Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Don't change to try to please new beau
Confused in Manhattan: So I've been casually dating this guy from work. There's so much chemistry between us, he's funny and smart, and I think I'm starting to fall for him.
But something he said at dinner irked me — he made some comment about how un-sexy sweatpants are, and how if the person he's dating ever wears them, it's a "deal-breaker."
Well, so far he's never seen me in sweatpants. But I wear them, they're comfortable around the house. I asked: "What if a person is feeling sick or just lounging around their apartment?" He made a grimace that said, "Still not okay." I just feel unsettled now. He does pay a lot of attention to what I wear and suggests clothes that will make me look better. Personal quirk or red flag?
Carolyn: If his willingness to dress you to please himself bothers you; and if you don't see yourself just saying, "Bite me," and wearing your sweatpants anyway; and if he doesn't like you just as much (or more) for your ability to be your sweatpant-clad self without apology, then his little problem with sweatpants is a bigger problem.
Certainly, a "funny" guy can make a mock-proclamation on loungewear without risk of being labeled a pig.
I suspect, however, his "deal-breaker" will emerge as a deal-breaker for you. That's because you didn't just respond, on the spot: "Well, I wear sweatpants. Should I ask for the check?" You seem unwilling to risk his displeasure, and that's bad footing no matter what he thinks of your pants.
External pressure comes from two sources: another's will, and your own perceptions. Whether he pressures you or not, if you perceive pressure, it's there. And if it's in your nature both to regard other people's preferences as pressure to conform, and to yield to that pressure, then someone with controlling tendencies will push you around, guaranteed. You need to be particularly mindful of this vulnerability when it comes to choosing a mate.
You can find out what his real tendencies are just by being yourself. No consequences? No problem.
Anonymous: Re: Sweatpants: My boyfriend also tries to influence my clothing choices, and when I tell him to bite me, he gets very upset and we fight. If I just say, "Okay honey," and go about my business, he will let it go. "Manhattan" definitely needs to wear whatever she wants, but I wouldn't recommend the "bite me" approach. If my boyfriend weren't otherwise very lovable, I certainly would've skipped the bite me and gone straight to the (unprintable) and ditched his butt.
Carolyn: Maybe you should. "Back off," however colorfully phrased, is the kind of message that healthy people can hear, and that with unhealthy people triggers a fight.
You have to feel you're able to draw lines you don't want crossed. If you and a mate disagree on where those lines should be, you can then talk about it like civilized people. Either come to some mutually appealing compromise or, amicably, go your separate ways.
You two are avoiding a fight by pretending the line isn't there. Maybe this works for you, but, for many, the weight of knowing they're not allowed to stand up for themselves becomes unbearable over time.