Wives resent insecure husbands controlling their clothes

By Pham Nga   April 30, 2023 | 08:28 pm PT
Wives resent insecure husbands controlling their clothes
Many husbands who assume that their wives or girlfriends should not wear makeup nor dress up nor do anything that makes them noticeable. Illustration photo by Pexels
Nguyen Thi Hong didn’t think it was a big of a deal: she dyed her hair and bought two new dresses. But her husband wasn’t less than thrilled.

The 37-year-old Hanoian woman told VnExpress that during their seven years together, her husband, Duc Tuan, has never once liked it when she dyed her hair or wore dresses.

Whenever Hong gets her hair cut or curled, her husband gets mad and the couple argues.

At first, Hong thought he was just irrationally jealous, not wanting his girlfriend to be noticed by other guys.

"But after marriage, I realized this is just his natural characteristic," Hong said.

Every time she changes her hairstyle, Tuan asks her to change it back.

"If you’re pretty, even when you wear a brown loose shirt you’d still be pretty," he once insisted.

Aiming to avoid family discord, Hong has sacrificed her personal preferences and often wears no makeup. However, seeing everyone getting makeovers as the Lunar New Year approached this year, Hong wanted to change and improve her appearance to impress her relatives.

Considering Tuan’s personality, Hong dyed her hair dark brown and chose two formal knee-length dresses. She hoped that by catering to husband's tastes she might change his mind. But as soon as she appeared at their front door, Tuan told her:

"You already got married and had children, and still you frolic too much."

He forced Hong to wear thick black leggings if she wanted to wear dresses, to avoid exposing her legs. This time, Hong got mad. She took her children to her parents’ house and stayed there all Lunar New Year.

Nam Dinh resident Nguyen Minh Thu was nagged daily by her husband Minh Tien for buying too many clothes, make up products and shoes. Tien said Thu had more sandals than all the footwear owned by her husband and children combined.

"A countryside dog thinking of herself as a chic urban swan," Tien cold-heartedly mocked her every time she put on makeup before going out. Thu explained to her husband that dressing up was a way to express her respect for others, as well as a way to command respect among others. However, Tien still complained that Thu was wasting the family’s money.

"You got married and had children already, and you don’t need to lure anyone anymore," he told her. "So why do you still need to make yourself beautiful?"

This has been the nature of fights between the couple for years.

Duc Tuan and Minh Tien are only two of millions of husbands who assume that their wives or girlfriends should not wear makeup nor dress up nor do anything that makes them noticeable. This group accounts for 61% of Vietnamese men, according to a study conducted in 2020 by the Institute for Social Development Studies.

Psychologist Nguyen Thi Minh, a professor at the Ho Chi Minh City National Academy of Public Administration, claimed that many Vietnamese men are paternalistic and have an intense sense of possession. They are afraid that they could lose their wives, however, they are too embarrassed to say so out loud. Instead, they simply prevent their wives from dressing nicely.

In fact, men observed that women who dress nicely are often more attractive than those who don’t. They are also attracted to these women themselves, and thus, they fear that other men may flirt with their wives if they dress nicely.

"More importantly, those who don’t want their wives to dress nicely are those who lack self-confidence. They are afraid that they are not good enough to keep their wives loyal," Minh added.

Low self-esteem

Psychologists in Bichat, France, also attributed men’s jealousy to their lack of self-confidence. Those who often feel inferior to their own wives or to other men are those who often worry about their wives getting another affair.

It wasn’t until members of an online forum for married women began sharing these ideas with Hong that she realized everything was explainable.

While both she and her husband were in university, Hong worked and made money herself while her husband was still asking his parents for an allowance. Hong’s current income is now four times higher than her husband’s. That’s why the more invested in herself Hong is, the more worried her husband becomes.

Minh added another reason.

"Many women only doll up when they go out and meet others, while appearing in comfortable "house-clothes" at home in front of their husbands," she said. This could make their husbands get used to their simple appearance and then get cautious when they prepare fancy get-ups for themselves before going out.

Truong Anh Duc, 31, of Hai Duong, has never thought about preventing his wife from dressing nicely. However, differences between the way his wife dresses when she is with him and when she goes out make him upset.

"Sometimes she even wears my shorts because they’re comfortable. Even when we eat out, she still wears her flip-flops and leaves her hair unbrushed. However, every time she goes out with her friends or goes to work, she dresses like a princess," he said.

Minh suggested that instead of insisting their wives dress simply, husbands should cooperate with their wives and set mutual expectations and values. Those who prevent their wives from dolling up because they lack self-confidence should regain their confidence.

Hoang Anh Tu, an administrator of a forum for the married, added that husbands should respect their wives more, instead of regarding them as their possessions.

As one way to test these theories and try to incite change, Hong took photos of her wearing a dress and the thick leggings her husband demanded. When her friends visited the couple, she showed her friends the pictures and asked whether the clothes were pretty. Everyone laughed and described her outfits as "weird," suggesting they would be better without the leggings.

Hong told her friends she feared exposing her legs. They laughed again and called her "too conventional."

Tuan, who was sitting next to his wife, got embarrassed. Since then, he has not asked his wife to wear a dress and leggings at the same time.

But is he really satisfied, or is his silence just a symptom of his discomfort and embarrassment?

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