While I have never been anything but nice about it and I get how women differ from men on looks and weight and dress, I don’t get why it’s a big deal and the few other women I asked about the subject acted the same way. I’ve never come close to insulting her, and I always compliment her, especially on her body since she has body image issues. She has a hard time taking compliments, and I understand that and try to be as sensitive as possible, but I’m not sure why I am the villain now.
Before we ever dated, she knew my thoughts on gray hair. It came up in conversation about a good friend of mine who was dating a girl who added a “gray streak” to her hair. I told her I don’t find it attractive, and I told her in the WAY past that it was a turn-off.
OF COURSE I don’t bring that up now and never would again, at this point.
I just don’t get why she is upset. Again, I don’t badger her about it, I don’t insult her, and I don’t withhold affection or anything close; I simply state a preference, every now and again.
She likes my hair when it is super short. I like it to grow out more, but since she finds the super buzz cut more attractive on me, I keep it super short all the time. I don’t understand why this can’t be reciprocated and why I’m a bad guy for casually asking. She also finds facial hair unattractive,so I stay clean shaven for her.
I’m not looking to force her, obviously, and I don’t need a lecture on women and how they can be “insecure” with their looks; as I stated above, I am more than sensitive to that with her and act accordingly. I simply want to know how to approach this again with her, to ask once again, without being made to feel like I insulted her on any level. — Wash That Gray Out Guy
Has it occurred to you that the love of your life, Irene, isn’t insecure about her gray hair? Have you considered that maybe she actually likes the way she looks, that the gray hair makes her feel confident and sexy, and that she enjoys the ease and convenience and budget-friendliness of going natural? Have you thought that maybe, when it comes to her hair, her own feelings are more important than yours? Has it occurred to you that, by asking her again and again and again to color her hair — by not taking “no” for an answer and even writing to an advice columnist to ask how you can ask her AGAIN without being made to feel like you’ve insulted her on any level, you are, essentially, trying to coerce her or force her to make this change? But, like, without feeling as though you’re a bad person doing so, right? Certainly, you wouldn’t want to insult her (or be made to feel like you have) by telling her over and over and over that you don’t like her natural hair and she should cover it up as per your preference. No, no, your comfort — your feelings — must be accommodated here, even when you push and push about something Irene has made her stance clear about. (She’s made her stance clear, right?)
I’m not completely unsympathetic to you even though it sounds like I might be. You accommodate Irene’s preferences about your physical appearance, and it’s natural that you would want that reciprocated. But… that’s not really the way it works. Adjusting physical appearances for a partner is not a tit-for-tat thing. All things are not created equal when it comes to adjusting or maintaining physical appearances. Now, if you REALLY did not want to keep your hair short and you felt strongly about having facial hair and Irene kept bugging you about it and you made a deal that you would accommodate her if she accommodated your preferences, you’d have a leg to stand on here. But that’s not what has happened. I suspect if you told her that you were going to let your hair grow because that’s how you prefer it, she’d probably say, “Ok.” Because she knows what it feels like to want to wear your hair a certain way and to feel pressured to change it.
You know, maybe that’s a conversation you should have with Irene. Tell her that you keep your hair short and your face clean-shaven for her benefit, and ask her one more time if she would be willing to make a similar accommodation for you by coloring her hair. The thing is, you have to accept her answer and stop bugging her once and for all. She might very well tell you she has no intention of coloring her hair, so get off her back, and grow out your own hair if it’s so important to you. And since that’s basically your leverage here in arguing why she should color her hair, your bluff will be called. Can you handle that? (I’m also very curious if you dye your own hair and if you would on the regular if Irene wanted you to?)
You need to read this book and understand that people have different ways of expressing that they care for one another. You choose to use gifts to show your love. Your boyfriend, apparently, does not. Hopefully, you know your boyfriend cares about you through other ways he expresses that. Does he do special things for you? Show physical affection? Spend lots of time with you? Show interest in your interests? Great! Then you know he cares. Maybe he isn’t good at picking out gifts. Maybe it gives him anxiety because he suspects it means a lot to you and he doesn’t want to disappoint you, and so he ends up just shutting down because it’s too stressful for him. Or he takes you to the movies, spending time with you and sharing in an interest of yours, and THAT really is his gift to you. So, you’re not OK with that and you’ve let him know that and now he’s mad. Doesn’t it all seem kind of silly? When all you wanted was a token of his love for you?
What about, instead of telling him he didn’t do it right, you let him show you he loves you in a way that comes more naturally to him? Instead of testing him by the gifts his gives (or doesn’t give) you look at the whole picture of how he expresses his feelings for and to you. If there are really no signs that he cares about you, absent of a thoughtful gift, you probably should move on. After a year with someone, you should have a clear idea how he feels about you. If you really need a gift to know, then you aren’t a match and you need to MOA. If you decide to stay with him, the next time there’s a gift-giving occasion, give him some hints as to what you might like. Remove some of the anxiety of the guessing game and make it easier for him to satisfy you. Love isn’t — or shouldn’t be — a test. You aren’t on opposing sides. You’re on the same team, so share the playbook with him so you work better together.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.