Dear Wayne and Wanda,
Please help settle a debate between me and my significant other. Years ago, in my early 20s, I got the name of a boyfriend tattooed on my arm. It was a dumb decision on a Mexico vacation. We stopped hanging out not long after and even though I see him around still, I wouldn’t even call him a friend. We are polite when we run into each other, and every now and then he’ll jokingly ask about the tattoo and we laugh it off with a fist bump.
This was not my first tattoo and is one of many tattoos I have. My current significant other hates tattoos in general, and I know he’s not a fan of my ink. But he especially hates the name tattoo. The first time we hung out, he zeroed in on it. He had a million questions about my ex. He had a hard time believing I was over him. He said if I really was, I would have gotten the tattoo removed.
Tattoos are expensive to remove, and time-consuming, and frankly it’s never mattered to me enough. To me, this particular tattoo represents youth, my inexperience at the time, and it’s a good reminder of where I’ve been — that’s it. But my boyfriend won’t let it go. I’ve suggested lately we get more serious, maybe move in together, and he seriously keeps coming back around to that tattoo and saying until I “deal with it” he has a hard time taking us seriously.
Despite being increasingly mainstream and more broadly accepted, tattoos can still be so divisive. On one hand, the people who have them generally love them, and carry them as symbols full of meaning, memories and artistry. People who don’t like or understand them may see them as unattractive, poorly thought-out, or as hard-to-erase mistakes that one will surely regret in time.
Being an inked-up person whose love interest is tat-free, you may face an uphill climb aesthetically, if tattoos are something your partner finds particularly unattractive. That said, you’re in a particular pickle with the inked name of an ex in full display. This goes beyond someone simply not liking your body art. Your current person probably sees this tattoo as an affront, a constant reminder of others you’ve been with, and a symbol of someone you once were — someone younger and possibly a little more wild, not exactly the version of yourself that he is presently attracted to.
Getting a tattoo removed is a huge deal, but if you’re serious about finding some kind of compromise, why not consider a cover-up? A good tattoo artist can assess your current design and offer all kinds of creative suggestions for layering more ink on top of it, so your ex’s name is transformed into something cool and unique — and less offensive to any love interests moving forward. Added bonus: you still know it’s there and while the tattoo retains its meaning, it also reflects your evolution.
What happens in Mexico stays in … well, it can stay in or on your body for days, weeks, months, years or even the rest of your life. And that’s livin’ la vida loca, baby!
First of all, you two aren’t debating. This is a potential dealbreaker in your relationship or at least for getting serious with your boyfriend. Keep the tattoo. Remove it. Cover it up. If he hasn’t gotten past the tattoo by now, he’s probably always going to have a hang-up when he sees it. I’m trying to appreciate his “There is always something there to remind me” perspective — the dedication ink job is a pretty obvious indicator that you were tattoo-crazy in love with someone once and, depending on where that tat is located, your ex likely spent a lot of time at that spot. Then again, you all should be reasonable adults now and realize that we all have stories, journeys and pasts that led us to where we are, and who we are with, today. You certainly are comfortable with and understand that, which is great; the big issue here is getting your boyfriend to that space.
I would love to know if this is the only sticking point in your relationship for him or you. I’d also wonder if he obsesses over other things about you, your life, your past, your quirks or anything else. These answers could reveal red flags for a difficult relationship road ahead. You sure you want to take that ride?
But if you do want to move in with him and you’re willing to make a sacrifice to make that happen, meet him halfway and just cover up the tat. Hopefully your ex’s name is easily converted to “Carpe Diem!” or “No regrets!” or can be covered by a Baby Shark or something fun and fitting like that.