Dr. Love, I have been dating my girlfriend now for about a year. We love each other very much and see each other every day. I am very serious about her but lately some things have been bothering me and I don't know how to bring them up to her without insulting her or hurting her in anyway.
My problem is that I am not finding her as physically atractive as I once did. She doesn't seem to want to take pride in her appearance. I always try to look my best for myself and for her, but she doesn't seem find that as important as I do.
Since the start of the year I don't think I have seen her more than twice in anything other than sweat pants, jeans, or casual pants (once was a wedding). She doesn't want to do her hair 'it's only hair' is what she says. These are things that I find important and at one time I thought she did too.
I know she can look beautiful, she did when she courted me. I have tried shopping with her, which she hates, and everything I suggest doesn't fly. She is large chested and difficult to fit, so buying her anything without having her try it on doesn't work.
I have tried little hints about appearance, but if they had worked I wouldn't be seeking advice. We often talk about long term plans for the future and I don't want something so shallow-sounding to get in the way of that but lately this is something that has been eating away at me, and I hate that it bothers me.
I don't know if the problem is mine, hers, or a little of both, but I don't want to lose the woman I love. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.
I can see the bind that you are in. You don't want to hurt her feelings, so you've been dropping hints. Only one problem, the hints are falling on deaf ears.
Sometimes people let themselves go when they are depressed. You didn't mention that she is, so I have to go with the other possibility: That she is letting herself as a communication to you. Since she knows very well how important her appearance is to you, her not making an effort with her looks seems like an act of aggression against you.
It's as though she's saying through her behavior, 'You want me to take care of myself, well, screw you.' Our job is to find out why she is desregarding your feelings. Is she angry with you? Does she feel that you don't consider her feelings or needs?
It is very common for a person to dish out what he or she feels she is receiving. In order to find out if she is angry at you or feeling unconsidered, you can ask the following series of questions: 'I have mentioned on several occasions how important it is to me that you make more of an effort to tend to your appearance. So far my requests have been ignored. How should I interpret the fact that my requests are not being responded to?'
Also ask her how she wants you to feel about her behavior. Try inserting the feeling you do have into the question.
For example, 'Should I be feeling, ignored, unimportant, not special (or whatever you do feel) when my requests are ignored?' Also, ask, 'What is this behavior telling me? You might also ask, 'Are you feeling that I don't consider your feelings or needs?' And, 'Why would you want to push me away? Are you mad at me?'
These are the main questions that will get at the heart of the issue. You can use any or all of them at your discretion.
Bottom line, don't get locked into a power struggle in which you focus on her lack of self-care. Her lack of attention is a symptom of a deeper issue, and getting stuck on trying to force her to change the behavior will cause you to miss the point. You want to get beneath the symptom (the lack of effort) and find out what feelings are causing it.