We all know the saying that love is blind, but we also know the reality is more complicated than that. Your spouse’s appearance is partly a factor in why you love them, and, over time, if their appearance changes, it can affect how you feel about them.
However, it can be very hard to say that. Especially to a man who you know might be feeling body shame. If you are unhappy about the appearance of your spouse’s smile, it can be a big dilemma about how to bring it up. But it can be done in a sensitive way that preserves your relationship and makes you both happy.
Focus on Health and Love
One of the big challenges is that mentioning the topic can cause your spouse to close off to what you have to say. They will stop listening and won’t be receptive to your suggestions. To avoid this, don’t start by talking about the appearance of their teeth and don’t mention cosmetic dentistry.
Instead, open the conversation by focusing on how much you love your spouse and want to have a long and happy life together. Then transition into talking about health concerns you may have about their teeth. Many cosmetic concerns about the smile can also be serious health problems. Infected teeth, missing teeth, and poor gum health are all related to poor health as we get older. Many are associated with premature death.
Focus on these concerns that can impact your quality of life together without bringing up the issue of appearance. It’s critical to focus on positive outcomes to keep the conversation away from hurtful terms that can make your spouse too self-conscious to talk about the issue.
Say You Want Them to Be Happy
Another positive outcome to focus on is their happiness. Tell them you want to be happy. If you’ve noticed that they don’t smile as much as they used to, say so. Smiling isn’t just a sign of happiness, it’s part of creating happiness–people who smile more tend to be happier. So if your spouse is suppressing their smile, they are actually suppressing their happiness.
At this point, you can transition into discussing how their tendency to avoid smiling impacts you. When they smile, it lights up your day–when they don’t smile, your days are dimmed. You can talk about how you’d like to see them smiling in pictures so that you can know and remember that these are happy times. When they’re constantly suppressing their smile, it can make you doubt.
You can also note any other ways you think their oral health might be impacting their quality of life. Are they avoiding certain foods they used to love? Are they eating less than they used to? Are they in pain when they eat, brush, or floss?
Tell Them You’re Not Trying to Change Them
Some people think that you’re trying to change them if you talk to them about their smile. This is another thing that can make people shut off from the conversation. But tell them that’s not what you’re trying to do at all.
Instead, focus on the fact that you’re actually trying to help them be more themselves. For example, you might talk about how they used to smile, but don’t anymore. Or you might mention how they smile in private but not in public. Perhaps they start to smile, but suppress it as soon as they realize they’re doing it or when cameras come out. All of these are signs that their true nature wants them to smile–and that’s what you’re trying to free from whatever’s stopping them.
Don’t Blame Them
Never make accusations or attribute fault to your spouse over the state of their smile. This will make them defensive and they will be less likely to listen to your suggestions. The truth is that fear of judgment is one of the most common reasons why people avoid getting dental treatment.
At Beyond Exceptional Dentistry, we practice judgment-free dentistry: our concern is not how they smile got here, but how we’re going to meet a person’s goals. We focus on the future, not the past.
Don’t Try to Force Them
You can’t force your spouse to fix their teeth, and trying to force them will be counterproductive. Doing things like making a secret appointment at our office, nagging them constantly, or ambushing them with an “intervention” are all likely to undermine your efforts and make your spouse less receptive.
Instead, just express your concerns and hopes. Encourage them to do what needs to be done. Be supportive and helpful, not dominating. Offer to help them do research and go with them to a consultation, if they want.
In the end, it’s a fact of life that your spouse might decide not to get their teeth fixed. And then you have to decide what you are going to do in that case. Make it clear what impact their reluctance has on you. Let them know what you plan to do if they don’t want to fix their teeth. And then, if necessary, carry through.