The problem: I don’t like the way my partner dresses, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Do I say something and, if so, how do I say it?
Low road: “You’re not going out in that, are you?” “Wait, did I accidentally tell you this was a costume party?” “You still own that from, like, high school?” “I remember when you could fit into that!” “Are you, um, colorblind?”
High road: Oh, my goodness, there’s just no end to the feedback you could offer … and that you should absolutely NOT offer as you wisely seek higher ground. You’re making a few assumptions here that need to be gently corrected.
First, she’s likely not dressing for you, nor should she be. She’s wearing what she judges to be comfortable or colorful or stylish.
I’m guessing you worry (perhaps subconsciously) that other people are judging her, and by association, are judging you, too. Good news! They’re not judging you! They’re not even thinking about you. And any friend of hers who bases a relationship on clothing choices is not a friend.
For an upcoming birthday, anniversary or gift-giving holiday, there is nothing wrong with offering to take her shopping — for something she likes. You’ll see what she is drawn to. Be supportive and enthusiastic of whatever she chooses. And remember that you’ll have days when not only do you not like the way your partner dresses, but also the way he or she talks, eats, sleeps or loads the forks in the dishwasher.
A loving partner keeps such thoughts buttoned up unless you see real danger in not saying something. You’ll feel more comfortable in your skin if you relax your standards for her, and for yourself.
Send questions about life’s little quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Gail’s “High Road” columns at startribune.com/highroad.