Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Husband Won’t Allow Me to Wear Skirts or Post Selfies”

I grew up an independent fundamental Christian, where my dad did not allow the girls in my family to wear pants because he felt they were not modest and because the Bible says “a woman shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man.” As I grew older, I resented that rule so much because I had my own beliefs about it – there are pants made for women, so, therefore, you’re not wearing men’s clothing, and I do not think they are immodest. So I couldn’t wait to move out of the house so that I could finally start wearing pants like a “normal” girl/woman. When I met my husband (we’ve been married almost two years), we talked about those standards and he had said he didn’t think my wearing pants would be a problem. And that was the last we ever really talked about that subject. Then since being married, I’ve brought it up a few times, and he gets SO uncomfortable talking about it and tells me he doesn’t want me to wear pants because he doesn’t want other men to look at my butt and my thighs because he thinks they’re “hot” and they’re only for him to look at.

My problem is that I can’t bring the subject up without my husband getting mad at me and asking, “Why do you want to look good and want other guys to look at you???” The day is then ruined and it is my fault. I literally hate wearing skirts – especially going to work or out with our friends (even when he’s there) and all the girls around us are wearing pants so I’m the only one in a skirt.

Then there’s the problem where I’ve always wanted to have a YouTube channel where I advise girls on how to style curly hair because I have super curly hair. I brought it up to him last night, and he said, “Why? Then guys can watch the videos … “ and he was kinda upset with me for bringing that up. He doesn’t like me posting selfies of just myself on my social media because he doesn’t want other guys to “like” it because then that means they’re saying I look good or whatever and he wants me all to himself. When my best friend asked me to be in her wedding this June and I told my husband, he was happy for me and so I told her yes. And then he got upset with me because he hates the idea of my walking down the aisle holding some other guy’s arm and taking pictures next to another guy that’s not him. IT’S A NORMAL THING TO DO THAT IN WEDDINGS. It’s not like I’m hooking up with the guy!!

I love him so much and want to please him, but sometimes I just feel so trapped and suffocated. I do not want to leave him; I just want to know if there’s a way I can tone down his controlling aspect and if there’s a way to convince him that certain things are fine for me to do. What are some good things for me to say to him that will make him feel better about my wearing jeans and posting stuff about ME and being in my friend’s wedding?? I’ve tried, “You have nothing to worry about, I’m yours” but it doesn’t always help. By the way, I’ve never done anything to break his trust in our relationship. I think his previous girlfriend may have, but I’m not sure.
I just want to have a normal and peaceful marriage. — Skirting the Issue

I think you need to shift your focus from how to tone down your husband’s controlling nature to managing your own behavior and reactions. After all, you don’t really have control over how he responds to you any more than he has control over what you wear and whether or not you’ll be in a friend’s wedding and pose next to anther man in photographs. (He cannot control these things; you’re not a child and he isn’t your father.) You both are operating under an assumption that you can control the reactions of the other. He thinks that by being firm and asserting control, you won’t exercise your right to wear jeans or post selfies on social media. You think that if you could find the right words to say, you could make him not be such a misogynist. But you’re both wrong.

Here’s how it works: You do the reasonable and normal and healthy things you want to do such as wearing jeans and attending a friend’s wedding as a member of her party, and you accept that your husband will react to these things in ways that may be uncomfortable to you. If you’re unprepared to deal with your own feelings around doing things that you may have spent your whole life avoiding or being told are immodest and wrong, that’s understandable and I would recommend finding a good therapist – maybe even one who specializes in people who were raised in fundamental religious households. Additionally, if you’re unprepared to deal with your husband’s feelings around doing things that *he* has been told are immodest for women to do, therapy can help you there too. It would also help your husband, and you can certainly suggest this to him, but you can’t force him to get therapy any more than he can force you to keep wearing skirts.

You don’t mention how your husband was raised, but it’s clear he shares a similar perspective to the one your father holds of women and their roles in the family and in society. It’s interesting that even as you couldn’t wait to move out of your father’s home so you could start wearing pants, you then … didn’t start wearing pants and you married a man who doesn’t want you wearing pants. Even in discussing the issue with your husband prior to getting married, you didn’t test the idea of his being ok with it. Even though you say wearing pants was something you desperately wanted. Even though you can’t stand wearing skirts. You discussed ONE TIME with your husband the idea of your wearing pants and then never brought it up again until after you were married. It’s like you were afraid of what might happen if you did ditch the skirts, like you suspected your husband wouldn’t be happy about it after all, and maybe even that you’d have mixed feelings you were unprepared to deal with. Maybe that’s still true. Maybe what you feel so suffocated and trapped by isn’t solely your husband’s controlling nature, but also the shadow under which you were raised and still — at least to some extent — remain living under.

A good therapist can guide you out of that shadow, can help you with the feelings that will arise, and can help you across the marital hurdles created by being married to someone who embraces the same misogyny that you were raised under. You might find that out of the shadow, in a different light, you don’t see your marriage or your husband the same way you did before. You may find that as your comfort level changes and expands, so does that which feels uncomfortable, and that may change the nature of your marriage if your husband’s comfort levels are not also changing and expanding to include women in pants. A good therapist can guide you through this as well. Not for nothing, but you might even discover that when you no longer wear skirts and dresses out of obligation to a patriarchal system, even they can be comfortable because you have agency to choose them for yourself.

***************Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

24 comments… add one
  • Rebecca March 1, 2021, 2:01 pm

    WWS. PLEASE leave him and enter therapy to gain a sense of yourself and the ability to live your life the way YOU want to. Or enter therapy and then leave him. Either way, the result should be you, skirt-free at last, not with someone who’s so domineering.

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  • brise March 1, 2021, 2:38 pm

    Don’t ask your husband his opinion about your clothing or your friend’s wedding invitation as a bridesmaid. Just do it. Wear pants. Go to the wedding. You are an adult, you don’t need his permission. You suffocate under his control because you let him control you. Just do what you need to do for your own balance, self-esteem and self-accomplishment. If he has a problem with it, he can walk and file for divorce. If he starts acting jealous, tell him “non sense, I am not cheating on you because I wear pants. We don’t leave in Afghanistan”. Don’t be influenced by his reactions, brush it off like a noise and shrugg and do what you want.
    By the way: men, especially mediocre men (sorry) like exerting control by guilting women for the male desire they are supposed to awake when they … act freely like a normal woman. They are responsible for male pulsion: it is their fault. Thus they are supposed to wear a veil, a long skirt, stay at home the whole day, and so on. I would be gone by now, really. I don’t think your marriage will hold a long time. Do what you want, and if he objects, show him the door and take him to the cleaners with an attorney, this little controlling ayatollah!

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  • Helen March 1, 2021, 3:03 pm

    When Jesus was asked about women stirring lust in men he stated that men should pluck out their own eye. He didn’t say women should cover up. If you do go to therapy, do NOT choose a Christian therapist or someone in clergy. Go to someone who is guided by psychology not scripture

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  • ele4phant March 1, 2021, 4:32 pm

    It sounds like you married another religious man, like your father, but honestly, controlling is controlling and that’s an abusive behavior, regardless of what is driving it.

    I don’t know that you can *tone down* his beliefs and desire to control you. Men who believe women can be temptresses that need to be hidden away are also usually the same men that think they are the head of the household and it is their God given right to tell their wife what to do.

    I mean, sure therapy I guess to help you feel comfortable doing what you want, regardless of how he reacts, but honestly he won’t change that much. If you stay, you’re signing up for a life of chafing against him constantly trying to stuff you back under his control (at best, I hope it doesn’t escalate from there).

    Sounds like you have fundamentally different values and attitudes about the role of men and women in relationships, I’d peace out if it were me.

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  • Hannah March 1, 2021, 4:50 pm

    I really hope you write back to Wendy in a year’s time to tell us all about your extensive pants wardrobe, your successful YouTube channel, and how much fun you has at your friend’s wedding. I really do.

    I speak as someone who similarly allowed herself to be controlled by her husband. Whether you decide to stay with him or not, I do sincerely hope your future is full of pants and subscribers.

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  • Jolie Moore March 1, 2021, 5:03 pm

    OMG I went to Catholic school in NYC in an era when pants were not allowed. I only wore pants at home or on the weekends. In my family, EVERY occasion required a ‘party dress’ with lace or some element that itched.

    Once I left school (and moved out), I’ve worn a skirt maybe 5 times in my life.

    I hate them. I hate being cold. I hate them blowing up. I hate how I have to sit. Etc., etc. I’d ditch the guy before I ditched pants.

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  • Bittergaymark March 1, 2021, 10:07 pm

    Just fucking leave him. He is a LOST cause.

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  • Hazel March 2, 2021, 4:52 am

    Tell him that just because he has lustful thoughts whenever he sees women in pants or in a hairstyling video, doesn’t mean that everyone does, and that it is for him and any other men like him to learn to control their reactions to such everyday things. It must be so difficult for him just visiting a supermarket or walking past a hairdresser; it’s definitely time he sorted himself out. Seriously, he should never be controlling you like this, it’s stifling–life is short, you deserve freedom to do these entirely usual things, you are really not asking for much here. If he won’t change, I’d seriously think about leaving if I was you.

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    • Anonymous March 6, 2021, 11:08 pm

      You’re right.

      Who controls those men who have lustful thoughts when they see other women in tights and skinny jeans? Shouldn’t those men be practiced the same religion law of blind fold their eyes or wear real dark sun glasses when they are outside just as they forbid their women to wear pants?

      I don’t know anything about their religion. But in my personal opinion that no-pants rule was their men’s way of controlling their women suppressing them from having a chance at evolving smarter and better than men. It’s like the women’s job is to stay home, bear kids, nurture kids and take care of the husband. Therefore skirt/dress symbolize the authority for men. Pants are for working men because they can’t wear skirt. Someone mentioned that Jesus said men should pluck their own eyes out instead of make women cover up. So wearing skirt is man made up rule and not Jesus.

      Another thing I don’t understand is people migrated to America for a second chance for having a better life either for themselves and or for their children because America is a freedom country but what I don’t understand is that they still practice their customary lifestyle/religion and enforce it on their kids in America. I mean isn’t that kind of beat the purpose? Like the person who wrote the post mentioned that she can’t wait to move out so she can wear pants but then she allowed herself to be trapped with a man who is another version of her father. And when she has son and daughter, will she allows them to have their free will in America or will she and her husband turn their kids into another version of them ?

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      • Kate March 7, 2021, 9:34 am

        That’s definitely the direction about 30% of Americans want the country to go in. It is ALL about keeping white women in their place, at home, and keeping minorities out or at least ensuring they don’t have basic rights. This pro-life bullshit, sorry, but they have no regard for human life. They don’t actually give a shit about babies, it’s all about controlling women. Women need to be at home and subordinate to men. They can’t be allowed to make a living and be out in the world on their own, making their own choices, and perhaps doing better than men. American women don’t even have equal rights in the constitution.

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  • LisforLeslie March 2, 2021, 6:59 am

    If you do go to therapy (and it is highly recommended) do NOT go to your religious leader or someone who is vetted by your religious organization. Find someone who is independent and will not reinforce gender stereotypes and submissive wife tropes.

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  • Kate March 2, 2021, 9:25 am

    Wendy is right, there is no way you’re going to convince your husband, who has these deeply ingrained misogynistic and paternalistic beliefs and also is super jealous, insecure, and controlling, that he should be comfortable with you wearing pants and posting selfies. No. Way. If you want to do these things, then you need to just do them, and stick to your beliefs that this is what you want, will make you comfortable, and is absolutely okay. Get help solidifying all that for yourself if you need to (not from clergy, obvi). Your husband is probably going to cry like a baby about it, and/or slut shame you and/or ramp up his jealous controlling unacceptable behavior. Can you handle that? Is it actually more important to keep your controlling and misogynistic husband quiet, or to do what you want? You need to come to terms with that.

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    • Kate March 2, 2021, 9:36 am

      PS, your husband is an idiot too. The YouTube argument is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. By that logic, can you not appear on, say, a Zoom call for work or a church event? Because the sight of you on video will enflame males that might be participating? Which, btw, is a thousand times more likely than some straight male watching a natural hair tutorial and, what, lusting after the content creator?? Dumb, dumb, dumb, and also incredibly controlling crossing a line into abuse. He’s not “allowing” you to pursue a hobby or business opportunity (preventing you from living a full life). That’s what abusive men do.

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      • Kate March 2, 2021, 9:41 am

        The wedding thing also sounds abusive. Look, there are religious beliefs, and then there’s bullshit like this which falls squarely into the territory of what abusive men do to take away your autonomy. He’s not even trying to give you some biblical rationale, he’s straight up telling you he’s incredibly jealous and insecure and needs to control you.

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  • Tara March 2, 2021, 12:08 pm

    “I’ve brought it up a few times, and he gets SO uncomfortable talking about it” “the problem is that I can’t bring the subject up without my husband getting mad at me”…why why why do you keep bringing it up?! just stop it, and live your life.

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    • Anoymous March 6, 2021, 11:22 pm

      maybe you can demand the same tell him (not ask him) to cover up his eyes when he is in public because you feel the same way him looking at other women wearing skinny jeans, pants and tight just like the way he feel about you wearing pants. IT IS A TWO WAYS STREET.

      How is he telling you to “just stop it and live your life” when he won’t even discuss the subject with you and won’t even let you live your life (you know wear pants).

      In my personal opinion you guys should hold off on having kids if you aren’t already have or plan on having until you and your husband have worked it out the issues or before you suffocating and explode (figurative)

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  • Kali March 2, 2021, 12:13 pm

    Ugh. I’m with everyone else: ditch the throwback chauvinist. Your wardrobe choices are not responsible for men’s thoughts. End of story.

    Why you would subject yourself to another judgmental man after escaping your father is beyond me. Just because something feels familiar doesn’t make it good or right. MOA

    And please let us know how you’re faring in the future. I hope you develop a line of fabulous jeans and denim that you market extensively through YouTube and Instagram. Good luck!!

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  • ron March 2, 2021, 12:32 pm

    You married your father. Therapy might explain why you chose to do that. He lied to you, shutting off the clothing discussion pre-marriage by causing you to believe he would be fine with you wearing pants and is now apparently hanging his hat on
    he told you “he didn’t think pants would be a problem” rather than a firm “I’m okay with pants.” That was deliberately deceptive, which tells you something about him, as does his always getting angry when you want to discuss such things.

    “I love him so much and want to please him, but sometimes I just feel so trapped and suffocated. I do not want to leave him; I just want to know if there’s a way I can tone down his controlling aspect”

    These are two incompatible wants. You married a conservative, if not fundamentalist, Christian who believes it’s a wife’s duty to submit to her husbands decisions. He gets to decide. That’s why he gets angry whenever you want to discuss these subjects. There is nothing that you can say which will cause him to change. His anger at even being asked to discuss the subject should have convinced yourself of this by now.

    You’re stuck with two choices: either reconcile your self to living under your husband’s control or 2) leave your husband. There isn’t a middle ground and if you can’t live with things the way they are, please realized that now is the time to leave; it will only be harder in the future.

    Given your beliefs and desires, don’t date or marry another conservative Christian. They believe in the patriarchy as their right from God. You have to move beyond the faith community you grew up in as your friend/dating/marriage pool, if you want a life that’s different than the one you’ve got. Harsh perhaps, but I think it is reality.

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  • Teri Anne March 2, 2021, 8:50 pm

    The LW and her husband have only been married for two years, and already she is feeling trapped and stifled by his jealousy and controlling ways. Spousal abuse tends to escalate over time, and I am concerned that the abuse may get worse. Already he is forbidding her to stand up in a friend’s wedding, and he will probably continue to isolate her from her friends so that she has no support. Her family may not be of help because her father agrees with her husband’s repressive ways.

    Although the LW loves her husband and does not want to leave him, she is faced with two unattractive options. She can decide to stay and continue to placate her husband, which is a big risk because the abuse will probably escalate. Or she can leave him now before she has children, so that her future children do not have to deal with the same trauma she did growing up. Leaving will not be easy, because the stigma of divorce is huge in fundamentalist Christian circles.

    I am encouraged that the LW has a job, and friends which will make it easier to leave. However I am also worried about her safety because abusers often escalate when their victim tries to leave. Some abusers who were not physically abusive before may even become violent. The LW needs to make a plan before she leaves that includes a place to stay, provisions for pets, and a bag packed with clothes and important documents such as her birth certificate and social security card. Most places have shelters for abused women so that women have a place to stay while they get their lives together.

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    • Kate March 3, 2021, 8:41 am

      Yes, this guy is exhibiting classic early-cycle abuser behavior, which typically escalates, and it’s being excused as part and parcel of his religious beliefs, which it’s not.

      As an anecdote, my aunt started dating some guy from her church after her divorce. He used to come spy on her while she was taking care of the babies in the baby room!!! Like he’d peek through the fucking window. I think part of her liked that kind of attention because it felt like he cared and was looking out for her safety. Well, spoiler alert, he turned out to be an abuser and she had to leave him (after she foolishly married him and lost her alimony from her first husband btw) by having her brother drive cross country to help her get her shit out and move her to a safe place when this guy was out of the house.

      Anyway. Abusers always start by trying to tell you what to wear and stopping you from doing things you want to do. This is so classic. The LW really needs to read up on the cycle of abuse.

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    • Prognosti-gator March 3, 2021, 9:49 am

      I was also concerned about her safety. The difficult thing is that she likely can’t even rely on family. Generally, the idea of divorce in these ultra-religiously-conservative circles is so terrible, they would rather push her back to her abuser to “work things out” than offer a safe place to escape.

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  • Bittergaymark March 3, 2021, 12:39 am

    PS — The fantasy that men out in the world are all secretly watching dreary hairstyle how to videos with lust in their hard-ons instead of actual porn is the perhaps funniest thing I’ve read in ages. Like in decades.

    As if any man would do this. Not when REAL porn with actually gorgeous women is just a click away.

    🤣🤣🤣

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    • Prognosti-gator March 3, 2021, 9:44 am

      Move over PornHub. HairCurlingHub is where all the real smut is at. Lots of “hot, curl-on-curl” action!

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  • LisforLeslie March 3, 2021, 8:29 am

    @BGM – clearly you don’t understand that hair styling videos are a gateway. Like drinking soda pop is a gateway to alcoholism.

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