I have what seems to be a petty problem, but it’s really becoming an issue in my marriage. My husband and I have been together for almost 20 years and have three kids. We are well-educated, have satisfying jobs, and still enjoy each other’s company, with one exception. He has recently grown a beard. In years past he has occasionally had a beard for a short while, and each time after a few weeks he’s gotten rid of it, to my relief. I hate it. I don’t find it attractive, and more importantly I hate the way it feels on my skin when we kiss or do anything more intimate. This time, he’s refusing to shave and has made this beard into a “love me, love my beard” situation. I finally told him not to even try to kiss me until he shaves. This led to a huge fight, and we’re barely speaking. I can’t help the way his beard physically makes me feel! Help!
Where are those crazed Amish beard cutters when you need them? It makes no sense that you and your husband are both bristling with indignation and your marriage is on a razor’s edge over some facial hair. I don’t hate beards, but generally I prefer the clean-shaven look. My husband has had a beard all his adult life. When we were dating I once asked, “So, have you ever considered shaving off your beard?” He answered, “No,” and that was the end of that discussion. Partners should be sensitive to the visual and tactile effect they have on each other. But one spouse is entitled to make a reasonable style choice that doesn’t fill the other with joy. Your “It’s me or the whiskers” approach is not working, so you should do an about-face. Apologize for escalating this disagreement, then say something like, “I can’t exactly say your beard is growing on me, but since it is growing on you, and I love you, I’m going to try to love it.” As a favor, ask that your husband get his beard professionally trimmed occasionally and that he wash it with a good quality shampoo and conditioner. All that may soften his rough edges and get you to again enjoy being close.