
Related to timing, keep in mind that it might take more than one conversation. You may have more to share. Your partner may have more questions or things to share once they’ve had time to process it all. Ongoing conversations can help build that connection and understanding as your relationship grows.
You are not your trich and it does not define you or make you any less desirable. Be honest and confident in sharing your experience. People tend to mirror emotions so how you share the information can shape how your partner will receive it. Emotional mirroring is a way that we connect and empathize with others. If you come across as confident and assured, your partner will likely see you that way too.
Be Prepared for Questions
You may have to do a lot of explaining about trich, especially if your partner is unfamiliar with the disorder. Let your partner know that it’s okay to ask questions. And, if they’re receptive to it, share resources where they can get more information on trich. Let them know that there are treatment options too.
Be Prepared for Surprises
You will be opening up in a very personal way to your partner. Your willingness to be vulnerable may give them the confidence to share personal things as well. This kind of openness build emotional intimacy and trust.
Be patient with your partner. Just as it took time for you to come to terms with your trich, they may need time too. Allow them time to process what they’ve learned and think it through.
Let your partner know how best to support you and be willing to accept that support. They may not completely understand your condition and wonder how to help. Assure them that they don’t need to “fix” anything. Be willing to ask for help too.
Living with trich doesn’t have to keep you from having a healthy romantic relationship. Your trich is only one part of who you are, and it does not define you. If you find that your trich is impacting your relationships, there is help. Treatment isn’t just for symptoms. Therapy can also help you learn how to navigate those relationship issues and find the satisfying relationship you desire.
1. Anderson, S., Clarke, V., & Thomas, Z. (2022). The problem with picking: Permittance, escape and shame in problematic skin picking. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 96(1), 83-100. https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/papt.12427
2. Reddit. (n.d.). Reddit - Dive into anything.
3. Pfeifer, J. H., Iacoboni, M., Mazziotta, J. C., & Dapretto, M. (2008). Mirroring others' emotions relates to empathy and interpersonal competence in children. NeuroImage, 39(4), 2076–2085. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3840169/