Recently I have had cause to reflect on my relationship mistakes. What bothers me the most about my marriage was my wanton disregard for a key relationship red flag: the “If only you…”

You know what I mean. Those 3 words slipped casually into a conversation (because that hurts so much less) that represent the way we could somehow be better. Because that’s what love is all about, pointing out imperfections to the one you adore so they can fix themselves.

And it feels so grand hearing how great you could be, you know, if you improved yourself. Because then, of course, they’ll love you more and everything will be okay. (And clearly the corollary is that it’s your fault that things are not okay)

If only you were thinner.” (Well, I just have so much me time, you know, with all these work obligations. child care, shopping, laundry, and cleaning. The loving way that you point out my muffin top just so makes me want to take care of myself).

If only you cooked better meals.” (Oh yeah, because dragging the kids through Safeway after work leaves me so much time to whip up those short rib pot pies with a pate brise crust featured on the cover of this month’s Martha Stewart).

If only you dressed better.” (Because it’s great to have the baby barf on the Chanel, isn’t it. And nursing in skinny jeans is simply divine!).

It is possible I heard some variation of the above from time to time (my ex used to give me pictures of how he thought I should dress, now if that doesn’t say true love, I don’t know what the fuck does!). But the one red flag that sticks with me the most is the perpetual disappointment with my hair. “It’s just so frizzy. If only you had straight hair.’ He even showed me information about hair straightening. “Everyone’s doing it.”

Now just like our weight, we girls do not need any help with our hair issues. If it’s straight we want curly, and if curly we dream of the 70’s ironed look. We spend hours obsessing about hair and hair care products. I once tweeted about the perfect mousse that I found for my curly hair (Paul Mitchell, who knew?!) and I had about a bazillion 30 replies

OMG, so THAT was the problem with our relationship. My curly hair. (Of course it was curly when we met, but I digress.)

What’s worse, I took the bait.

Yup, I had that Brazilian Blowout crap. You know, the one they tell you doesn’t have formaldehyde, except that my eyes stung like I was back in gross anatomy lab in 1rst year med school. While my hairdresser was searing that crap onto my hair I felt like I was heaving a cadaver out of its formaldehyde bath. Good times!

And so there I was putting a known carcinogen on my hair to improve myself. To be better in the eyes of the person who supposedly loved me more than anyone else in the world.

And this was the result. (Of course when I walked in the door the reply I got was, “Wow, I didn’t think it would be that straight”).

I can't find a pic of me with straight hair AND a smile

I felt horrible with straight hair.

Yes it was frizz free..and every morning I looked like I had just walked out of the salon with perfectly flat ironed tresses, but it wasn’t me. I have a big hair that matches my big personality. It’s part of what makes me, well, me.

And my boys have inherited my curly hair, but now when we were out and about people would ask, “Where did they get their curly hair? It’s so beautiful?” I swear, every time someone said that, a piece of me died.

And so my straight hair was just one more thing that I did that didn’t fix my marriage, but in the end it was worth it (although maybe not if I get some terrible scalp cancer down the road) because it made me realize that nothing I did would ever be enough. I don’t think that trying to change me makes my ex a bad person, it’s just easier to hope that someone can change into what you want instead of being the bigger person and admitting that you chose incorrectly in the first place.

So I let my hair go back to curly. And I love it. And any guy that doesn’t love it, well, he isn’t for me.

Me and my crazy hair

If someone loves you, they shouldn’t want or need to change you.

Lesson learned.

The hard way, of course.

Join the Conversation


  1. Good god. Forget divorce those comments are grounds for homicide what a insert chosen expletive here.

    I adore your crazy hair. Mine is poker straight. And so is Mr 2’s. When he came out at 27 weeks it was black and curly, I thought it was adorable, and now it’s blonde and straight!

  2. Agreed! the curly hair is much better. Of course, I have curly hair, and it was one of the many criticisms from my ex husband. and the kids hair started dark, went blond/red, and back to dark, so you can’t count on it– and you shouldn’t have to….

  3. Dear, you are beautiful, don’t let anyone try to steal that beauty away from you ever again. I look at those two pics, and am struck by the difference. That smile makes your face radiate. You deserve nothing less. I wish for you a future filled with such smiles.

  4. One thing you can’t do is change someone – they have to want to change and go about it themselves with no ‘encouragement’. I remember a girl back in highschool who said ‘if you don’t like the guy’s personality, you can always change him’ …uh oh. Found out that she now has big relationship problems …

  5. I love straight hair. However, your hair in it’s current non straight state, as they say, fabulous.
    Great smile too. Fab wow.

  6. While that phrasing and those requests are clearly large red bullshit flags, I’d like to think we can be a catalyst for positive change in our partners. “Honey, we need to be more active. Come for a walk with me!”

  7. Just found this blog. I know this is a slightly older post, but your hair is beautiful and so are you. What I finally learned at 38, after a bad marriage and a variety of unhealthy relationships that defined dysfunction (not just romantic relationships, either…some friendships too): if the one who is supposed to love you is trying to change you, (s)he never actually loved YOU in the first place. (S)He loved some idea in his/her head that s(he) projected on to you.

    Funnily enough, one week to the day after I finally had that earthshaking revelation, I met the one who does love me for ME. Two years, one marriage and four cats later, he still does. 🙂 The other day I asked him if he thought I should grow my hair out. He said “Short hair, long hair, red hair, blue hair, you’re beautiful and you should do whatever you want.”

    A romantic relationship isn’t actually necessary for a happy life, but if one crosses your path, I hope it’s like mine. 🙂

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