How do you respond when your husband says he doesn’t like the way you dress? Maybe he complains about the style or colors of your clothes. Maybe he says you dress too sexy, or too frumpy, or too young, or too old. Maybe your husband wants you to wear different clothes because he’s concerned what his coworkers or family thinks.
“My husband doesn’t like the way I dress, but I don’t know how to respond to him,” says Aimee. “I like the clothes I wear, but he says men look at me. My husband wants me to wear baggier jeans, long dresses, and no makeup. He says if I loved him, I would dress to please him. What should I do?”
This comment is from a book called The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope by Leslie Vernick. I love her response, as well as her perspective on healthy relationships. Below is her response to this wife, plus a few tips for your own marriage. If you’re searching for help with a husband who complains about the way you dress, you may find exactly what you need right here.
If your husband doesn’t like the way you dress, you may be tempted to talk to your friends and family about your clothes. Maybe you’ve already had the “What’s wrong with the way I dress? Are my clothes too frumpy, old-fashioned, sexy, expensive, short, long, colorful, bland…?” conversation.
It’s fine and even healthy to see others’ opinions about the way you dress — as long as you don’t allow other people’s opinions to control you. Not even your husband’s opinion should have the power to dictate who you are, how you express yourself, what you believe, and how you live! It’s crucial to express and assert yourself now, before it’s too late and you find yourself living with a husband you wish you never married.
5 Things to Do When Your Husband Complains About Your Clothes
Here’s Leslie Vernick’s initial reaction to the wife whose husband doesn’t like the way she dresses:
“Immediately I felt great concern for this woman’s dilemma. Her husband twisted Scripture and put himself in God’s place in her life. The Bible says we are to please God, not ourselves. Nor are we to orient our lives around pleasing others; that gets us in trouble (see Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4).
1. Become aware of your husband’s underlying insecurity and anxiety
Jealousy and insecurity were the two main reasons this husband complained about his wife’s clothes. He wanted to control the way his wife dressed because he wanted to control the way men saw and responded to her. When people are jealous and insecure in relationships, they try to control people and situations. And, they’ll use whatever ammunition they can get to defend their own position. For instance, a husband may say that God wants wives to please their husbands; thus, wives should wear clothes their husband approves of.
Can you see the problems in this type of marriage? Insecurity and anxiety is at the root of the relationship. Instead of love and authenticity, they’re burdened with jealousy and fear. If you as a wife agree to wear clothes your husband approves of, you’re feeding into his insecurity. You’re allowing your husband to continue being unhealthy, which isn’t good for him or you.
2. Respond thoughtfully and lovingly
“You need to be very wise right now as you’re at a critical crossroads in your marriage,” writes Leslie Vernick in The Emotionally Destructive Marriage. “If you give in to your husband [about the way you dress], you will lose a part of who you are to satisfy a part of him that is sinful and immature — his insecurity. This is not healthy for either of you or for the long-term stability of your marriage.”
Responding to your husband thoughtfully and lovingly means hearing his complaints about your clothes. Listen to his perspective. You might even ask your husband a few questions about the way you dress, to go deeper into the underlying reasons for his opinion. You can continue to dress the way you want and let your husband say what he will.
3. Don’t defend yourself or try to change your husband’s mind
Accept that your husband complains about your clothes or even hates the way you dress. Let your husband have his opinions; let his criticisms fall onto the floor and die there. Don’t pick them up or even touch them. They will contaminate you. Maybe your husband is also critical about your hair, weight, skin, shape. Some husbands are shockingly mean to their wives! And some women get so used to being criticized and judged that they barely even hear the complaints. They begin to believe their husband’s insults and hate their own bodies.
Does your husband criticize almost everything about the way you look? Maybe it’s not just your clothes he complains about…maybe he complains about everything. This is emotional abuse, and it will destroy your spirit. The cruelty that is coming out of your husband has already eaten his soul, and it will eat your soul too. If you let it.
If your husband complains about everything about you, read 5 Tips for Coping With a Critical Husband. More importantly, get outside help! Talk to someone about your marriage, and about dealing with emotional abuse.
4. Speak truthfully into your husband’s life
“God calls you to be courageous in this moment and lovingly tell your husband you think he needs to face his own issues of jealousy and insecurity, rather than you changing your wardrobe so that he won’t feel those feelings,” writes Vernick in The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope. “Your husband will not like it at first, but in the long run this approach will preserve your freedom to be your own person and to speak truthfully into his life, which is essential for a healthy marriage.”
Being honest and speaking the loving truth into your husband’s life takes a depth of courage and strength that you don’t have on your own. Nobody does! It’s not just about speaking up for yourself and telling your husband that you love him but can’t let him decide what clothes you will wear or how you will dress. This kind of love and honesty requires a deeper, stronger depth of courage that only God can give.
5. Go deep within yourself before going to your husband
Before you talk to your husband about the way you dress — and before he starts complaining about your clothes — take ten minutes alone with God. Find a quiet place, free from distraction and noise. Be still. Let your thoughts and feelings settle. Come to that quiet place in you, the deep place that is your true self. That is God, His divine presence in you. That is the Holy Spirit that Jesus left behind.
And that, my friend, is where you will find strength and power to speak the truth.
Is your husband critical and negative about many things, not just the way you dress? If he’s not complaining about your clothes, is he complaining about the roads, taxes, weather, and air? Read 7 Ways to Help Your Unhappy Husband.
In peace and passion,