I have a really small issue which is having a surprisingly large impact on my relationship: Is it okay to want my boyfriend to have a short beard, even though he doesn’t like them?
I’m 19 and my boyfriend is 21. We’ve been together a long time and plan on getting married sometime in the next few years. He’s really a great guy, we get along really well most of the time.
As a female I don’t shave, which my boyfriend has said he’s fine with. However, he himself shaves every 2 or 3 days. Recently we went on a camping trip where he didn’t take a razor, and as a result didn’t shave for 10 days. I loved it. He didn’t have a full-on beard, just a general spreading of short hair. It wasn’t very even (with some trimming I’m sure it could even out) and several people made fun of it… but I thought it looked incredible. Yet he shaved it almost immediately after we got home.
I honestly hate it when he’s clean-shaven. I generally think he’s a good-looking guy, but the day after he’s shaved I don’t find him sexually attractive at all in comparison. I love the stubble look and feel, and when he’s gone 2 or 3 (or 10) days without shaving I find him so much more attractive. But he absolutely hates not being clean-shaven and refuses to do it. He says it feels itchy and uncomfortable, and he thinks it looks hideous. Several people have backed up his claims that he looks better when shaven, but as you can guess, I completely disagree.
I’ve tried several times to ask him to grow some stubble over the course of the last few months. The first time he became really upset at me. He kept trying to get me to take back the fact that I prefer him that way, because he doesn’t like beards but doesn’t want to feel less attractive. I was very careful to word it as “You’re handsome both ways, I just really like it when you haven’t shaved,” making an effort to be positive but honest at the same time. But he kept trying to get me to take it back until I started crying, upon which he immediately apologized.
The second time was after he came back from the camp trip. I tried not to specifically ask or say anything, I just expressed excitement that he wasn’t shaving, and told him lots how handsome he was at the time, and then expressed half-joking sadness when he shaved.
The last time I brought it up, the conversation went like this:
BF: It does hurt a bit when I hear that I’d be more handsome to you if I had a beard. I want to be the most handsome to you as I am and not have to change.
Me: I’m sorry, you are the most handsome however you are. I don’t want to hurt you, but I don’t want to lie either. I do have a preference, but I still love you and think you’re the most handsome guy ever no matter what.
BF: I think it’s scratchy and itchy and feels nasty and honestly it looks awful to me. I’ve also always preferred my face clean-shaven, if that changes anything for you?
Me: Why would it change anything? I try to respect your not wanting to shave, but my preference is still the same.
BF: Even if it hurts to have it and I don’t like it, you’d prefer me to have one?
Me: I’m not gonna force you to grow one.
BF: Let’s not talk about beards anymore.
These kinds of conversations leave us both feeling awful. He’ll feel like he’s not as attractive to me as he wants to be. I know I can never tell him that I really do find him far less sexually attractive when he’s shaved, because I feel awful for it. I wish he would just get stubble because I’m afraid to just tell him I find him barely attractive without it…which I also feel horrible for admitting….this whole thing is just making me feel horrible. I don’t want to be the bad guy here, or hurt my boyfriend who generally has a wonderful personality, or force him to grow a beard just to please me. But at the same time, I want to be sexually attracted to my boyfriend…and as we’re planning on getting married I’m sure this is going to become a bigger problem further down the line.
Is there a way I can bring this up with my boyfriend and convince him to grow some stubble without him being hurt or becoming upset at me? Or should I just do what he wants and drop the whole subject and pretend that I find his clean-shaven face equally as sexually attractive?
Actually, Sparkler, I’d like to suggest a third option! It’s sort of like the second one, except with a little added twist: when you stop haranguing your boyfriend about growing some scruff, you could also have the decency not to act like you’re doing him a favor.
Because dude. Dude. Duuuuuuuuuuude. Somewhere in the midst of your fixation on your boyfriend’s beard, you seem to have completely forgotten about the part where his beard is on his face. As in, his face. That’s his face!
And when someone you love has told you multiple times that your feedback about how you’d like his face to look is making him feel unattractive and unhappy, you cannot in good conscience continue to push and nudge and coax him to change his appearance to please you—which you are, and need to stop. I know you think you’ve been doing a decent job of being respectful and framing your preference in positive, supportive terms, but your boyfriend’s reaction makes it abundantly clear that the jig is up. You say you can never tell him that he’s only barely cute to you when he’s clean-shaven? I’ve got some bad news for you, kiddo: he knows. He definitely, definitely knows.
So, look: it’s certainly true that being attracted to your partner is an important contributing factor to the success of a long-term relationship (although in your case, I can’t help wondering how you ever managed to hook up with this guy in the first place when his insistence on shaving apparently means that you find him borderline hideous roughly 80% of the time). But when it comes to the specifics of your boyfriend’s appearance, you must realize that you can only express your preferences so much, and in so many ways, before your preference reads as pressure and you’re just being a jerk. It would be different if he’d solicited your feedback, or if he were genuinely on the fence about growing a beard—but being clean-shaven is something your boyfriend actively and unequivocally prefers, for both aesthetic and functional reasons. Not only that, but his feelings about preferring beardlessness are apparently shared by pretty much everyone but you. It adds a whole extra layer of crazy to this equation when you realize that you’re pushing the guy not just to adopt a look that he finds unattractive and uncomfortable, but that nobody else likes either, to the point where people make fun of him if he goes too long without shaving.
So, here’s the deal: your boyfriend has told you in no uncertain terms that he’s not persuadable on this front, and that you are hurting his feelings by continuing to bring it up. And yes, you need to drop this subject, permanently. (If he ever reconsiders and starts thinking about growing a beard, I promise you, he knows how you feel about it.)
But you also need to adjust your perspective. Because while you’ve become so fixated on the idea that you’re entitled to be as attracted to your boyfriend as possible, you seem to have lost sight of what he deserves: namely, a partner who loves him and respects him enough that he can look any number of ways and trust that she still digs him. Love means wanting someone on a fundamental level, facial scruff or stupid haircut or bad taste in shoes be damned. In short, the survival of your relationship shouldn’t hinge on something superficial as stubble—and if you can’t find it in your heart to desire this guy with beard or without, you’ll never be able to love him for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at email@example.com.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.