Over the years, I've gotten quite a few raised eyebrows and shocked looks when I tell people that I "dress for my husband." Normally, some of the following questions and comments roll in:
- Isn't that kind of controlling?
- Doesn't that bother you? I mean, shouldn't you be dressing for you?
- Does he really care what you're wearing?
- I could never do that. I'd [insert negative verb here] my husband if he tried to tell me what to wear!
- I'd only do that if he agreed to do the same for me. He's such a [insert adjective here that usually is a synonym for "slob" here]!
I thought I'd take a minute to address these, since when I'm confronted with them in real life I never really know how to respond. If I defend my position, it can sound self-righteous or self-aggrandizing, which is not what I want. If I laugh along, I come across as a hypocrite or else like I agree that it's ridiculous but, "ha, ha! You know...husbands." Neither of those positions is an accurate depiction of how I feel. I'm a lot more coherent in print, so I figured this would be the best way to communicate how I feel about this and how I came to this way of making choices regarding my clothing.
First, let me explain my own personal thoughts on this (and please know that this is a matter that has evolved over almost five years of marriage and I am in no way perfect at it yet!):
- The Hubs prefers long hair, so I wear my hair long. There have been numerous times in my life where I have worn my hair cut into a pixie style, which I really liked. When the issue came up, my husband said that, while he thinks that I should wear my hair however I want, he prefers it long. While it was fun to have that short haircut, in my heart, what I prefer is to please him, so I grew it out.
- The Hubs prefers me in skirts, so I try to wear them as much as possible. It's been relatively easy and painless to make this transition thanks to the fact that I love to wear skirts and the trio of awesome thrift stores that we have around here. I've been able to find a ton of really cute skirts and dresses to wear that don't impede my ability to move around. This is especially important with Little Man running around (very nearly literally these days!).
- When I decided to dye my hair (gotta cover those postpartum grays, dontcha know), I asked The Hubs what color he'd prefer me to dye it, giving him simple options (because I am a touch overwhelmed by the bounty of colors in the hair color aisle, so I can only imagine what the poor guy would feel like if I tried to drag him with me) - dark brown, red, or light brown (blonde is a no go given my ghostly complexion. I'd end up looking like a Legolas wannabe at a LARP convention. Not good.). He went with a dark brownish-red, so that's what I did. I was able to pick out a fun, burgundy color that appeased my mid-life crisis desire to dye my hair dark purple (thisclose!) and his preference.
- I make a concerted effort to have my makeup and hair done by 10am every day and, failing that, by the time he comes home from work. About fifteen minutes before he walks through the door, I touch up my face and spritz on some perfume so that I'm that much more welcoming to him.
I should note that this works for us for ONE big reason: Respect.
He's never asked me to wear anything with which I'm not comfortable.
I dress modestly due to religious convictions, which we share, so that's not an issue that's even up for debate.
I like to wear skirts, but if I didn't he wouldn't push the issue. I like to wear makeup, but if I didn't, he wouldn't mind. I mean, if I suddenly stopped washing my hair and showering, obviously he'd have something to say about that (I would hope!), but he did suffer through a three week period where I was trying to go "no 'poo" (not using shampoo) and while he didn't complain in the moment, when I finally gave up I have to say that I've never seen a man more excited to smell shampoo in my life.
If, on the occasions where we've been out shopping together, he picks out something that I don't like, I can tell him that and he won't get hurt.
There's a lot of respect happening on both sides of the people living this way, which is important.
That said, this issue is an important one to me, regardless of how shallow it may seem at first.
I'm a stay-at-home-mom. That means that my man works hard to make it possible for his wife to stay home and care for our home and son. It would be faint praise for all his hard work if, when he came home from his job, he found me still in ratty sweats, unshowered, smelly breath from not having brushed my teeth yet that day, and looking about as ragged as possible.
Now, to be honest, I don't always look my best, that's for sure. There have been days when I've been so wrung out from long nights with Little Man when all of us were sick where I went into survival mode and my appearance was the last thing on my mind. Those days, however, are few and far between, because it matters to me what The Hubs sees when he looks at me.
Real talk? When The Hubs and I were first dating, I logged some serious time in front of the mirror getting ready for dates with him. I made sure that I looked just so so that when he looked at me, he would think that I was IT. You know what I'm talking about- I tried on different outfits, applied and reapplied lip gloss, tried on multiple pairs of shoes before settling on the perfect pair...etc.
Why did I do that? Because I was excited to see him. When his truck pulled in my driveway, my heart thumped and my stomach flipped over. I would get nervous and there would be a few awkward moments in the car before I figured out what I should talk about. I wanted to make a good impression on him and I wanted, desperately, for him to think that I was beautiful.That is natural and I can't think of a good reason for it to come to an end because we got married.
I don't believe for a second that my entire identity is or should be defined by how I look or even by how he thinks I look but...I do care. I care about his opinion and I care about wooing my husband, even seven years after that first meeting. I care about him finding me physically attractive as well as intellectually. So I put in a little effort to make myself look nice for him.
This is not to say that he picks out my outfits every day or even all of the (or even most) items in my closet, chooses my hairstyle, or anything else crazy like that. It's simply a matter of knowing what he likes and doing my best to give it to him. I think that that's just part of marriage, honestly: I love him, I want him to be happy and to find me attractive, so I do what I know works to achieve those ends. It's simple logic.
I think, in this era of failing marriage and crumbling families, that married people should do whatever it takes to make their marriages work. I don't believe that marriage should be disposable or that people should just find someone else if the person that they married isn't doing it for them. I believe that love is a verb and that marriage is work and sacrifice. I also believe that it's 100% worth it.
See, that voice that rises up inside and says, "How dare he have an opinion on what I wear and how I look? HE SHOULD LOVE ME REGARDLESS." is the natural man or what the evangelical movement calls your "sin nature." And, in the true nature of sin, that voice is partially right. He SHOULD love you anyways. If you've completely let yourself go, don't get dressed on a daily basis, take no pride in your appearance, and can barely find it within yourself to brush your hair, he should still love you. Because thats the vow. And that's marriage. NONE OF THAT gives him the right to be unfaithful, to stop loving you, to "change his mind." NONE OF IT.
BUT. It's the unwise woman who thinks that he's wrong to have an opinion about those things. After all, HE'S the one that has to look at you. And HE'S the one that has to smell you. Touch you. Be married to you. Be seen in public with you. Do you want him to be proud of you? Turned on by you? Engaged with you? Because men don't stop having types and preferences just because they get married. That's not something that just goes away with a murmured, "I do."
It would be the WISE woman who would seek to REMAIN her husband's type. Who seeks his approval and his adoration, who wants her man to stay married to her not out of obligation but because he wants to every day. Is all of that choice tied up in her appearance? Nope. It definitely shouldn't be. But...is that part of it? Emphatically yes.
We can deny that and say, "Nope, not my man! Not my guy! He'e higher evolved than that! He's more enlightened than that!" to which I'll say...maybe. Maybe he truly doesn't care what you look like. Maybe he really don't care if you brush your hair or dress nicely for him or any of that. Maybe. But then...why did you get all dressed up for your wedding? Why did you wear a pretty dress and do your hair? Why did you bother? Since...he doesn't care, after all. So...who cares? Why bother? Hm.
Men are visual. We know that. And that's perfect and beautiful because it's the way that God designed them. So I give my man something nice to look at because it makes him happy. I seek his opinion about his preferences and that makes him happy, too, because it makes him feel needed and valued.
What does your man prefer? What look does it for him? No makeup? Small amounts? Maybe he just loves it when you throw your hair up in a messy bun because he thinks it's adorably "undone." Maybe he loves you in that one pair of jeans or in that particular shade of blue. How much a sacrifice would it be, really, for you to keep those things in mind when you're getting ready for the day? How much a difference would it make to your marriage if your man could come home every day and see his bride, whether it be of two day or twenty years, looking like that girl that he met back in the day?
Wondering why you should bother because, "What has he done for me lately?" Well. You're not responsible for his part of the marriage. You're responsible for YOUR part. Don't stop doing your part because you think that he's not doing his. That only leads to more hurt feelings, more damage, and more distance between you and your man. Do your part and do it to the utmost of your ability. Sacrifice because it's your duty for your side of the covenant you made with God. Stop worrying so much about what you deserve and rather put your focus on what you can do.
This is just a part of my efforts for my husband, it's not the magic combination for a perfect marriage (by any stretch of the imagination, trust me). But every little bit that I do for HIM is a little bit that makes me better, makes me a little stronger, makes our marriage a little better. And that, to me, is worth it.