How do you reconcile your tattoo needs with those of your partners?

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Sarah Ashley
Spoon theory
Self portrait, about having myalgic encephalomyelitis and the popular "spoon theory" — it also gives you a little peek at the tattoo on my ankle of my childhood dog.

I came into my relationship with my husband already having three tattoos. He does a lot of photography in his spare time (as well as being a brilliant writer; he's very multi-talented!) which is how I first came to know him; as a model posing for him. His style of work tends to attract a lot of "alt"-looking girls; girls with lots of tattoos, brightly colored hair, very strong senses of personal style.

While I first assumed that his openness to the look of his models would be reflected in his feelings on how his partner looked, I realized that that really wasn't going to be the case. He would never, of course, tell me I "couldn't" get any more tattoos, but every time I bring up the idea of adding another one to my collection, I can just see him inwardly cringing at the thought.

Why he feels this way, I'm not quite sure, although I suspect it has something to do with growing up in a family where tattoos were seen as "bad" things. The tattoos I've considered since we have been together have all been of the inspirational kind; something I can look at on really bad days to help motivate me forward.

In the span of our relationship, I have developed moderate myalgic encephalomyelitis (which is sometimes confused with both fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the US, where we are). The point is, it's stopped me from working a regular job, and the last six years have been a nightmare of health problems. I've also been clinically depressed since I was about 15.

Between the two of those things, there are a LOT of days when it seems easier to give up than keep going.

And that's where the "inspirational tattoo" would come in. My therapist even has encouraged me to get one.

When I told my husband that, he was clearly swallowing a lot of objections and said that if it would help me, I should get it. Seeing all the objections he wasn't voicing took all the fun and good vibes I was feeling about the tattoo out of the process, so I still haven't gotten one. What I'd really like is for him to see the new tattoo the way I do, as something very positive, which would encourage me and help me get through the awful parts of life.

Even though I know it's my body, my choice, he'll eventually get used to it, etc… I still can't muster up the will to have the new ink laid until I feel like he's on board with it.

How do you reconcile your tattoo needs with that of your partners?

  1. Have you two talked about your existing tattoos? Does he feel like those are "bad" things or just part of who you are (or something in between)?

    • This is part of where things get frustrating. I have tried talking to him about it several times and trying to hash out what it is he doesn't like about them and I never really get a solid answer. Is he worried that it signifies I'm bored in the relationship or for any other reason, I'm preparing to jump ship? I don't know!

        • I would actually love to but I think that would just make him more nervous! Plus, her office hours and pretty much exactly his office hours so it would be hard to navigate. But don't think I wouldn't like to!

          • Ask him to. This is obviously important to you. If he has office hours he also has sick and vacation time. If he doesn't want to, that is just more reason why he needs to. If he does not want to go to your therapist, no problem! Have a meeting with a different therapist, or better yet, a counselor or mediator might seem less threatening or have less stigma associated for him.

            You said you "think that would just make him more nervous" don't sell him short. You might be right, but don't make assumptions about the lengths he is willing to go to to show you love 🙂

  2. I don't have any advice for you unfortunately, but I do know how you feel. When I started dating my ex I had quite a few tattoos but it turns out he didn't like them at all. If I ever said I wanted to get a new one he'd be like "what do you need another one for?" and his tone would just drain any excitement I had out of getting a new one. I didn't get one for the 5 plus years we were together, but when we broke up I went straight out and got one. Then another few. Of course I'm not saying you should break up, I'm saying if tattoos are a part of you then you don't need to justify your desire to get one to anyone.

    • Thank you! I appreciate your support 🙂 I figured the Offbeat family here would understand where I was coming from! And good for you for getting more! Here's to more for both of us 🙂

      • Wow. You're an ass, Luke.
        It's totally and completely valid for her to value her own opinion about her body (tattoos included) over somebody else's, even if it is her partner, and for you to suggest otherwise is just ridiculous.

        My husband doesn't love tattoos, but he also knows that he has absolutely no say in how I choose to present myself. He married me for so many more things than just how colourful I am without my clothes on.

  3. My partner feels the same about tattoos, I had two when we got together and have got one more since (after a miscarriage, I just felt like I needed one). My advice would be to get the tattoo, my husband came around to sort of half liking mine. Maybe avoid his very favourite bits of your body…?
    Anything that makes you feel better will surely be more important than you being scribble free in the long run.

    • I have a feeling it may come to this, where I really need it for my mental health, he'll agree because he loves me, and I'll have it done. Hopefully after he sees it hasn't changed me as a person (except, perhaps, being in a little bit better mood) he'll come around!

      Good thought about avoiding his favorite parts, but I'm thinking about one on my wrist, which is pretty neutral territory 😉

  4. My husband recently said he wants to get a tattoo this year, his first, and it took me a while to come around to it. Not because I think they're "bad" or a sign of anything (most of our friends have them, and large ones), but because I feel closer to his body than any other. It feels like mine, the same way I know mine feels like his. That's never stopped us from dressing the way we want or dying our hair, but the idea of a sudden, permanent change like that takes some getting used to. After some explaining that for him, it would be a similarly inspirational tattoo (commemorating recent weight loss/job change/finally feeling in control of his body and his life), I'm now totally on board, but it took a little bit of reminding myself that, no matter how close I am to his body, it's still his.

    • You may be right that it's the permanence that's making him nervous. He never, ever cares (in a bad way, he's actually very supportive in these ways) about however I want to dress or do makeup, and when I dyed my hair purple recently, he was all for it!

      I'm glad to hear this from you, thank you! It's great to hear that you were able to come around and like his tattoo, even if you weren't thrilled with the idea at first. Hopefully my guy will feel the same way! 🙂

  5. I LOVE that you have posted this! I guess in the end it's your body, your issues, your choice. Especially if it helps you feel more positive about your health issues. But i do understand the need for your partner to feel the same way about/ have the same enthusiasm / at least understand why you want ink. I want to get my first tattoo but my new husband is very against it. I know he will accept whatever decision I make and feel the same about me regardless (as will your husband) but you still want them to like what they see when they look at you.
    My advice to you would be to absolutely get the tattoo. It's you thing and if it will help you on your journey it can only be a positive thing, your husband will come to at least accept your new tat and maybe even come to love it when he sees how it helps or makes his wife happy. Hope this helps and best of luck on your health journey

    • Thank you very much for the sympathy and encouraging words! I suspect you're right… here's to both of our future tattoos 🙂

  6. You mention that you don't know why he feels this way about tattoos; have the two of you ever talked about it? Maybe having that conversation – why you are hoping for him to be as enthusiastic about your new ink as you are, why he's not a fan, etc. – would help to get you both onto the same page about it emotionally.

    • Oh yes, we've talked and talked about it! Lol. I think either he himself isn't quite sure why he dislikes them so much, which makes it hard to rebut. He has said a few times that he likes me the way I am and doesn't want me to change… what he thinks about me would change (except in a positive way) from getting another piece, I'm not sure. I imagine the insecurity stems there but there may be other factors at work too.

      • Then how would he feel if you gained or lost weight? Or lost all your hair? Or developed some kind of skin disease? Or had some kind of horrific accident which caused disfigurement or disability?

        We had a rule when making decisions about the wedding where if something was important for someone, and the other person didn't have a solid reason they could articulate for being against it, we went with the decision that was important to the person. Perhaps you can talk to him about that?

        • Those are good points! And I know that if in any of those other examples, he would love me just the same. I've experienced just enough of a lot of the things you mentioned within the span of our relationship and being chronically ill that I've seen how he handles it. He's stuck by me and never cared if I gained or lost weight or hair, he always thought I was beautiful, no matter what. So why should one more tattoo change that?

          What a great discussion to have with your partner! Yes, I think that would be a good place to start talking with him about it again. Thank you!

        • "Let some stranger penetrate and mark you as theirs for life"? It's a tattoo not an orgy. Does you hairstylist mark you as theirs until it grows out? The nurse who gives you a shot? Getting a tattoo isn't a light decision for most people but it's not as dire as all that dude. I think the point was would he be ok with other permanent or long term changes in appearance.

  7. My husband had a lot of tattoos when we started dating. They are all black and white line tattoos from his punk rock days. He's been talking about covering them up with a big, colorful tattoo and I am hesitant. It's not that I'm anti-tattoo but in the case of a loved one it's trickier because I want to see HIM. Tattoos are a little bit like t-shirts with words on them. You can't make your brain not read it. So when I look at his arm I either see the symbol or read the word, it doesn't register as just an arm, it's an arm that is triggering a reaction. (Am I making sense?) You want to look at your new tattoo so you'll be inspired on your journey. So for you it's a good reaction…and maybe for him it will be too….but sometimes it's hard to imagine adding a reaction to your partner's body when you are so used to it already. I think you should talk about it. If he's still against it and you are loathe to proceed without his whole hearted support maybe you could consider some custom jewelry to inspire you.

    • Haha, I already have some bracelets with similar sentiments on them, but they're not really what I'd want my tattoo to look like. It did seem like a good way to meet in the middle if it scratched the itch though!

      It's great to hear from someone a little bit on the other side of the issue (even though you're obviously not anti-tattoo!) I think he is just afraid that any change I make will signify some inner change, which would be negative for him. Like, I'd get the tattoo and then break up with him for some reason. Which would NEVER happen! But, emotions don't feel the need to make themselves totally logical. I think it's great that you're trying to see his side and have thought your reaction through so that you know why you feel the way you do. And I'll try and remember to keep his point of view in mind too! Thank you!

  8. What about henna? You could see a henna artist for a temporary design, and it would allow you to try out different designs and locations before you make it permanent, while also letting your husband get used to the idea. If it inspires you as intended, he might be more comfortable with your getting it in ink when he sees that it actually helps.

    • I was going to say something similar, you might be able to have a custom temporary tattoo made so you could try it out for awhile and he could see if he'll come around to it.

      I also fall firmly on the "its your body, do what you want" side but I can totally see how his lack of enthusiasm would drain yours.

      • Than you both for your thoughts! Funny story – I did something similar to this a year or so ago, where I used a Sharpie to draw some words on my wrist. It happened that he went to bed before I did that night (very unusual for us, but I'd had a very upsetting day, which is why I was writing the words on myself). When I did go to bed, I was worried that the ink would rub off on the sheets, so I threw some toilet paper and bandage tape over it to protect everything while I slept.

        I promise, I really did not think about how much it would look like a bandage or how alarming if would be for my husband to wake up and see his wife, who had a VERY bad day the day before, who he knows fights depression, to find a "bandage" covering my left wrist. Oh, poor guy! I quickly explained it and showed his for good measure (and it had gotten all smudgie under my "bandage" so I'm glad I saved the sheets) and he was obviously much, much happier to see it was just some writing and not a suicide attempt, but I'm not sure that it endeared him any more to the idea, lol.

  9. I know them feels. My husband does not like tattoos, while I love them. I actually got my first tattoo a few years after we had started dating, and he was not down with the idea initially. He did question why I was getting it, where, what, how long have I thought about this…etc etc. I know he was questioning me because he wanted to absolutely make sure I wouldn't regret my decision (which is good because tattoos are permanent!). He also likes my tattoo.

    Now my husband and I have discussed why he dislikes tattoos. There are many reasons (he's seen many people regret them, he doesn't understand the reason to shell out tons of money when that money could be used for better things, etc), but mainly…he just doesn't like them. Just like how I don't like bell peppers or the colour yellow, he just doesn't like tattoos. And that's fine, we're all free to dislike stuff.

    We have made an agreement though. If I want a tattoo, he will question why I want it. This is to make sure it's not a spur of the moment thing, or my often sudden urges to do body modification. This way, my compulsion is tamed, money is saved and I have to thoroughly think out my reasons. Although I have told him, if something MONUMENTAL, (which we've covered what is monumental), happens to me a tattoo is happening no questions asked. Which he agreed to. I'm considering a tattoo after we're done having children to commemorate what my body has been through and my acceptance of this new body (I've always been rough on my body and self-image). I still need to bring it up, but I am getting serious about it.

    I think the first thing you need to do is discuss why your partner dislikes tattoos. Not how he grew up, or what society thinks about tattoos, but why he PERSONALLY dislikes them. Then you need to fully explain your reasoning for wanting one. Don't just say, here's the reason why, say what it means to your health, self-esteem, life betterment. Get really personal. Maybe even have your therapist explain why.

    But keep in mind at the end of the day, the decision is yours. And if he's not fully on board at first (my husband wasn't either), he will be after when he sees the changes and improvements it makes in your life. Because he does want you to be happy right?

    • Oh, of course! He's put a LOT of money and effort (not that money is the most important thing, but we're broke, so it means a lot to us, lol) into doing whatever he can to help me feel better, physically and emotionally. If there's anything I want to try, he'll find a way to make it work financially. He's REALLY, really giving like that.

      The closest I've got to pinning him down on why he doesn't like tattoos is that he'll eventually say he doesn't want me to change who I am, and apparently, he's afraid that the tattoo would somehow negatively change me. I've tried explaining that the only way it might change me is in a positive way. He's had quite a few girlfriends who made dramatic physical changes (chopped off hair, dyed it really differently, started/stopped smoking, etc) right before breaking up with him, and I can't help but feel this is part of why he's concerned, although I haven't actually asked him in a direct way yet.

      Anyway, yes, TOTALLY agree about monumental tattoos! I think I mentioned I have one on my ankle of my childhood dog, who died (and I got the tattoo) when I was 19. My current dog (who's about 9 and in excellent health) just showed her first sign of aging the other day. Nothing big at all, nothing that requires a vet visit even, but it suddenly hit me how mortal we all are, especially dogs, and that presumably, one day, I'll outlive her. I got rather emotional about just the thought of losing her, and told me husband that when she dies, I AM adding her on to my other dog tattoo. He agreed and seemed to understand that. So yes, huge life changes, I'm pretty ok with doing what I need to do ink-wise. But more tedious daily stuff, I wish he'd be on board about.

      • It seems like you've talked about it quite a bit. I think if it's a fear based on the past, like what you mentioned, then it makes sense that it might be something he's not going to feel better about until it happens and everything is ok. And some people are just more comfortable with things once they have happened and become familiar, rather than before they happen.

        It's nice that you have tried to give him time and find out his reasons, though.

        It does seem like, from what you've said, that his hesitance is based on fear and not necessarily dislike. In which case, again, he may only feel better once he's able to face the fear and it's not looming. Good luck and happy tattooing! <3

        • Good points! And yes, I suppose if it is based on irrational fear, then there's probably not a whole lot I can do other than get it done and show him that I'm not breaking up with him 🙂 Thanks!

  10. He may not see the value in it until you get it.

    I married a very "straight-laced" man, who didn't understand my obsession with alternative things (though, I still consider myself offbeat-lite in so many ways!). I've known forever that I want tattoos, but it wasn't until I decided that I'm doing it for myself, and he's going to love me any way, that I went ahead and did it. I was worried he'd be unattracted to me with my tattoo, but I think he was more afraid of the change and thought "you look fine now, why do anything different?" I was so relieved after I got my first one when he said, "wow, I actually really like that on you." I've since gotten my shoulder and am thinking of a back piece.

    So there's ways to maybe have him get used to what it would look like, by getting temporary tattoo where it'd be and stuff. But sometimes it's not until you take the plunge and get to the other side to see how it goes. I think being considerate is important, but sounds like this would be meaningful to you, and maybe like my husband, he'll love it when it's done.

    • That may end up being the case, you're right. And I guess I'll only know by trying it! Thanks for your thoughts 🙂 I do think that once it was on me and done with and he sees that I don't transform into a completely different person, he'll be fine with it and either forget it's there or actively like it, but we'll find out!

  11. I think an important place to start is by having a conversation with your husband and find out exactly what his views are. It sounds like he hasn't shared them, and your inferring them from some of his behaviors.

    The fact that he hasn't shared them may mean that he feels like its your body and you should make your own decision, or that while he is not a huge fan he might not feel like its a major issue.

    I don't want to make any assumptions about your mental health, but you mentioned depression: I know for myself, depression often includes a lot of self doubt, and erring on the side of assuming judgment from others when its not always there. That's part of why I think its important to have a conversation with husband to see what his views are.

    (I also think that even if he is against tattoos, its unlikely to be a deal breaker for him, and you should do whatever makes you feel good about yourself & your body).

    • Yes, I agree with you! It would be really good to find out exactly why he doesn't like them or isn't comfortable with them on me. As you said, I'm inferring a lot about it. And very true that I tend towards wanting other people's approval about things! I guess that's another mark toward the side of "get it and he'll get used to it" 😉 Thank you!

  12. My husband has exactly zero tattoos, while I have multiple large ones and want more. After about 2 years of arguing about it, I finally just booked the consult and told him I was doing it. There is a long wait time here for good artists (6+ months), so from the consult until my tattoo in February it gave him time to be comfortable with the idea.

    My husband has nothing against tattoos, but he doesn't understand my desire for more. He also sees it from a financial point of view. Even though we both maintain separate bank accounts, he sees our house needing repairs more than I need a new tattoo.

    I had to sit him down, explain the finances of it, how much it will likely cost, and why I really want it. I can't say that he is 100% on board with it, but he is more understanding of it. I've also put a lot of money into paying taxes (we are both self employed and taxes are weird), savings, and house repairs. So he can't really validate his argument financially. In the end, I would get the tattoo anyway. I'm an independent person, as is he. But I will still try to mitigate his feelings and let him know that I am listening to him, so that it doesn't cause resentment.

    • Finances, I'm sure, do play a role in it, at least right now. We're both pretty well broke, and while if I said, "If I get this tattoo, it will rid me of all my depression and physical ailments," he would find a way to pay for it, but right now we have a lot of more pressing things to do with our money – which I COMPLETELY understand and agree with. We're moving in a couple of weeks; there are so many expenses which come along with that! I've been out of work for a year, etc. So it has to wait for a little while anyway, but I do try and bring the subject up now and then to keep the dialogue open and maybe figure out why he doesn't want me to get any more and how I can make him more comfortable with the idea.

      Thank you for your thoughts and advice!

      • I just talked to my husband about this again, and for him, it was that he doesn't understand things drawing attention to myself. So, he's not the kind of guy who will wear costumes in public, and I think he worried about tattoos being in that camp, where it would get a lot of negative (or even positive) attention. He wants to blend in. Which he's able to do, daily, in his business suit as an accountant.

        • Interesting! I wouldn't have thought of that as being someone's reasons for not wanting someone to get tattooed, but I can see where he's coming from. And if that's how he feels, then great, he can blend in all he wants! I hope you're still able to find ways to express yourself, even if it's not something he would do himself!

          Thanks!

  13. Totally, can understand your feelings of wanting your partner to be supportive. Just to reiterate how people come around. When I first introduced the idea of getting a tattoo to my mom. She came up with the worst images. yet kow she's quite proud of it and even points it out to her friends 🙂

    • I got a very large (and expensive) piece a couple years ago. I told my parents what my plan was, and even showed them the rendering. My dad, who has a tattoo himself, tried every single angle he could think of to get me to change my mind. Just recently he asked me to show his friend my tattoo and said "You've got to see my daughter's tattoo! The artwork is AMAZING." This made me so proud – he's come full circle!

  14. I'm so sorry you are having to deal with this with your husband. Honestly, I just don't understand how he can be like that about your tattoos… He sounds like he is being really unreasonably and, frankly, rather silly about it.

    My husband has 1 tattoo (we have matching tattoos on our ring fingers) and insists he never ever wants any more but he happily comes along when I get tattoos (he isn't too fond of facial piercings on me but I don't like having them myself anyway, besides my septum and lots in my ears) and he encourages me to get more tattoos all the time. He would be happy as a clam if I was covered head-t0-toe in tattoos despite not wanting them himself. This works great for me, obviously!

    Anyway, I hope you and your husband work this out. Have you considered that maybe the tattoos aren't the issue and maybe it's something completely unrelated and he's just attaching to the tattoos?

    • It may be that the tattoos aren't really the issue for him, you certainly could be right. From comments he's made when we do talk about it, like "I don't want you to change," it seems like he's afraid the tattoo is symbolic of some internal change which will cause me to leave him. He's had several girlfriends who made drastic personal changes right before they broke up with him, so while it's not at all an issue in our case, I still get why it might be a little bit of a knee-jerk reaction for him. Thank you for your thoughts!

      • I'm sorry, I ended up commenting before reading every other comment so I saw after I commented that you mentioned he has had "several girlfriends who made drastic personal changes right before they broke up with him." I've read your other responses to comments so I have a little bit more context for the issue now. I don't know you at all but personally I would just straight up ask him, "Does my making changes, such as getting tattoos, upset you because of your previous girlfriends leaving after making similar changes?" If he says yes, try to get him to actually really talk about it. Ask him what you can do to reassure him (does he need to hear that your getting a tattoo does not mean you are planning to leave?) while still being able to do what you need to do for you, such as getting your tattoo. It took me a long time to figure this out with my husband. Sometimes he gets upset about relatively small things and at first I just don't understand so I poke at him a bit and eventually he realizes what he is actually upset about and then we talk about how we can both remedy the situation. I realize it's not always as simple as I just put it but maybe it's worth a try?

        I do have a sort of similar issue with my husband but not quite as big–I have wanted to dye my hair crazy colors for a long time but I haven't done it yet because he really likes my natural color and prefers it to anything else. Even though he would still love me and eventually get used to a new hair color, he is discouraging about it, and honestly I'm so lazy I would not enjoy the upkeep…

        • Oh, please, don't worry! I wouldn't read every single comment, that would take a lot of time! 🙂 I think your advice is solid, asking him if that's why he's nervous about it and seeing if I can do anything to help reassure him. Emotions are funny things; they can sprout up just about anywhere, but from totally different sources!

          I hope you can figure out a way to dye your hair and have a happy hubs too! Though the upkeep is a pain (which is why my hair is its natural color again) is was really fun to be all purple for a few weeks 🙂 If this helps you any, I used Manic Panic, which washes out after maybe 4-6 weeks? Might take longer if you have lighter hair. Mine is nearly black though so the purple sheen I got faded pretty quickly. But the other good thing is that their dyes have nothing bad for your hair in them, so you could apply it as often as you wanted without damaging it!

          Good luck 🙂

  15. Boy, do I understand this one. My husband comes from a very, very, VERY straight-laced family. I do not. When we began our relationship, there were many things about my family that threw him for a loop. He had to adjust his worldview of what was "acceptable behavior" for "decent people." My family drank responsibly! How could that be! Drinking was evil, and my family are nice, fun people that he liked! You get the picture. I didn't come into the relationship with any tattoos, but about two years after we got married, I decided that I wanted one. No, I NEEDED one. I knew exactly what I wanted, and it needed to be done. My arm didn't feel right without it. He really hated the idea. He had been brought up to think that tattoos were tacky and unprofessional. But, I gave him a lot of time to get used to the idea. Like, a LOT of time. Finally, he did get used to the idea, and I decided I would get it done for my birthday. He was pretty grumpy for a day or two afterwards, but he got over it and eventually said that he liked it. I completely understand wanting your partner to be as excited as you are about things. I wish my hubs could love my tattoo as much as I do and be as excited as I am to have it added to in a few months. But the fact is, I realized that would just never happen, and that was okay. I couldn't force him to feel an excitement that he didn't, and I also realized that the mere fact that he was accepting the idea was a big stretch for him. In the end, I had to decide just how important the tattoo was to me. Was it so important that I was willing to go ahead and get it when the hubs absolutely hated the idea? No. Was it so important that I was willing to get it after he had gotten used to the idea and accepted it, even though he still wasn't jumping for joy about it? Yes. I would suggest giving your husband time (probably way more time than you think he should need) to get used to the idea, and then decide just how important it is to you.

    • This is a good thing for me to keep in mind. Obviously, it's not worth losing a relationship over (though if he divorced me for getting a tattoo, there would be other issues in the marriage!) But being willing for him to get used to it, and expecting that will take him some time, are probably good things to keep in mind. The times we've talked about it, I know he *will* support me in it if I feel it's really valuable/healthy for me, he's just probably never going to be excited about it like I am. Oh well! Thank you!

  16. im having a similar problem, he doesn't see my need to express myself through tattoos, piercings or hair and clothing. i found myself changing to make him happy. But im not happy with myself. When my aunt offered to get me a tattoo for Christmas I told him. He said he wasn't into girls with tattoos…I just looked at him and said i am. (i have three tattoos) and he said well i guess we will just see what happens. What the f does that mean? I said i guess we will. Im not caving on the tattoo. When I've caved on so many things that where important to me.

    • I'm so sorry. It sounds like you and he really need to have an honest talk. Saying that he's "not into" girls with tattoos sounds like an intentionally hurtful dig given that he obviously knows you have tattoos. "We will just see what happens" is something that is sometimes said as as threat–if he means that he won't be with you if you get this tattoo, he needs to lay that out on the table. All I have to go on is this post, but it sounds to me like maybe you guys need to see a counselor/couples' therapist.

    • I'm sorry you feel like you have to change so much for him; that sounds very unfair and not healthy for you 🙁 It's funny, my husband pretty much never balks at any form of self-expression I take (and I'm an artist, I work a lot in self portraits, I dyed my hair purple recently, etc) it's just tattoos that seem to bother him for whatever reason. But I'm sorry that your partner is saying things that are hurtful to you, you definitely don't deserve that. Good for you for standing up for yourself though! That's always hard for me to do. Don't let the relationship shut out your light; you are special and unique and here for a reason. Don't become someone you weren't meant to be.

      *lots of love!*

  17. You said, "What I'd really like is for him to see the new tattoo the way I do."

    I struggle with this constantly. I would really love it if all the people I love would see things the way I do. Mushrooms would disappear from food. Rubber Ducks would be mandatory at bath time. And The Jeweler would give me everything in his store…because of reasons….

    But I can't make people see what I want them to see. Sometimes I can't even articulate what I'm seeing clearly. And my own personal struggles are making me believe, maybe this is good.

    For example, I had an argument with my boss a while ago. He wanted to hire someone and I didn’t. He explained his reasons and I understood them, but I didn't change my opinion. Because his reasons didn’t assuage my concerns. Because even if time shows that I was wrong, I’m allowed to be wrong. Because there is no law, no moral system, and in fact no reason that I know of, that FORCES me to change my opinions.

    If I reverse the statement, I may articulate it better. I bet HE would love it if YOU would see everything HIS way. Imagine!! If he doesn't suffer from depression neither would you! If he doesn’t like mushrooms, neither would you. If he wants to bathe in chocolate sauce and wasabi, so would you. These examples are silly of course, but that’s the point. I’m starting to believe it’s good we can’t do these things to each other because where would it stop? Wouldn’t the more powerful person just completely overwrite the personality of the other?

    I don’t have experience with depression – and I’m sorry if I’ve said any of this insensitivity. I am also trying to come to terms with the fact that my husband may never come around in many ways that I would prefer. I’m either ok with that, or I’m not, but I agree with everyone who has said the decision is ultimately yours.

    Best of Luck and Best Wishes!!

    • Ok, you win at advice!

      That's pretty much the ideal POV for a ton of disagreements — we have to agree to disagree, even if we don't want to. We can't get the other person to see things our way; they can't get us to see things our way. I mean, we can try, we can understand, we can put ourselves in their shoes. But ultimately, you feel your own feels.

      If he doesn't like tattoos, he doesn't like 'em *shrug* Unless he's being a dick about it & saying you're ugly with a tatt or or he'll drop you if you get one, then oh well, that's the way it's going to be. OP said he wasn't happy about it but he's ok with her doing what she wants to her body.

      I have similar things that I'm very passionate about but my husband is "meh" about. Specifically hobbies w/events that can take up a lot of my time & take me away for some weekends. He will occasionally come with me, but he's not excited & he's obviously just doing it bec. I asked. I'd *big puffy heart love* it if he was there as an active participant. That's my dream. But nope, this is not his deal. No matter how much this hobby expresses my artistic side & fulfills me in ways my paying-job never could, my beloved isn't sharing it with me. Sometimes that bums me out. But if a person doesn't love a thing — tattoos, mushrooms, going to XYZ event — like you do, you can't force it, no matter how much you love each other.

      • Absolutely, you make excellent points! And no, I don't feel like he's being a dick about it at all; he never makes derogatory comments about me or my tattoos, he's willing to go along with the idea if I think it will be beneficial for my emotional health, I can just see him cringing the whole time. And for right now, that's taking all the fun out of it. So I think I need to shift my expectations. He's certainly willing to "let" me do whatever I feel I need to, even if he doesn't like it personally. And you're right, I can't force him to be into anything, nor can he force me. We have a lot of overlapping interests, but we'll always have things that once of us is into more than the other. While I'm saving up, I'll be preparing myself for a less-than-exited response from him and get ok with that. Then, whenever I have it done, I'll be ready for whatever his reaction is. And if he (as he probably will) eventually likes it, great! If not, well, then I'll live with that 🙂

        Thank you!

    • That is such a great point, thank you! I'm sure he does wish I had some of the same views that he does, just like I do. That's a great way to think about it! And no, nothing you said was insensitive to me, but I appreciate your concern 🙂 Welp, sounds like the ball's in my court about this one… guess I'll have to start saving up for getting it some day! Thank you very much!

  18. My husband feels tattoos are futile endeavours that only attention whores could possibly want and will.not.hear.about.it, or any symbolic side, or any explanation. I already cancelled two tattoo appointments because he couldn't bear the thought. I have always wanted to be tattooed, long before we started dating back in 2005, so he can see this is not just a spur-of-the-moment thing. Still, I hold back because I have my own issues (would I still feel comfortable around him if he's disgusted by my skin?). I don't have an answer but I do wish people wouldn't feel so proprietary around other people's skins.

    • That's too bad that he's so far on the other side from how you feel about tattoos. I seriously doubt anything you'd want to get anything done just for attention! Everyone I personally know who has tattoos has them for really great, meaningful reasons. I don't have an answer to your problem, but just know that there are lots and lots of people who wouldn't ever think of calling you an attention whore for wanting some ink! Good luck!

  19. I'm having a very similar problem. I have several severe chronic illnesses, and a worsening of my depression as a result. I want to get a tattoo of a bluebird to signify my grandmother and mother watching over me, but my mother, with whom I'm staying at the moment, is against it. She probably wouldn't stop me, but it just takes all the joy out of it.

    • I'm sorry to hear you're in such a similar boat 🙁 It's even harder when you're living with a person who's supporting you, either financially or just helping you take care of yourself (as those of us with chronic illnesses so often need). You feel it's even more important to get their approval! Right now, my husband is our sole provider, which I am EXTREMELY thankful for, but it feels wrong to me to spend the money he earned on something only I want… that may sound silly or sexists or something, and I realize it's not totally logical, but it's how I feel! I'd be more comfortable saving up for it on my own for a long time than making him pay for something he didn't want in the first place 😉 And yes, our finances are blended so I shouldn't be so "his" and "my" money, but it does suck when you can't contribute to the household income; it makes you feel like you're not pulling your weight, even if just keeping yourself alive and well is a fulltime job! Anyway, I digress. I hope you're able to get your bluebird soon! It sounds like a really lovely symbol, I hope your mom is able to see that 🙂

    • Ok. Would you be open to negotiate with your partner that you can get that symbolic tattoo so long as you don't get anymore while you're together? That's fairness in a relationship. If you don't like it, then you don't belong in that relationship.

  20. It sounds like this is something you need to do for yourself, and y'all have tried talking about it, and he simply cannot authentically feel super enthusiastic. My advice, from similar experiences, is to find someone else to get excited with. Our partners cannot be everything to us, and that's fine. But you still need support and enthusiasm in this venture. Find a friend who will say, "FUCK YEAH!" Get excited and do it!! Fuck yeah!

    • Great advice! Thank you! As long as there's someone there for me to squeeze their hand when it gets painful, I'll be good! 😀

  21. I had a similar, but different, tattoo experience. While my partner was wholeheartedly supportive, my parents have made it clear for years that they HATE tattoos. Now, I am a grown-ass woman, but I am an only child/very close with my parents. For a long time I did not get a tattoo because I knew they wouldn't be happy about it. However, I finally decided that I wanted one, and was going to get it whether they would be upset or not.

    I gave them a warning phrased as "I know you don't like tattoos, and I know you would prefer I never get any. However, I feel strongly about getting a tattoo of ____ and I'm planning to get one in the next few months. I have researched a safe artist and I feel very comfortable with this process. Also, if it makes you more comfortable, I will do my best to not have it visible while we are spending time together."

    Naturally, the way you address parents is probably quite different than how you would address your partner. However, I think that you may reach a point where you decide to move forward regardless of their ideas about what you should or shouldn't do with your own skin. In my case, I found the best solution was to let them know as a courtesy that I had made a decision, without giving them opportunity to debate with me.

    Good luck!

    • Thank you for sharing your story! I'm curious, how have your parents taken to your actual tattoo now that you have it? I agree that I think I'll reach a point where it's something I really need to do for myself, and I'm glad that my husband is willing to see that it has something beneficial to me in it, even if he doesn't like it. He's definitely *trying* to be open-minded about it, lol. Sounds like giving him lots of time to get used to the idea, and expecting him to take time to get used to it when I have it will both be really good things to remember! Thank you!

      • Funny you should ask – they aren't exactly excited about it, but my mom kept asking how it was healing and wanted to look at it. I think for them it was less scary once it actually happened!

        • Haha, great! I'm glad they're not as freaked out as everyone expected them to be 🙂 I never asked my parents before I got my first one, I just went out and did it, but they'd never given me any indication that they'd object, so I didn't feel like I was being rebellious or anything. They both found it kind of bemusing and odd for a while then it normalized for them and they don't even really see them anymore. Hopefully the same will happen with your folks!

  22. My husband is also not the biggest fan of tattoos, which also surprised me because he's long-haired and leather-jacket-wearing and wants a motorcycle and really likes crazy coloured hair and stuff like that.

    Nevertheless, I got my first tattoo after we'd been married; he knew that I wanted tattoos, and was I guess… resigned to it? Sort of knew that that was part of being with me.

    But I do make acquiescences for specific requests. He really likes the lines of my torso, and requested that I not get torso tattoos that interfere with the lines

  23. My husband is also not the biggest fan of tattoos, which also surprised me because he's long-haired and leather-jacket-wearing and wants a motorcycle and really likes crazy coloured hair and stuff like that.

    Nevertheless, I got my first tattoo after we'd been married; he knew that I wanted tattoos, and was I guess… resigned to it? Sort of knew that that was part of being with me.

    But I do make acquiescences for specific requests. He really likes the lines of my torso, and requested that I not get tattoos that interfere with those lines. I was considering getting a tattoo to commemorate the birth of our son, and he admitted, pretty sheepishly, that he feels weird about commemorative tattoos for people who are still alive – he associates "person" tattoos with memorial tattoos, and it made him feel weird for me to have what seemed to him a memorial tattoo for our living son.

    I have had a clear idea of the sorts of tattoos I want since before we met. He knows that I want tattoos on my arms, and that's okay. I have a very big tattoo on my calf. It's not his favourite thing, but there are personal style things of his that I don't like so much either. We sort of have a deal where we don't interfere with each other's personal style – we don't try to change it – but we can make requests like "I don't like that shirt," or "I don't like the idea of that tattoo / piercing," and we will always take those into account.

    This really might be something you've already done, but I would just say, "Honey, I would really like to get this particular tattoo design in this particular place. You know that it means a lot to me, and you know that I have thought about it a lot. Do you have any particular objections? Can you let me know?"

    and if he says "I don't have any objections," just trust him on it and go ahead. It's okay if it's not his favourite thing in the world – if he says that he doesn't have a problem with it, just trust that he doesn't have a problem with it. Even if you feel like maybe he does.

    Also, my sympathies on the M.E. front. My mom's had it for over 20 years, often to the degree that she's bedridden. It's a shitty disease. (don't know if you've come across Dr. Sarah Myhill, but she has some really exciting / interesting theories about a unifying, underlying cause of M.E.)

    • Excellent points, thank you! I think your idea is very good… I'm likely to suspect an underlying negative reaction from him just because of how he's reacted in the past, even if he were to totally change his mind. So if he says, "Well, it's not my favorite thing, but I can live with it," (which he has), then I should take him at his word and get 'er done. Thank you!

      Thank you also for the ME sympathy. Luckily I'm only semi-house-bound, and I try to be REALLY careful and not over-exert myself to make it worse. It's not something I'd wish on anyone, but I realize that it can be much, much worse than the severity I have. Thank you for the doctor's name, I don't think I have heard of her actually! Which is crazy considering how much reading I do on the subject. I'm going to Google her right now. Thank you! 🙂

  24. I absolutely LOVE this thread!

    My husband got me a gift certificate for my favorite tattoo artist for Christmas. He asked me "What will it be this time?" He's not a tattoo-guy, but it shows that he knows me.

    HOWEVER, the minute I told him that wanted to stop shaving my armpits all hell broke loose! Our argument really boiled down to two separate points. 1) HIS VIEW POINT: That I don't care enough about him to make sacrifices for what he likes, and 2) MY VIEW POINT: He doesn't get to govern the decisions make about my body. In a perfect world, he would find armpit hair attractive – but he just doesn't. I told him that if he wanted to rock a goatee (which is just about the only facial hair motif I loathe) that I would adjust my outlook and recognize that I love him, not his appearance. We resolved that I could try it temporarily. I grew my armpit hair for 3 months and here's what happened: he still found himself attracted to me, and it was much more exciting for him when I finally went back to shaving.

    I know my anecdote is only slightly relevant, because tattoos are more permanent. My philosophy is that f he loves you, he'll ultimately understand your needs, and work to adjust his own viewpoint accordingly – wouldn't you do the same for him?

    • It's funny the things we hold onto, isn't it? And often without even realizing it! I'm glad you guys were able to hash out the armpit hair situation! And yes, of course, even if he grew the weirdest facial hair or whatever he wanted to do, it's him I love, not his skin or his hair (though I like them, but they are not HIM) and I'd love him anyway! Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts!

  25. Hi tattoo and dog loving friend!

    I understand that you want to respect your husbands opinion and not upset him. But to me, I feel like nobody deserves that much forethought when it's a decision that literally only affects you because it's your body. That is the ultimate theme here. Anything else to me feels like a thinly veiled ownership of your body dispute. If he is upset and can't swallow his feelings and still be a respectful loving dude, then that means he isn't. Or he is by only if you do/are what he likes. Getting a tattoo isn't changing you. People slowly change all the time. The idea for the inspirational quote is already in your head. The change has happened. Stifling it is not going to end well. And for you date let him critique the tattoo afterwards like "oh I think this font would have been better".

    Totally respect all the other commenters, but my initial and still current response is – you want tattoo? Go get tattoo. No other person besides your tattoo artist needs or should be considered at all in this event. Zero. Nada. Your body whether it comes to contraception or abortion or religious genital mutilation or hair colour or weight loss and gain or tattoo or baby growing or sky diving or monk becoming.

    And I truly think if he's a cool dude, after it's all done you'll both think why did we worry so much!

    Hope it works out well.

  26. I kind of ran into this with my husband. To clarify, I don't have a tattoo yet because I was too cautious in my youth and now that I'm more "reckless" 🙂 I don't have the dosh for the tattoo I want. Anyway, when I first started talking to my husband about getting one he was really against it – I later discovered that his mother has a visceral abhorrence to tattoos (which led to a super uncomfortable argument whilst on a 3 hour drive…). Both my parents and my sister (and Grandpa, though he won't tell us what the initials are for!) have tattoos, so I come from a very different background. After seeing his mom argue with me about tattoos, my husband realized where his own feelings came from and he began to look at tattoos in a different way, going so far as to really enjoy them on other people and even to consider getting one himself.
    I guess my post is really just to say that people can change. The important thing is that your partner should respect your choices and respect what you want to do with your body – whether it's your clothes, hair, skin whatever. Over time he may understand that they are a part of you 🙂

  27. I feel ya. My husband hates tattoos as well and would much rather see me not get anymore. At first I spent a lot of time trying to reason with him about why they were this that or the other, but now I realize its never going go be something we agree upon. I do have two tattoos that have particular significance (one after a miscarriage, one dealing with my borderline personality) and although he doesn't love them, he's learned to live with them. After all, he married me, not my blank skin. And if a tattoo is something he would leave me over, maybe there was already some underlying problem.

    Best of luck!

  28. I know how you feel!

    I have 4 tattoos and when I was going my for my 4th, I asked my fiance for his opinion on whether he thought I should get it. I don't think it really would have changed my mind either way, but I felt like it was something I wanted him to be on board with, even though it's something I needed to do FOR ME. He doesn't particularly care for that tattoo (or any of my others) one way or the other.

    We've discussed it, and he is generally disinterested in women who have lots of tattoos as he feels like it can sometimes take away from their natural beauty and femininity. He has nothing against the tattoos themselves and even has one himself (and has been thinking about another for the entire time I've known him, lol). That said, he loves me and knows that there's at least one more in the cards eventually (our kitty's paw print) and we're currently brainstorming ways to safely get her actual paw print on a piece of paper so that I can bring that to the shop whenever I'm ready.

    At the end of the day? It's nice to have his moral support, but it's your body, baby!

  29. funny story. probably not helpful though?

    I had 2 upper arm tattoos when I got married. always wanted more. my then husband hated them, and we talked about removing them (they were impulsive and I didn't love them) when I was ending our marriage he finally owned up he had always wanted one but had grown up thinking they were "bad" especially on women.

    he ended up getting his first, a huuuuuge eagle across his back. now, nearly 4 years after we split. he has a full back tattoo, a full sleeve, halfway through a second sleeve and has plans for across his chest.

    maybe your hubby needs one for himself to cast off any perceived ideas on them?

    ps. I ended up getting my 3rd during the separation on my forearm, and have had another on the other forearm since being "on my own" I was partnered at the time (still am) but we were not serious enough for me to consider his opinion. I'd like two more tattoos and am having similar thoughts as you.
    my Mr doesn't have any, but is not opposed to them, his whole family are covered. he likes the alt tattooed girls, but when I mentioned to him I wanted more , he seemed reserved on his opinion and reminded me I'm supposed to be saving for our holiday.

  30. I have never seriously considered getting a tattoo for myself, because I'm afraid of needles and extremely sensitive, especially to pain. Sometimes I think I would like one – a gardenia bloom to memorialize my grandmother – but because of the pain aspect, I choose to display silk gardenias in my home instead.

    My husband has always wanted a tattoo, but I believe that something so permanent should be really thoughtfully considered, even if the beginning and end of its meaning is "I like it" / "I want it", and he has respected that parameter. So far, he hasn't shown strong feelings about a particular design that would warrant the expense (or the horrified reactions from his mother).

    He's talked about getting a tattoo of my name, but I think it's bad luck, so we compromised that if we have a baby, he could get a tattoo of their name instead. I even have tentative concepts for arm bands (my preferred placement) that work with each of the potential names we have picked out. If he still wants a tattoo (and he may not, he's shown less interest over the years as he moves away from his rebellious-teen phase), that will probably be his first. If not, I can always have my designs made up into decorations for the nursery. It's the art that matters, not the medium.

    You obviously have strong feelings about the tattoo you want to get – so at this point, I think you really need to know the basis for your husband's objection. "I don't like it" isn't going to equal "I need this for my mental health" (and frankly would require further justification for me to consider at all), but there might be something in his argument that would give you pause.

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