His Style Needs Updating

Q: My wife keeps harping about my appearance. In my line of work, the tech industry, the attire is casual, but she keeps saying I need to step up my game. It hasn't prevented me from being successful at what I do, and I'm well regarded by my colleagues. We've discussed this a million times over, and she knows I'm reluctant to wear different styles. She recently gave me a gift certificate to go a hair salon, which is still sitting in my nightstand. How can I explain in a way that she will understand that it's really not important to me? — Brian, 32

Dr. Susan: A lot of us, when we're not married for a century yet, still think our mates should value what we do. Your wife is style-conscious, and for you, if it protects you from the elements and you don't stick out as a bum among your colleagues, well, what more should she want? Sometimes when a man dresses particularly sloppily, his partner feels embarrassed, both for him and for herself. Could be a woman thing. It makes the most sense to me that you dress the way you like for work (clean and not in tatters), but that you at least consider her views when you're out together.

As for that hair salon certificate, why not use it because it's important to her, even if not to you? Don't agree to a style you aren't willing or able to keep up, but surely you can find a compromise that suits you both. Take the time to go shopping with her and see what she has in mind. If your gut reaction is "That's not me!" let her know. But it might be the case that there are only one or two smallish things about your appearance that bother her. Maybe if you change one or two things, she'll agree to stop bugging you for a year or some such. (Get it in writing.)

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