Right about the time we got married, my husband started a new job at a bank (which I am thrilled about), where he is required to dress professionally every day. I am a full-time student and work nearly full-time in the two-year-old class of a daycare, where I dress comfortably enough to chase around 16 toddlers and run the risk of being puked on at any minute. My issue is that no matter what we do after work, my husband insists on staying dressed up and I always feel like a sloppy mess. I don’t have the time, energy, or wardrobe to match his appearance when we go to dinner, hang out with friends, or go to meetings of clubs to which we belong. I do my hair and make–up every day, and typically touch it up quickly when I get home from work, but I still feel like a teenager next to my adult husband wherever we go.
I constantly try to get him to change into casual clothes in the evenings, but he’s developed an obsession with always looking “classy” and dismisses my feelings as crazy. When we are both wearing casual clothes around the house on the weekend, he’ll often change right at the last second before we go out, leaving me feeling like he’s trying to look better than me, which he swears he’s not. Needless to say, this has become a fairly regular argument.
I don’t deny that this seems like a small thing to get upset over, and I might even sound kind of crazy, but after months of feeling inadequately dressed, it’s started to legitimately affect my self-esteem. I’ve always been fairly self-confident and I haven’t felt this perpetually self-conscious since middle school. Not only that, but in my moments of frustration, I start to come up with these ideas that the reason he wants to always dress this way is because he thinks he’s better than everyone else – including me – which I doubt is the case.
I want to have a loving and mature relationship with my husband, but this whole situation just leaves me feeling consistently immature, both in physical appearance and in my actions. I’m headed for a career full of scrubs once I finish school this year, so this likely isn’t a problem that is going away. So how do I overcome my consistent feelings of being unattractive and underdressed? And is there any way to get my husband to understand how I feel? — Issues to A Dress
Let’s see, you feel inadequately dressed, your self-confidence has nose-dived lower than it’s been since you were an adolescent, you feel like your physical appearance is “immature,” and yet you think it’s your husband who has the problem because he won’t dress more like you when you to go out rather than the other way around? Yeah, that does sound kind of crazy, actually.
It seems like the effort you put into feeling bad about yourself and getting upset with your husband and creating conspiracy theories about him thinking he’s better than you and everyone else could be better spent changing out of puke-covered/ casual clothes into something a little more appropriate for a dinner out with your new husband. I have a one-year-old son; I appreciate the necessity for casual clothes when you have your hands full with toddlers all day. I also appreciate being on a budget and not wanting to blow much on clothes you don’t have to wear to work. But as a wife and as a woman, I also appreciate how important it is to feel good about yourself, and honey, puke-covered sweat pants isn’t gonna get the job done.
You really don’t have to spend a lot of money — or time — on a few items of clothing you can wear on dates out with your husband (or a ladies’ night out or brunch with friends or whatever other social opportunity you might have). You need 1-2 dark wash jeans that you can wear with a flattering sweater or a pretty top. Add one skirt, a pair of tights, one dress you can dress up or down, and heels and/or boots, and you have the basics for about 4-5 mix-and-matched outfits (oh, and don’t forget a cute handbag that will go with everything). Assuming you aren’t going out every single night of the week — or even if you are — that’s really all you need. You can wear the same 3-5 outfits each week. You will feel better about yourself and your husband will be happy his new wife is finally wearing something to dinner that a toddler didn’t pee or puke on.
I know you said you don’t want to put the effort into your appearance, but this is more than your appearance we’re talking about. This is your self-esteem and, frankly, your marriage. How unimportant must your husband feel that you can’t even spare five minutes to change your clothes and fix yourself up a bit to look good for him? You wouldn’t wear casual clothes to a job interview, would you? Well, why is a job more important that your marriage?
I suspect your feelings of inadequacy run a little deeper than just the clothes you’re wearing though, and I wonder if they stem from the fact that you’re still in school and working at a job you consider temporary while your husband has already started a career — a career in which he dresses like a real professional. I can see how it might feel like you’re at very different stages — stages that are echoed in your choice of wardrobe. Maybe it even feels like you’re being left behind. But this, like your daycare job, is temporary, and it doesn’t define you.
Hopefully, you will be married for a very long time, and over the course of your marriage, there will be periods when you’re doing well career-wise and maybe your husband is in a rut, and times when he’s flying high and you’re not feeling as successful. It’s important to use these opportunities to support each other and celebrate victories as a team. And if it feels like all the victories are “his,” remember that your time is coming. Your life, you marriage, and your career are all marathons.
… But that doesn’t mean you should never change out of your running attire.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.