Planning to get a new piercing is one of the most exciting steps in getting pierced. Deciding you want a new piercing, looking up photos, reading about how it heals, envisioning it on yourself. You get to plan for future jewelry, daydream about all the thing you’ll wear healed. Picture how cool you’ll look with it. This should be a super exciting time! Unfortunately, for many, this is a stressful time. Because deciding to get a new piercing brings with it informing your significant others about your plans to be pierced. For some, this is a conversation met with positivity, support, and love. But for many this is a conversation that is often met with stress, negativity, even fighting. Particularly if one member of the relationship is more interested in piercings than the other, or if one has strong negative feelings about certain piercings. This conversation can quickly turn sour. So this guide is for the partners, the folks in a relationship with someone who loves piercings who may not always know how to respond when their partner wants a piercing. For those who want to be supportive but struggle with knowing the right thing to say, and even for those who have hesitancy about their partners getting this kind of work.
Your Partner’s Body is their Own
Probably the most important thing to remember when it comes to your partner telling you they want a new piercing (or new haircut or new tattoo) is to remember that their body is theirs. As their partner you are entitled to have opinions or thoughts on what they do with their body, but at the end of the day it is their body. They will always have the final say over what they do with it. It’s so easy in relationships to feel a sense of ownership or entitlement over our partners bodies, especially if we have strong feelings about something they want to do with it. But it is very important to remember always that our partners are the most important people when it comes to their choices about their bodies.
Think Before You Speak
This age old adage is a very true one, but sometimes I think we hear it so often we forget to actually practice it. It’s a shame, because this is one of the best grains of advice anyone can take. In this instance, it’s extra important. If your partner comes to you excited and elated about a new piercing or tattoo they are interested in getting and you have concerns and hesitancy- think before you speak. I strongly suggest not bringing up your concerns immediately. Listen to your partner as they tell you what they are thinking of getting. Ask them what this piercing or tattoo means to them and why they want it. Try to listen and understand what they are looking for from this piercing. Offer them simple, even general response. “I’m glad you are excited for this” or “I can see this is going to make you happy, that’s great!” Take the time to really listen to them explain what they are considering and why they want it.
Bringing up negativity right away can make your partner immediately feel bad or shameful about something they were just excited over. It also centers you in a decision your partner is making about their own body. And while you are allowed to have an opinion, yours shouldn’t be the focus. It’s not your body being discussed. Allow your partner time to feel excited and take the time to genuinely listen to them about what is is that excites them about this.
Then, take time to think over your concerns. What is it about this piercing you don’t like or are concerned about? Is it the jewelry? The healing process? The risk of scarring? Specifically, what aren’t you a fan of. Maybe been take some time to google the piercing and look at photo examples of one. Look at different jewelry- is there jewelry you feel more comfortable with, or styles you like more? Are there specific styles you like less? Sometimes after looking at photos we find styles we don’t mind. For example my partner is not a huge fan of large septum jewelry- but it turns out he thinks stacked septums are super cute! Sometimes we look and realize we wouldn’t mind it at all!
After creating a mental (or even physical list) of the things you don’t like about the piercing, weigh those against the responses your partner gave. Consider why they said they were considering this piercing, what it means to them, and what makes them excited about it. Are they considering it “just because”? Or have they been pondering this for quite a while- do they think this piercing will help them with body confidence, healing, or their self image? Is the piercing religiously, culturally, or spiritually important to them? Is is more of a fashion choice? Will it help with gender affirmation? Consider your partners reasons for wanting this. Also, consider the results of getting this piercing. Does it seem like something casual? Or does it seem like something that will effect their happiness, self image, or self worth majorly?
What does it mean to them and what does it mean to you? Is it a deal breaker for you, or just something you don’t prefer. And if its just a preference to you, consider that it may be the thing that makes your partner feel beautiful every day in the mirror.
It’s Rarely “Just A Piercing”
For those who aren’t interested and passionate about piercing they often don’t get the drive and desire to decorate ourselves with metal. They see these piercings and go “what’s the point?” Bur for those passionate about piercings they are rarely if ever “just a piercing”.
For many, piercings are a powerful, conscious way of taking control over your body and the way it looks and saying this is me! This is mine! It’s a way of asserting control over your own beauty and body image. Often piercings are intrinsically tied with body image, self worth, and self confidence. This may seem like a tiny piece of metal to you but to your partner it could be the thing that makes them feel beautiful when they look in the mirror. Think of how you feel when you look at your partner- the way you admire their beauty, bask in their happiness, and the way their joy can feel like yours. Often the way you feel looking them is how they feel looking at their piercings.
For some, piercings are an integral part of their cultures, religion, and spirituality. Piercings have a long and impactful history in LGBTQ culture, many different religions, and many different BIPOC cultures and traditions. Piercings for these people can be a part of their identity, and signify who they are, where they come from, and what they have overcome. They are a part of a persons very identity.
A good relationship is about balance, and being willing to see things from all sides. Take the time to picture your partner and consider what piercing means to them. Genuinely try to put yourself in their shoes and envision what this piercing could mean for them- and what not getting it could mean for them too. Sometimes it is just a piercing, and getting it is no different then trying a different hairstyle. But often it is so so much more then that- and for your partner that piercing could be an integral element of their happiness, self worth, place in their community, or even process of healing from past trauma or pain.
Handle Hard Conversations with Compassion
Not immediately bringing up concerns and worries gives you time to think and fully process things from all angles. But it also allows your partner time to experience and feel their excitement. It allows you to offer your partner space to feel those emotions and center them before centering yourself. After you have throughly thought over things, you are equipped to communicate more consciously with your partner.
I strongly suggest giving it at least an afternoon if not a full day before bringing up concerns with your significant others, giving you both time to process. When you do bring it up, it’s very helpful to restate how much care and consideration you’ve put into this, and also remind your partner you respect them and their bodily autonomy. Start conversations by acknowledging your partners agency and reassuring them. Saying things like “I’m very happy for you that you are excited about this piercing. I want you to remember that your body is yours to decorate and modify as you see fit. I am excited to see you do something that makes you feel happy. I don’t want to take away from that, so do you mind if we discuss some feelings I have about this piercing” Asking permission to start a conversation like that and reminding them you support them in their agency are both great ways to approach your partner with respect for their feelings.
Coming to the table with compromise is also huge. Rather than telling them not to get a piercing at all or even asking them not to, if there is jewelry or styles you prefer ask them if they are open to that. For example, some folks may find studs much more attractive and pleasing then hoops- if that applies to you ask your partner if they would consider wearing studs for this piercing for you. If you are unsure what you like, ask your partner if they’d be comfortable looking at jewelry together and choosing something that you are both excited about. A great way to do this is acknowledge the importance this piercing has for them, and focusing on positives over negatives. For example “I love how excited you are for this piercing! I looked online and saw some studs I thought were really beautiful. Can I show you some and would you consider this style of jewelry? I think you’d look great in it!” Rather than making the conversation about things you don’t like. Telling someone “I love this style of jewelry, I think it’s very nice and you’d look great in it” sounds so much better then “Oh god just don’t do that with your piercing, that looks horrible, you’d look so bad with that”. No one wants to hear they would look bad or undesirable, even in hypothetical.
If you aren’t super familiar with piercings then having your partner looking to get one can be new and uncharted waters. It’s very easy to accidental say or do something that inadvertently hurts our partners or makes them feel discouraged. Remember, impact matters more then intent- and often our intent is good, even as our impact isn’t. Take time to really think through your feelings and words, and put yourself in your partners shoes. Remember this is an often vulnerable and intimate moment- and try to sit down from a place of compassion, not judgement!