How To Address A Partner That Criticizes Your Fashion & Beauty Choices

"You are going out dressed like that?" "Cover up." "You've got too much make-up on." "I am not going out with you unless you change and wear this instead." If any of these resonate with you, then you understand how emotionally draining it can be to deal with a partner that constantly criticizes your fashion and beauty choices. Such condemning behavior on your partner's part can devastate your self-esteem as you begin to doubt yourself and your looks. We look to our partners for affirmation, so when the person closest to us negatively comments on our appearance, it can profoundly impact our self-worth. Constant criticism erodes our confidence and can lead to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

Even if you let such comments slip by and continue to wear whatever and however you want, simply ignoring the behavior is not a solution. What may seem like innocent bursts of jealousy at first or super-protective attention on your partner's behalf are actually red flags. Couples in a healthy relationship do not treat each other in such a derogatory manner. Mutual respect is key; neither party can be happy nor emotionally healthy when such comments arise.

Consequently, when left unaddressed, your partner's critical comments will soon become a breeding ground for resentment and frustration, alienating and pushing you away from your significant other, creating a toxic dynamic. So, if you want to salvage the relationship, you must address the issue immediately, starting with an honest and heartfelt conversation.

Have an honest conversation

Communication is key to a healthy relationship, and being honest about your emotions is one of the most important cornerstones that will set a solid foundation between you and your partner. According to Clinical Social Worker and Couples Therapist Laura Silverstein, being open about your feelings builds trust and intimacy, and by doing so, "the closer and more connected we will feel," via PsychCentral.

So instead of arguing over your choice of this dress and that make-up, try to approach your partner from a different angle. Speak honestly with them and explicitly state how their behavior makes you feel. Arguing won't get you anywhere as it aggravates both parties even further, alienating and leading you toward resentment and eventual break-up.

But before you sit down for that heartfelt conversation, ensure you know what you are feeling and why to facilitate effective communication. Silverstein stresses, "When you start a sentence with the words, 'I feel,' the third word out of your mouth should be an emotion." For instance, you could tell your partner, "When you criticize my clothes, I feel frustrated and annoyed." Once you've covered the "what," you must also cover the "why" to help your partner understand how their actions and words make you feel. So, for example, you could try saying, "I feel sad because your words imply that I am not allowed to make my own choices about my appearance, and I feel annoyed because I cannot express myself how I want to."

Try to see the real reason behind their behavior

It's one thing to talk with your partner and another completely different thing to be able to communicate with them. Couples practicing collaborative communication are happier and more satisfied in their relationship as they consciously try to be aware of how their verbal and non-verbal signals (tone, facial expression, body language) impact their partner. During collaborative communication, one partner tries to understand the interaction from the perspective of the other.

Understandably it is difficult to take a step back and take your partner's account into perspective when you are being wronged. But doing so is essential if you want to salvage the relationship. Ask your partner where their behavior stems from. Is your choice of clothes too provocative and making them feel jealous? If that is the case, perhaps they feel insecure in the relationship. Or if they feel that your clothes are excessively revealing, they may be genuinely concerned about your safety. If your partner comes from a strict religious background, your fashion and beauty styling options may clash with their religious beliefs, leading them to react the way they do.

Discovering the real cause behind your partner's behavior is paramount, as it will set the stage for how you address the issue. This can only be accomplished if you begin the discussion ready to listen actively instead of defensively attacking. Collaborative communication can help you and your partner understand each other.7

Assess your own behavior

It's difficult to assess your behavior in the heat of an argument or when you feel hurt and insulted. However, once the storm has passed and you feel calmer, consider honestly evaluating your behavior and identifying whether it's causing your partner to react this way.

For example, did you always make the same choices regarding fashion and make-up or has something changed along the way? If this is not how your partner met you, it's understandable — though by no means acceptable — that they will feel slightly intimidated or confused by the dramatic change. You may also want to ask yourself whether this is how you dress up when you go out with your partner or whether this ensemble is something you choose to sport only on the nights you are heading out solo.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with how and when you choose to express yourself in a certain way, but if these changes seem sudden and random, your partner might feel a bit off, leading them to react this way. Ask yourself questions such as "Do I respect my partner?","Do I make my partner feel secure in the relationship?" "Am I willing to compromise?" and "Am I being a team player?" to assess how your behavior might be impacting the relationship. The root of your arguments may not be so much about fashion and beauty choices but about underlying, more important relationship problems stemming from your behavior as much as theirs.

Set boundaries

People will treat you the way you allow them to treat you. So, setting boundaries is not only healthy but also warranted for a relationship to thrive. If we don't set boundaries in our relationships, we deplete our time and energy in things that don't make us happy. Dr. Matthew S. Mutchler, Ph.D., a Pennsylvania-based licensed marriage and family practice therapist, tells Everyday Health that "We only have so much energy. If we are giving too much to a person ... we will run out and have nothing left for ourselves to be healthy and well." In this respect, boundaries reflect us — what we are willing to tolerate and what we want to engage in.

If your partner is constantly criticizing your clothes and make-up, clearly explain to them that this behavior is not something you will tolerate any longer. Be firm about your boundaries and make sure that you always stick to them, or you will be giving your partner mixed signals. It is crucial not to set boundaries when you are angry, tired, or emotionally upset, and you can always revisit boundaries that don't seem to work for you. The important thing is to be clear about what you tolerate and doesn't to avoid entering a never-ending cycle of heated discussion every time you get dressed to step out the door.

Walk away if you must

As much as it hurts you, you need to recognize when it's time to say "enough is enough" and walk away. While you might consider your partner's bursts of jealousy to be cute at first, the truth is more sinister than that. Controlling partners are not always easy to spot because they gradually increase the extent of their control in a subtle and manipulative way that is hard to spot at first. So, what may begin as "innocent" comments will soon escalate into full-blown controlling behavior. What are the red flags that will tell you it's time to put an end to the relationship?

If your partner increasingly makes all the decisions for you and seems excessively protective to the point where you feel smothered, it's time to call it quits and reclaim your independence. Similarly, when your partner tries to play the blame game by saying, "It's your fault I reacted this way," or "We wouldn't be having this conversation if you were dressed more appropriately," then you need to reconsider whether or not this is the kind of relationship you want. If your partner keeps micromanaging your beauty and fashion choices and downplays their reaction by accusing you of being overly dramatic, walk away. Remember, you deserve to be with someone who respects and appreciates you for who you are, both inside and outside. And this means supporting your beauty and fashion choices and being your No. 1 cheerleader.