I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while and, in light of Valentine’s Day coming up this week, I figured now is as good a time as any to talk about loving someone with acne.
So, today I’m going to be talking to the people out there who are dating or married to someone with acne.
Obviously, you care for this person and probably want to help them or make them feel better about their skin.
However, if you don’t have acne yourself, it’s hard to know what to do or say to be genuinely helpful, without offending your partner or making them feel worse about their acne.
My long-time boyfriend and now husband has always been a wonderful source of comfort to me when I was feeling the worst about my acne.
Below, I’ll fill you in a little bit on our relationship as it relates to my acne history, and I’ll highlight some of the things he’s done that I’ve found most helpful.
My Experience Dating with Acne
I met must now-husband when I was in high school and, though we never dated then, we were very good friends when my acne was probably the worst it’s ever been. (For the record, my husband is not the only person I’ve ever dated. I’ve had several other serious relationships over the years; I just don’t think they’re worth talking about here.)
After high school, when I was 18, my skin was actually relatively clear, though I definitely still had noticeable acne scarring. Johnny (my husband) and I started dating that summer and maintained a long-distance relationship for the next year while I started college and he lived in Pittsburgh.
During that first year of college, my skin definitely became more broken out that it had been the previous summer, but any acne I had never really mattered when Johnny and I were around each other.
When you’re in a long-distance relationship and only get to see the other person once a month or so, little things like that tend to get lost in all the excitement of just being in the same room together.
Eventually, Johnny enrolled in the same university as me and we basically moved in together via my single-occupancy dorm room.
I had already not been wearing makeup around him since more-or-less day one of our relationship. But, being around each other all the time, he definitely got to hear more of me complaining about my skin and how I didn’t like it.
Back then and to this day, he doesn’t really care about my acne so much as how it makes me feel and behave. When I’m more broken out I definitely feel worse about myself, and that effects my mood and how I interact with him.
He’s a very fun-loving, live-in-the-moment kind of person and, when you’re dating someone with acne who’s feeling extremely self-conscious and depressed, that difference in mood can be kind of hard to deal with. For both of us.
Even more recently when I had my saw palmetto breakout, he was more concerned about the self-confidence and potential health issues the supplement caused than the physical reaction my skin had to it.
My point is that Johnny has been around for all of my skin’s ups and downs, and I really don’t think he’d be able to pin down or even remember when those ups and downs were. He doesn’t see my acne. He just sees me.
Which is hard for me to come to terms with that most days, because it’s something I can’t even do for myself.
That’s why, if you love someone who has acne, you can’t underestimate your role in their ability to live with acne.
Sometimes, having that person to accept and care for you when you can’t do either for yourself is the only thing that keeps you going.
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How to Support Your Partner When They Have Acne
If you want to do more to be a source of comfort for your acne-ridden partner, here are some of the things that I think are the most helpful:
1. Tell them you don’t notice their acne
Only if this is really the truth, of course.
It probably isn’t a great idea to tell your partner you never notice their acne if, in fact, you really do.
I think those of us who have acne are very aware of where other people’s eyes go when they look at us (“Is he looking at that pimple on my forehead?”, “Did she just look down at the whitehead on my chin?”).
So, if you do notice your partner’s pimples, don’t lie just to try to make them feel better.
However, if you really don’t pay much attention to your spouse’s acne, tell them that!
I’ve been complaining a lot about my skin ever since the saw palmetto incident, but Johnny flat out tells me that he doesn’t ever notice my acne, and that makes me feel better.
I’m sure he’s said this to me often in the past too, but it really takes someone repeating this kind of thing over and over again to actually convince you that its the truth.
I think most of us are just so insecure about our acne and notice it so much that we can’t accept that someone really would be able to ignore it.
If you don’t notice your partner’s acne and hear them complaining about it, let them know that it doesn’t affect your view of them. And let them know often.
2. Let them initiate the acne-related conversations
I know you probably want to be helpful and do everything you can to stop whatever is causing your partner’s pain, but I think bringing up their acne to them is probably not a good idea in most situations.
As someone who has pretty severe acne, I know it’s one thing for me to get feedback on my skin if I’m the person complaining about it or otherwise initiating the conversation about it.
It’s a whole other experience to have someone start talking to me about my skin out of the blue. Would not recommend.
If you have some advice or suggestions for your partner about ways they could improve their skin, hold onto those ideas until the next time he/she brings their acne up. Then you do your best to reassure them and suggest your ideas, without making them feel defensive.
In my opinion, literally the only time you should bring up your partner’s acne is to implement my next tip.
3. Tell them when their skin is looking good
This might be kind of difficult if you don’t pay all that much attention to your partner’s skin (which, as I mentioned in point number one above can actually be a good thing).
However, I’d recommend paying just enough attention to their acne to notice when it’s looking less inflamed or when they have fewer pimples. And let them know that!
Those of us who have acne are often so hyper-focused on each new spot or scar that it’s hard for us to take a step back and realize when we’re having a “clear” day.
If you think your spouse’s skin looks better than usual, tell them.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just gotten done sulking in the mirror only to have Johnny say “Your, skin looks really clear today!” It changes my whole mood and makes my entire day better.
More importantly, it makes me realize that other people don’t see what I see when I look in the mirror, which is a nice reality check in itself.
4. Point out things you like about them that have nothing to do with their skin
If you’re in a relationship at all, you should compliment your partner daily.
It can be really easy to admire things about your spouse and think you don’t need to voice those thoughts out loud, but I think reminding your partner of all the things you love about them is super important for any relationship.
I, myself, am not always on my game when it comes to doing this, but I do try to speak up when I think something Johnny does is cute, impressive or otherwise admirable.
If you’re with someone who has acne, I think this tip becomes even more important.
As I touched on above, people with acne tend to obsess over it and really focus on their acne as a defining feature of their appearance and maybe even their personality.
By reminding them of all the other things you love about them, you can not only help their self-confidence, but also help remind them that there’s more to who they are than just their acne.
For example, when I’m getting ready to go out somewhere, I tend to be really focused on my makeup and covering up my acne. But, when Johnny sees me, the first thing he complements is usually whatever dress I’m wearing.
It’s a nice reminder that some of the things that might make me look good have nothing to do with my skin.
In general, I think these four tips are some of the most important and genuinely helpful things you can do to help someone with acne.
I know loving someone who has acne can definitely be challenging, and it can be easy to want that person to just “get over it.” But approaching that person with that kind of attitude is not going to help them, and it certainly won’t help your relationship.
You need to come to them with a kind and supportive mentality, and understand that they want to move on from this situation as much as you want them to.
Have you guys ever been in a relationship with someone who was either really supportive or really not supportive about your acne? Leave a comment below telling me about your experiences.
Also published on Medium.