Dear Lovehacker, I have been dating my boyfriend for over a year and things have gotten serious to the point where we discuss marriage. I love him and think we would make great partners in life. He is caring, patient, smart and enjoys the same dorky things I do. But there is one attribute that I am struggling with. I have slowly learned that he has a fetish for very long hair.
I myself have always had long hair, or so I thought (mid-back). But I noticed early on laying in bed he’d ask me to grow it out for him. Soon I started noticing his obsession with watching online videos and following women on Instagram with extremely long hair. I’m talking below the butt down to the feet. At first it only irked me a bit, but then when he’d playfully ask me if I’d grow out my hair for him, I started to feel this tinge of resentment.
As time progressed this feeling has grown into a deep insecurity, about something I never on earth thought I’d have to feel insecure about. To top that, there have always been performance issues in bed that he blamed on medication, but now I’m wondering if it’s because I don’t fit his fetish. I’m also getting more reluctant to initiate sex, which is 70 per cent my job if I want more than foreplay. I don’t want to embarrass him or make him feel like I don’t accept the person he is, but I hate this feeling.
I am in my late 20s. I thought at this point in my life I had dealt with all my body image issues. Suddenly I feel like an awkward teenager again and ashamed of my physical features. He’s still wonderful and kind to me, but in my heart I feel like I’ll never be enough for him. Sure, hair grows, but the idea of having to change myself for a man makes me feel gross.
I’ve also started to feel myself becoming jealous of all the women he looks at online with extremely long hair. I worry about him possibly messaging them, maybe even meeting up with the local ones. This makes me feel sick to my stomach. I hate who I’ve become. I hate the feeling of jealousy. I hate feeling suspicious of him and I don’t want it to progress any further. When I get the thought to look at his phone I have to slap it out of my brain. I just want to love him, and trust him, and be able to walk down the street without judging every other woman’s hair.
I know, the problem is in my head. I know I’m the one who has to change the way I think. He has a fetish. There’s nothing I can do to change that. It’s part of who he is and if I love him I have to accept all of him, but damn it’s hard.
I know he chose to date me and so that means he should like me, right? But what if he’s just settling for me because of the other check boxes. I know it’s natural for men to fantasise about other women, watching porn or what have you, and it’s not a problem for me usually, but this feels different: it’s like I have to watch the fantasising happen every time a woman with long hair walks by. I feel gross in so many ways and not just about my looks but about how I am acting. What do I do? Is this something I can learn to accept? Do I save both of us the trouble and end it so he can find someone with the features he likes and I can find someone who likes me the way I am? Am I just crazy? Regards, Not the Fetish
Before I get into this, I feel like I need to define some terms. Sexual fetishes tend to be a sexual response to an otherwise non-sexual object or body part. Fetishes differ from a preference in that someone with a fetish usually requires that object or part to become aroused or to actually orgasm. Preferences, on the other hand, tend to be “All things being equal, I’d rather have this.”
So a guy who likes the look of women in vintage black silk stockings but can get off just fine with a bare legged partner doesn’t have a fetish. If he can’t get off at all without the garter-belt and silk, then it’s a fetish.
Now, let’s dig in a little.
As a general rule, I’m a proponent of both partners in a relationship being what Dan Savage calls “Good, Giving and Game”. Good in bed, giving of pleasure and game for indulging your partner’s interests within reason. Being GGG is good for a relationship’s overall strength and both partners’ happiness. It helps maintain and balance the sexual compatibility between partners. Occasionally indulging an interest of your partner’s, even if it’s not really your thing, makes them feel appreciated and loved.
It’s the same with changing oneself in relationships. While there’s a lot to be said for being yourself no matter what, making changes that make your partner happy — when you dig making them happy — is pretty standard. Dressing a little differently because you know they like how you look in this particular type of outfit? Not exactly a huge ask or a betrayal of your true self. Giving up your career because your partner believes a woman’s place is in the home, on the other hand, is pretty huge.
As far as changing yourself in a relationship, asking one’s partner to grow their hair out is pretty benign. It’s not exactly in the same realm as pestering someone to get implants because you really can’t get it up to anything less than a DD. But if you’re not someone who has long hair already, it can be something of a pain in the arse.
Asking someone to grow their hair out seems like it’s no big deal… unless you’re the person who actually has to do it. There’s more to growing and maintaining long hair than just not going to the salon for a couple of months. Simple maintenance — keeping it clean and free of tangles — is already a pretty significant time-sink, doubly so if you need to blow-dry it. Very long hair — from down to your butt or lower — isn’t just a maintenance issue, it’s a lifestyle.
So while a preference for long hair isn’t quite the same as an interest in watersports or age play, it can still be a hurdle. It demands a pretty significant commitment from the person growing their hair out.
Normally I’d suggest negotiating a compromise. Maybe you could get a Rapunzel-esque wig and wear it on occasion? But this part of your letter leapt out at me:
I’m also getting more reluctant to initiate sex, which is 70 per cent my job if I want more than foreplay.
A lot of your boyfriend’s actions could be explained away as not being a problem. Collecting videos and pictures of his fetish is pretty normal behaviour. A low libido or erectile dysfunction caused by medication is also fairly common; SSRIs are especially infamous for killing your sex drive deader than the dodo.
But once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action cause for concern. If he’s not initiating sex and is seemingly only interested in doing what it takes to get you to leave him alone? That’s when I start thinking that this fetish is going to be a long-term problem… especially if he isn’t being up front about it. If he’s consistently not interested in you sexually, then this relationship is already on thin ice.
So I think you need to sit down and have a long, serious talk with him about this. Start with how you’re feeling — you know that he’s got his thing for long hair and it’s starting to get to you. You’re worried that he’s not attracted to you. Stick to the classic “I” statements: “I feel like…” “I’m concerned that…” to keep this from feeling like you’re accusing him of malfeasance. Ask him to open up to you about how he’s feeling.
Hopefully he’ll realise how his behaviour is affecting you. If he’s as good of a guy as you say, then ideally he’ll shape up and start putting in good faith effort to fix things. Maybe he can talk with his doctor about finding medication without those sexual side-effects. He’ll be less obvious about checking other people out and make a point of being an active sexual partner.
But if he can’t or won’t change? Then it’s time for you to start making some difficult decisions.
This story originally appeared on Kotaku.
Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove.