Self-harm in relationships

This is quite a tough topic an I’m not sure how to approach it so I’ll just start and see what happens.
I’ve been in a relationship for nearly four years now and in all that time I’ve sometimes self-harmed. Not very frequently, not very bad and, in some cases, not even noticable for others. My partner recently surprised me by saying that he often knew if I did it even before seeing the wounds. I asked him whether he would like me to tell him and he said yes. Thing is, if I’m terrible at talking about my mental state in general that’s nothing compared to how bad I am at talking about self-harm or the pressure to cut. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to do it – simply say “Hey I’d love to cut right now and there’s not much you can do about it.” or send an email titled “FYI: self-harm-pressure increasing”? I’m not used to talking about it.

When I still lived at home I naturally hid my scars and lied about them. Nobody ever noticed until I was stupid enough to leave a page from my diary in a place where someone was bound to find it. There were conversations but I had no intention of letting anyone interfere with my behaviour. Then I moved out and didn’t have to hide anything. I was on my own and free to do as I pleased. It’s easy to distract guests who only stay for a night or two so that they don’t see or at the very least don’t ask about scars.
And then I got into this relationship in which I actually talk about problems. But I still don’t know how to do it. I don’t want to bother anyone with this unpleasant topic and I never find the right moment (and yes, I know it doesn’t exist…). When I still had my therapist I was too occupied with other, more pressing issues so I never asked her how to handle this.

And it’s not just the talking. It’s also about self-confidence. Years ago I decided not to cut my arms as I didn’t want to wear long sleeves and I also didn’t want to do what people imagined – I was a teenie when Emos were a thing and I wasn’t interested in being labelled. So the only person apart from myself who frequently sees the scars in not so public places is my partner. And I always wonder what he sees. If I asked him he would tell me he doesn’t mind for sure, not as in he doesn’t care but as in he doesn’t think I’m ugly because of them. I wonder if he sees them every time or if they’re like birthmarks – there but not worth the attention. I wonder if he pities me (which would be horrifying). I wonder if he feels angry or helpless. But I’m too afraid to ask.

I was in love with someone who self-harmed but as I did so myself I surely perceived it differently from my partner who can’t imagine doing it himself (fortunately).
So, people out there – what are your experiences (and I know this is quite a personal question)? How did your (potential) partners react, or if there are partners of self-harming people reading this – what is this situation like for you? I’d really appreciate any inspiration on how to handle this better, now that I’ve accepted that by being part of my life it has also become a part of my partner’s life…


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