Pressure to change hair color is abuse

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: Do you think it's possible to "just stop feeling resentful" when you are repeatedly coerced into situations you clearly stated you didn't want to get into?

Example: My partner pressures me to change the color of my hair from time to time. "Pressures" because even though I tell Partner that, no, I'm not willing to bleach my hair again, or anymore, Partner starts telling me how selfish and coldhearted I am.

I know that if I told my partner it would make me resentful - which would aggravate the already resentful air this relationship has from both sides - Partner would just say, "Well, stop being resentful, then!" or "If you can't stop feeling resentful, then just learn how to do it."

I know it's on me to say no to Partner, but I always break under pressure. On the other hand, I know I would resent Partner if I obeyed this request again.

So my question is, I guess: How do I stop feeling resentment in this situation? Or, alternatively, how do I say no in a way my partner understands?

Answer: Um.

Your partner doesn't understand no, so you can't say no in a way your partner understands.

The sooner you recognize this, the sooner you can get yourself out of this controlling, emotionally abusive relationship. Your resentment is your mind and body's reaction to being pushed around, and therefore it is not to be ignored or stopped or unlearned. It's an alarm. Heed it, and soon.

A reputable therapist can help you get there, as can a call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-SAFE) or to RAINN (800-656-HOPE).

This is not about hair, so don't let anyone, especially you, tell you it is. It's about your autonomy; your partner's sense of entitlement to overrule your autonomy and about your need to recognize, respect, and enforce the principle that no one but you gets to tell you who you are. Take those steps to find someone to help you, and take care.

Comment: The previous post chilled me to the bone. This is not about what color the letter-writer's hair is. This is about being in a relationship with someone who expects the writer to obey. That's not good. That's not healthy. That's not right.

Please, writer, take care of yourself. Please get out of this relationship. Take it from someone who started with, "Ha, yeah, I pick my fingernails, it's a nervous habit," and ended with two broken fingers because I dared defy his repeated demands that I grow my fingernails out to his specified length.

Reply: Wow. I hope this is the nudge the letter-writer needs - thank you.

It has been a while since I recommended The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, so I'll use this as an opportunity. It's crystal-clear on identifying predictors of a dangerous relationship. His group also created a useful threat-assessment tool called Mosaic, www.mosaicmethod.com.

tellme@washpost.com.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

Continue Reading