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

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?

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

  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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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