Ask A Guy: I Used To Cut Myself – Should I Tell My Boyfriend?

Dear Ethan,

So, this is kind of an awkward and personal question, but I used to hurt myself pretty badly. Thankfully I stopped and I’m so much happier now. However, I have a boyfriend, and it’s a pretty serious relationship. Should I tell him? I think he suspects something from my (faint, but slightly visible) scars, but I’m really uncomfortable with anyone finding out. How would you feel if your girlfriend were in my situation?

First, let me thank you for writing in – you’re certainly not alone, as I know of quite a few girls who have also grappled with how to bare their past traumas to others. It takes a lot of courage to share any story of abuse, loss, or self-harm—whether with a stranger or a loved one.

I think the decision to tell your boyfriend about your own history is really quite a personal one. Obviously such information doesn’t quite make for great first date conversation, but you should absolutely be able to share such deeper things with someone you know you can trust—especially because it likely now informs a large part of who you are. If you’re at a point in the relationship where you feel like giving him that backstory will help him get to know you better, and you can confide in him with confidence, then you should go for it.

On the other hand, you may feel that, since you’re much happier now, your scars represent a past struggle which isn’t as relevant to your life now. In that case, I don’t think you need to tell him about their origins merely because he suspects something.

Your question reminds me of a girl who wanted to know when to tell her boyfriend that she loves him. My answer to you is similar in that you should only tell your boyfriend about your past when you feel like you need to. Then, if he can’t handle the truth, you’ll simply know that he wasn’t right for you in the first place. But more than likely, if he’s as into you as he sounds, hearing about your past issues won’t cause him to run away – he’ll only feel glad and relieved that you’re so much better off now.

Good luck!

Ethan Fixell is a writer and comedian from New York City best known as one half of comic “dating coach” duo Dave and Ethan. He is also the creator and editor of For more on Ethan, visit…or call his mom, Robin.

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Posted in: Ask A Guy, Love Advice
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  • darcyexene

    I told my boyfriend today. I actually told him my life story because it is so messed up and contributes to a lot of stuff today. He was shocked, I asked if he was glad I told him and he said yes! =) I have yet to ask if he still likes being my boyfriend, I am pretty sure he will say yes. Well, let’s hope so. I had a crush on him since 6th grade and same with him so when he asked me out I was so happy. 2 of my friends and I are not cover our scars on March 4 like we normally do (my school is doing a self-harm awareness day that day, I set it up) so I thought he deserves to know before hand. I think it would be good for him to know. Just make sure you can trust him!

  • Ciara

    I told mine about it, because he’s going to find out sooner or later. The only thing that changed between us is that when I’ve had a particularly bad day, he’ll take a moment to stop and ask if I did any self-harm. It all just depends on how serious you want the two of you to be. Definitely don’t tell a “flirt-buddy”, because it makes everything all somber and kills the mood.

  • bakerychaz

    I used to have Obsessive Complulsive Disorder (I still have a little bit), I used to be depressed, I had anxiety and I lived through many earthquakes, but I got over them all by just talking to my mum. She was so supportive and I think how to get over those sorts of things is just to have a really helpful friend or family member. Once they’ve helped and you feel better, try telling your boyfriend!

    By the way, great advice, Ethan. 🙂

  • TheAppleSlayer

    I could tell that the guy that is now my boyfriend knew a piece was missing when i talked about my past. I told him about my scars before he even asked me to be his girlfriend. He was completely caring about it more than some of the friends who have known for years before ever were. He also understood me a lot more as a person and what I’ve been through. A couple weeks ago i had a a relapse and cut myself again, and he was there for me. i hope you tell him because it will make your relationship stronger!

  • Devi

    My boyfriend and I recently told each other about our similar experiences with child abuse and neglect. It felt so much better once I got it off my chest because I have never told anyone I know personally about my mother and to know that he trusted me enough to tell me about his parents made me so happy. I say, if you feel that you can trust him with something that big, and you want or need him to know, then go for it. It’s a big step, but can bring a couple much closer together

  • Kenzie

    As someone who still struggles with self-harm, I say go for it, but only if you feel that you can trust him because there are some jerks out there who use that as black mail (as pathetic as that is). I hadn’t planned on telling my boyfriend so soon (two months), but someone pointed it out to him and i didn’t want him getting the impression that i was some ‘suicidal emo freak’, so i did confess and made sure that he knew i wasn’t suicidal, just my way of dealing with things. He was extremely understanding and said that it didn’t change who i was or how he felt about me. If he cares about you, he’ll just want to be there for you (: Hope this helps :3

    • Ethan Fixell

      Thanks for sharing, Kenzie. Great advice!


  • arielle

    I have been with my boyfriend for a month and with in the first week we met I just had to tell him he was so good to me to begin with but after I told him he was relieved because he could tell I was holding something back. We made a promise to each other to tell one another if we are upset with something and to communicate so hopefully we will stay together and nothing bad will happen!! But I do think it’s best to tell him and even just communicating with a guy will do wonders to a relationship!! good luck <3

  • Jen

    Going through the same problem only my boyfriend hasn’t noticed mine, but I feel like I he deserve to know. I’ve never told anyone, I’m scared I’ll come across as one of those girls who thinks she has more problems then she does.