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.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I want to pursue my passion in writing, but I am currently in a prestigious engineering program, and my parents have put a lot of pressure on me to perform well. I do not want to disappoint my parents, but I do not think I will be able to write as well with this much pressure and academic stress going on in my life. What should I do? -- Writer Engineer

DEAR WRITER ENGINEER: What do you want to do with your life? You need to answer that fundamental question. Can you see yourself as an engineer? If so, pursue that field with passion and focus, committing as much time as necessary to be successful. Simultaneously, you can commit time each weekend to your writing pursuits. Many people have double majors in school. Find out if you can incorporate writing into your program, either as a major or a minor, or even just with supplementary classes.

If you do not want to be an engineer, own that and tell your parents. It takes a lot of time, money and commitment to make it as an engineer. If you cannot be serious at it, don’t waste your parents’ money. But know that if you defy the plan that they have for you that you agreed to follow, they may not be as financially supportive of your dreams.

This is when your own interests and intentions need to kick in. What do you want? What are you willing to work to achieve? How badly do you want to be a writer? Are you willing to work at it every day? Test your resolve before you decide to defy your parents. I am definitely one who believes in pursuing your dreams, but you have to be ready, willing and strong enough to stick to your own plan in order to be a success at what you say you want to do. The funny thing is, if you can get yourself fully aligned to launch your dream, chances are your parents will be supportive because they will see that you are ready.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)