Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Boyfriend Upset When Woman Gets a Tattoo

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently got a tattoo on my arm without my boyfriend knowing, and when I told him, he freaked out a bit. He apologized later, but this really struck a nerve with me. I am going to ask him why he thought this was such a big deal; he shouldn’t think he has control over my body. How should I approach the relationship if that is the case? -- Tattoo Girl

DEAR TATTOO GIRL: Your action brings up lots of questions. Do you have tattoos already? Does he? Have you ever talked about what tattoos mean to you?

Your boyfriend’s freakout could have come for any number of reasons. He might be controlling, and if that is the case, you obviously can take a stand that he has no right to control your body. But look a little deeper; tattooing your body is something that people have strong opinions about. Do you know how he feels? Given that you are in a relationship with him, it is worth finding out. This lands in the space of values. What are each of your values around this action? Given that tattoos are permanent, I think it is fair for couples to discuss them before they commit to them -- not for permission, but for understanding.

Let this moment create space for the two of you to talk about a range of things that matter to you and how you make decisions. Tattoos can be part of the conversation, but not the only topic.