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August 19, 2011 9:02 AM Subscribe
How do I deal with my partner drastically changing his appearance in response to his baldness, and the way it affects my attraction to him?
posted by Vinegaroon to human relations (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My (gay male) partner and I have been together almost a decade, we're in our early thirties. He started losing his hair in his mid-twenties, and it's something he's always felt really awful about it. He says, "I'm not attracted to guys who are balding, which means I no longer find myself attractive the way I used to." He did Rogaine for a long time with some results, but ultimately he decided it was a losing battle and he shaved his head. He's also always trying to grow a beard, but his facial hair is naturally pretty sparse and he's not too diligent about upkeep (probably because he's really trying to let it grow out) and so it often looks pretty scraggly.
Honestly he still has lots of hair on his head; it's definitely thin at the crown and his hairline is high in the front, but it's still pretty robust otherwise and looks attractive when it's styled. It's not thin or weird-looking throughout. And I am much more attracted to him when he has it -- he just doesn't look like the same person I met and was initially attracted to, especially with that awful beard added. I look at pictures from just a few years ago and I feel my heart swell, and I look at him now and... well, it's not as automatic, not by a long shot. I know these are things that every long term couple faces eventually, but we are still very young and this seems so unnecessary.
He thinks that having a smooth face and a shaved head makes him look ridiculous, as if the beard makes up for the baldness somehow. Honestly the current arrangement makes him look years older than me, though I am the elder partner. Whereas when he's clean-shaven and has hair, he looks more or less his age. It also interferes with our sexual dynamic in some weird age-related ways -- things feel off-balance to me now.
I have tried to be extra gentle about this because of his self-image issues, and tried to let him feel free to do whatever he wants with his own face -- though I have made my preference clear, and whenever he does shave his face I always compliment him on how good he looks. I feel like he is unsatisfied with either look, but is defaulting to the one he feels most comfortable with. Either way, he hates having attention called to it. And anyhow he's a grad student, with all the attendant pressures, in an environment where looking sharp is not really a priority most of the time.
As time goes by I feel a little trapped sometimes, because he just doesn't look anything like the person I fell in love with, and I know he's still not thrilled with how he looks, and I don't know what to do about either one. I have certainly changed my look in certain ways over the years to adapt to his tastes, but he seems incredibly reluctant to do the same.
He is not averse to therapy, but I also don't think he's interested in discussing these issues with a therapist. I am looking for a therapist of my own, so you can just skip that recommendation. Couples therapy is very difficult to schedule because we both travel a lot.
Is it okay to let him know the extent to which this is interfering in my attraction? How do I do this without making everything worse? If it's not okay, what can I do for myself to adjust?