Does your partner regularly try to tell you what to wear? Does this make you feel uncomfortable or unhappy? If so, this guide is for you. In this guide, we will help you understand why this behavior is unhealthy, why your boyfriend might be behaving like this, and what you can do to combat this sort of behavior in the future.
While generally speaking, this sort of behavior is unhealthy, even toxic, the motive behind your boyfriend’s behavior can be the differentiating factor between red-flag behavior and ignorance or even genuine concern for your well-being.
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More often than not, this sort of behavior is unhealthy and can quickly turn a healthy relationship into a toxic one. Understanding your boyfriend or partner’s motives behind this behavior might give you a better idea or indication with regard to how to deal with it and how to move forward.
Below are some of the reasons why your partner might be trying to tell you what to wear…
Your body is your own. No one has the right to tell you what to wear, eat, or do with your body and it’s something that should be respected by all. If your boyfriend tells you how you should dress, he’s assuming a level of control, even ownership, over you, which shouldn’t be tolerated.
I can totally relate - I once had a boyfriend who thought it was acceptable to tell me not to wear high heels simply because he didn’t like the look of them. I still wore them! His behavior is an example of unhealthy control and manipulation. He tried to make me feel embarrassed for the way I looked simply because he didn’t like it.
Oftentimes, style and dress sense is a way for people to express themselves. What you choose to wear says a lot about you and your personality. You should be the only one deciding how and what you want to portray to the outside world.
If someone tries to control the way you express yourself, it can be extremely damaging to you on a personal level. So much so that in the long run you may begin resenting those who control you and you may seek another outlet for your expression, which could be an unhealthy one.
Not only is this unfair, it’s simply offensive. As a grown woman, you’re more than capable of making healthy decisions that serve you. If he dictates what you can and can’t wear, he’s arrogantly assuming he knows better than you do.
My advice would be to try and understand where he’s coming from and what his motives are behind his behavior. If he simply feels that he knows better or has better taste, it’s a major red flag.
Bluntly put, if a man tries to dictate what you can and can’t wear, it’s a form of controlling behavior. While this may seem small or insignificant to some, controlling behavior can quickly escalate and become all-consuming or abusive.
Controlling behavior may start with what you can and can’t wear but it may quickly turn into what you can and cannot eat and do, who you can and cannot see, or where you can and cannot go out. These are all warning signs you should look out for that are bound to turn a relationship into a very unhealthy one.
As touched on, controlling behavior can quickly become abusive. While it may not always turn into physical abuse, it can turn into mental or emotional abuse which can be just as damaging.
Some signs of this sort of abuse that you may want to look out for, and might come up when your partner tries to control what you wear, include:
If you feel any of the above is true to your situation, speaking to a therapist or someone from Relationship Hero will give you the guidance, direction, and confidence you need to leave a serious relationship that’s become this toxic.
Another reason why this sort of behavior is unhealthy is that if you allow someone to control who you are, what you do, and the ways in which you choose to express yourself, you’ll eventually lose the essence of who you are as an individual. This can lead to deep unhappiness, resentment, and even depression.
Always keep in mind that you need to put yourself first in any relationship. Make sure your needs and wants are met and don’t allow someone to walk all over you!
If your boyfriend doesn’t approve of what you’re wearing or tries to use manipulative tactics to get you to change your outfit for him, it might make you feel like you’re the one who’s in the wrong.
Furthermore, it might make you feel bad, guilty, or ashamed. Realize that you’re in no way wrong and have no reason to feel guilty. You have the right to wear whatever you desire. He is the only person responsible for his feelings.
This is another example of why a man trying to control what you wear is unhealthy and can cause a host of unwanted, negative emotions to surface.
One of the main reasons your partner might be trying to dictate how you dress is because of his own insecurities or low self-esteem. He might feel jealous or insecure about the attention you get when you dress a certain way and so, in order to try and combat those feelings, he tries to control you, instead of addressing his own issues.
If you feel this is the reason why he’s trying to control your dress sense, politely pointing out your observation might bring it to his attention and encourage him to address the root of the issue.
Reassuring him of your feelings for him and your loyalty toward him might help him feel more secure in the relationship. Alternatively, therapy could also help him.
In this scenario, he genuinely has your best interest at heart. If you’re attending an event where the dress code is stipulated, and you aren’t dressed accordingly, he might point that out for your own benefit. Sometimes, certain places or events are so strict with their dress code that they won’t allow anyone entrance unless they’re dressed accordingly.
In this case, his behavior isn’t a red flag. Unless, of course, he begins telling you you’re underdressed on a regular basis, regardless of the event.
This is another scenario wherein his behavior isn’t a red flag unless he belittles you or insults you when giving his opinion.
If you asked for his opinion, expect an honest answer, even if it isn’t what you wanted to hear. He might not necessarily like the outfit you’ve chosen and that’s okay unless he’s insisting you change it.
If your partner is passionate about style, fashion, or anything creative, he might give his opinion on your outfit. While his opinion might be unwanted, and you’re absolutely allowed to let him know how you feel about it, he might not have bad intentions or motives. He might simply see it as a great way of bonding.
This is why understanding your partner’s motive behind his behavior is of utmost importance before deciding on whether or not his behavior is toxic.
Religion and its respective dress codes are some things that need to be taken into consideration when you decide on who you date. If you’re dating someone religious, a dress code might form a big part of their values and beliefs and you might be expected to conform to some degree.
If your partner is religious and they politely ask you to dress accordingly, this shouldn’t be seen as a red flag but rather an intrinsic part of who they are and what their beliefs are.
Religious differences are something that should be respected. Furthermore, it’s something that should be taken into consideration before entering into a relationship.
Unfortunately, as unacceptable as it is, there are still many societies where men have little to no regard for women and their rights. And, sadly, in some of these societies, men still think it’s acceptable to view women as sexual objects, for their own pleasure.
Dressing “provocatively” in societies like these can unfortunately put women in difficult, uncomfortable, or even dangerous situations.
If your boyfriend is genuinely concerned about your safety because of the way you’re dressed, he’s likely to raise it. Keep in mind that in a scenario like this, it’s a clear sign that he has your best interests at heart.
As annoying and frustrating as it might feel to dress more conservatively because men have unhealthy views on women’s rights and sex, at times, it might be in your best interest.
As a wise woman, you’ll be able to discern for yourself when you’re in situations where you might find yourself in a sticky spot based on what you’re wearing. Trust your intuition.
According to Oxfam, there are 10 harmful beliefs, often held by men in uneducated societies, that perpetuate violence and abuse against women. If your partner has any unhealthy views regarding women and their sexuality, he might try and control the way you dress.
Some of these unhealthy views are listed below:
While these beliefs are archaic and simply, unacceptable, many men still hold true to them. In this sort of instance, if your partner upholds any of the above beliefs, it will be in your best interests to cut all relationship ties as soon as possible. These beliefs are sure to lead to abuse and an unhealthy, unhappy personal life.
The first time this sort of behavior happens is the best time to address it. That being said, even if this sort of behavior has been ongoing, it’s never too late to stand up for yourself and let him know you don’t appreciate the way he’s been behaving.
Below are some examples of what you can say to help him understand you won’t tolerate that sort of behavior:
All of the above examples are polite, yet concise, ways of telling your partner that his behavior makes you feel uncomfortable. If a guy values you, your feelings, and your relationship enough, he will make amends and stop this negative behavior. On the other hand, if he doesn’t respect what you’ve asked for, you might be better off walking away.
Getting to the bottom of this question will help you understand what his motives are. As listed above, some of the reasons why a guy might be giving his opinion on what you should or shouldn’t wear aren’t all bad/red flag behavior.
Once you have a true understanding of why he feels it’s okay to tell you what to wear, you can adjust your response accordingly.
Furthermore, asking him why he thinks it’s okay will bring the behavior to his attention and give him an opportunity to explain himself or gain further clarity on why it’s not acceptable. Perhaps, he is simply ignorant and doesn’t have ill intentions.
Sometimes, people don’t realize their behavior is offensive or inappropriate and, given the chance, they will rectify their behavior.
Be open and honest in your communications with him and help him understand why you don’t appreciate his behavior. Some things you might consider saying are:
Once you’ve expressed your true feelings and he has a clear understanding of why you feel the way you do, he’s likely to be more empathetic in the future. From there, you’re able to make the relationship work more harmoniously.
In any relationship, it’s important to set boundaries. Start by finding a time when you’re both relaxed to chat about your wants and needs in the relationship. This is also a good time to raise things with your partner that you don’t like or won’t tolerate, i.e. him telling you what you can and cannot wear.
It’s also important to listen to what your partner has to say and treat his requests with respect.
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this. What’s appropriate really comes down to whatever makes you feel good. That being said, you also need to take into consideration the environment you’re in for example, if you’re touring a religious city, are attending a wedding, funeral, or any other event, or are working in a corporate environment, there might be certain dress codes that you need to abide by.
If you truly enjoy being told what to wear and the relationship isn’t controlling, abusive, or toxic in any way then, no, it isn’t unhealthy. Keep in mind that this behavior needs to be consensual though in order for it to remain healthy.
Based on the above, we’re able to see that there are situations where being told what to wear is extremely unhealthy in a romantic relationship. Whether your boyfriend has an ulterior motive for this behavior or is acting out due to his own insecurities, it’s not something you need to deal with or be on the receiving end of.
Learning how to respond to this behavior will give you the confidence you need to stand up for yourself in an effective way.
There are, however, other times when your partner may genuinely have your best interests at heart and this sort of behavior is okay.
Remember, you’re the only one in control of you! If you enjoyed reading this article, let us know by commenting below and sharing it!