DEAR JOHN: I'm 37 and have been in a relationship with Max for 12 years. Although we are not married, we live together. Recently, I decided I wanted a tattoo. Max was against this and told me so several times. In fact, he said if I got one I'd have to move out and live somewhere else. I laughed about it, thinking his overreaction was a joke. The tattoo I got is on my hip toward my stomach. No one can see it unless I wear a bikini and that's not a good look for me!
Turns out, Max is furious. He refuses to talk to me and he won't have sex with me. It's going on two months now. Despite Max's philosophy that life is too short and we should enjoy doing the things we want, when I did this, it was obvious I made a big mistake! His behavior is killing our relationship. What do I do now?
Happily Inked, in San Bruno, Calif.
DEAR HAPPILY INKED: I have no idea why your guy so objects to a little body art, but apparently, he was serious when he told you “several times” not to do this. I would tell you to talk with him about it, but I'm assuming that you tried many times already. Of course, it would have been better if you had an open, honest discussion about his concerns before having the tattoo put on, but now that things are etched in skin, it's too late for that argument.
I'm sure it hurt getting that tattoo put on, and it would hurt just as much to get it taken off. Then again, that might be your only option. In his mind, he drew a line and he viewed what you did as an act of disregard and disrespect. At this point, I think the situation comes down to lose the tattoo or lose him. If you decide to move on, he may decide that he loves you — tattoo and all — and have a change of heart, but that's a risk you'll have to take.
DEAR JOHN: My husband and I have been married six months. I am 23, and James is 27. We are both spoiled, so sharing a life together has been a challenge.
Sometimes when James hurts my feelings and knows it, or if he is feeling bad about himself, he will tell me, “I love you.” If I smile at him and say, “I know you do, sweetheart,” or “Thank you for telling me,” he looks hurt. I'm beginning to think that he only says, “I love you” in order to hear me say it back to him.
I know it is selfish of me to feel this way, but I feel manipulated when he does this. It's as if he doesn't believe that I really do love him. After all, I tell him “I love you” all the time, so it's not like he's hurting to hear it, and neither am I. Please tell me what he is thinking.
Newlywed, in Aspen, Colo.
DEAR NEWLYWED: Your husband is seeking validation. All that he does has more meaning for him when he hears you say: “I love you.” There is a part of all young men where they continue to hear, what you might think of as, “the call of the wild.” When he hears those three little words from you, it resets his course to where it should be: devoting his energies to you and your relationship. That's a good thing; so don't look at it as a game. Instead, give him what he wants, and you'll be happy with the returns.
John Gray is the author of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” Go to www.marsvenus.com for advice on dating, marriage, parenting, romance and workplace issues. Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.