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A common scenario in our house involves me getting home about 15 minutes late, ready to rush to dinner, only to find my wife is in the early phases of deciding what to wear. A dozen outfits will be strewn across the bedroom as she decides whether to go with the red or the black. My philosophy, which has worked well for the preservation of our marriage, is to give her the time and space to parse through this, giving her any guidance I have on what others might be wearing at the same event.
Once she lands on something that I really like, I’m quick to tell her how well it works for her, but she knows I’m trying to push her out the door too. Normally, I don’t care being late, but the worst instance involved a photographer waiting in our living room for almost an hour until she was ready. I realize this goes far beyond whether she prefers plaid or stripes that day and has everything to do with how she feels about herself. How would you suggest approaching one of these wild bedroom (not the good kind) melees?
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Ohhhhh man. Wives. Can’t live with ‘em…well you know the rest. How perceptive are you that you recognize there’s more going on here besides indecisiveness? For the rest of the schlubs out there reading, let’s clue ‘em in. Sometimes a woman really can’t make up her mind. The red dress makes her butt look shapely but she’s concerned it might be too short, while the blue skirt is the perfect length, but perhaps the color is too bright for such-and-such an occasion. This kind of waffling, however, does not make a lady keep a photographer waiting for an hour. Fifteen minutes, maybe. Not an hour. We’re not that wack-a-doo.
I believe Nick is hinting that his wife is having some body image issues as she tries on her clothing. She feels fat in this one, she’s feels shrimpy (or Amazonian) in that one. The pink dress makes her zit stand out, the high-necked blouse requires an updo and she’s having the worst hair day EVER. Let me say first that I am so sympathetic (empathetic?) to what your wife is going through (as most women probably would be). There are few people who are more critical of their appearance than I am of mine, but what you’re describing is excessive. She can have a fat day; she can’t make you late to dinner every time you have plans.
I commend you for being sensitive toward your wife’s feelings and keeping the peace in your marriage, but your wife needs to give a little, too. When you know you have a significant event coming up–photo shoot, party, concert–gently broach the topic with her. “Honey, I know you like to have a lot of time to get ready, so to avoid being late on Saturday afternoon, can you try and figure out what you’re wearing by Friday evening?” She may prickle a bit; it may take a couple instances of prodding to get her on board, but eventually I think she’ll come to see the benefit of what you’re saying.
Some days she thinks she’s a pear. Some days a Matisse?
Of course, this is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. And it doesn’t address the day to day challenge of getting ready on time for anything that might come up without much notice. I wish I could tell you that your support will one day “fix” her insecurities, but this is her deal. My personal experience, for whatever it’s worth, is that it took years for me to understand that my frame of reference could not be a size 4, zero-cellulite, perfectly-proportioned body. I spent my teens and twenties truly believing this was the standard against which to judge myself. Eventually I had to widen my frame of reference considerably–okay, I’m not a size 4 and I don’t think I’m ever going to get there, but I have a good-looking set of gams, and great hair, and that has to be enough.
It took even longer for me to get to a point where I could say with conviction, “You know, I don’t have to look perfect and feel great every night. But I do have to get my ass out the door.” As women, as perfectionists, as people who put a lot of stock in how we present ourselves–however you want to classify your wife and me–we have to get over it and surrender to mediocrity from time to time. We have to move beyond how we feel in a given moment. Feeling ugly? Yeah, that sucks. But we made plans a week ago, and we have to honor them. Feelings change; commitments and values don’t. Keep being a sweet, supportive husband. Know that that in itself won’t make her believe she really does look lovely in that black dress. She needs to find peace in her body, and with time–and perhaps some tactful reminders from you–I hope she’ll get there.
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