Q: You’re dating a guy, and he has a tattoo with the name of his child’s mother. If your relationship progresses to marriage, is it OK to ask him to cover it up?
A: It’s certainly reasonable to ask your partner to consider covering the tattoo, but don’t start there. Coming right out with asking him to cover it up might feel controlling and possessive, and it could trigger defensiveness.
Start by asking exploratory questions: “How do you feel about having your ex’s name on you? Have you ever thought about having it removed or covered up?” You might learn some useful information, such as that he planned to have it covered up next month when he had the time and resources, or that he never even thinks about it because it’s on his back and he can’t see it.
When you do have this conversation, rather than “you” statements, use “I” statements because they take personal responsibility for your emotions. Say, “I feel uncomfortable with your ex’s name being tattooed on you. I worry that maybe you aren’t fully committed to our relationship.”
JOYCE MARTER, psychotherapist, founder of Urban Balance
A: How you discuss the tattoo is more important to your relationship than the concern (the fact that he has it) or the outcome (whether or not he will remove it).
Start with something positive, like, “I am so excited we are getting married.” Then say, “I have to say, I feel uncomfortable when I see that tattoo with your ex’s name. How would you feel about getting it removed? I would feel a lot better if you did.”
Don’t say, “What’s wrong with you that you still have that tattoo! That’s so inappropriate! What kind of a man has a tattoo of his ex’s name, when he is set to marry another woman?”
If he doesn’t agree to delete the tattoo, have a more extensive dialogue. Tell him more about why you’re uncomfortable with the tattoo. Then, he needs to tell you more about why he is planning to keep it.
MICHAEL MCNULTY, founder of Chicago Relationship Center