I have come clean to some of my friends about the depression, but I feel very uncomfortable talking about my self-harm and have not told anyone about that. I feel quite conflicted about this because I am interested in dating! I have not dated or had sex in years, so no man has seen my scars. This is the first time in ages that I’ve felt emotionally ready to be in a serious relationship, thanks largely to the therapy and medication. However, I am very nervous to talk about this one aspect, and I am unsure when to raise it. Is this something I discuss prior to being intimate with a man and before he sees me naked? Do I proactively raise it before that? Or do I just try to address it after having sex for the first time?
My fear is that I will “turn off” a man if I raise this too far in advance, since there is a stigma around depression and self-harm. Do you have suggestions on how to talk about my scars? Should I raise the subject before my date sees them, or address them after we’ve had sex? — Ready to Date
Congratulations on addressing your depression and getting the treatment you need to manage it and move forward with your life. It’s wonderful that you feel ready to date again and are thinking about how best to navigate that world, especially in regards to your history with depression. As for your cutting scars and when to mention them to new men, you’re going to have to go with your gut and what feels right. Maybe on a date the topic of your depression will come up organically and you can take the opportunity to mention your self-cutting and the scars then. (And when I say that this may come up organically on a date, I don’t mean on a first date. I’d wait at least two to three dates before discussing something like that, not because it’s anything to be ashamed of but because it’s too intimate for a first date when you’re simply gauging chemistry and getting to know some basics about each other).
If the topic doesn’t come up organically on its own, you could bring it up yourself if you’re vibing with a guy and think there’s potential that he’ll actually see your scars. Or, you could mention it after he’s seen them (but not during: mood-killer!). Or not at all (or not for a while)! Honestly, it’s all about is what’s comfortable for you and what feels right to you.
When I was 19 (I’m 38 now), I had a breast reduction that left some minor scars. Of course, since I was only 19 and still single, there were times when I had to consider the same question about when/whether to mention the scars. It was awkward early on, but, by the time I met my now-husband ten years later, it was such a non-issue for me that I can’t remember if I even thought about it. You may find that that’s the case for you.
My situation was a little different in that there wasn’t some stigma or even much of a story attached to my scars and I didn’t have to engage in a conversation further than explaining that I had elective surgery, then end. In your case, when you share the story of your scars, it potentially invites a deeper discussion about your mental health and everything around that. So, you do need to feel some comfort and trust with a guy… which is something people should hopefully feel before they get intimate with someone anyway. In that sense, the scars can be a dating tool. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing something as personal as your self-cutting, then maybe you aren’t ready to move the relationship forward yet.
I think that you’re going to find that, unless you’re a pretty bad judge of character, the men you choose to share that part of your personal history with are going to be accepting and supportive and honored that you trust them. And then you’ll move on and the scars will become an after-thought (if that).
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at email@example.com.