Grief is an incredibly messy, non-linear process, and there’s really no telling exactly how it’s going to manifest for each person.
But generally, a person should be allowed to grieve how they need to, as long as they aren’t hurting themselves or other people, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Hot_Management6190, however, was not convinced that the tribute tattoo his girlfriend wanted to get on the fifth anniversary of her mother’s death was a wise choice.
Due to her mental health and fixation on the number five, the Original Poster (OP) was worried the tribute had more to do with her fixation than the tribute itself.
He asked the sub:
“AITA for canceling my GF’s tattoo appointment?”
The OP’s girlfriend was still processing her mother’s death several years later.
“My girlfriend has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). One symptom she experiences is her doing everything five times each.”
“Her mother passed away in March of 2018.”
“My girlfriend goes to therapy, and in January of this year, she bought up getting a tattoo for the fifth anniversary of her mother’s death, which would be another appearance of the number five.”
“I suggested she talked about it with her therapist.”
The girlfriend seemed to be the only one comfortable with her getting the tattoo.
“After doing so, she said that her therapist also didn’t think it was a good idea, as she believed that the drive behind her wanting to get the tattoo was her OCD, rather than an actual WANT to get it.”
“However, my girlfriend still went ahead and booked the appointment.”
“After talking with a couple of friends about it, they all agreed that it wasn’t a good idea to make such a permanent decision which has purely been fuelled by her OCD.”
The OP decided to take action.
“If she had somewhat recovered from her OCD, I wouldn’t be so hesitant. However, she hasn’t made any progress.”
“I emailed the tattooist (we have each other’s passwords) and canceled her appointment.”
“I told her an hour before her appointment that it had been canceled, and as she had booked the last slot for the day, she was unable to get it done.”
The OP’s girlfriend struggled with what the OP had done.
“I knew she was going to be upset, but I didn’t really realize HOW upset she was going to be. It’s been a couple of weeks, and it’s honestly crazy how she’s reacted to it, but I am more than certain (and so are our friends) that in the future, once she recovers from her OCD, she will be really grateful.”
“It’s clear that it was OCD-influenced, as it has flared up a bit because of it, and she’s aware of that too.”
“She has described it as making her physically sick when she thinks about the fact she’ll never be able to get a tattoo on exactly the fifth year anniversary ever again.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some were disgusted by how little autonomy the OP was allowing his girlfriend to have.
“YTA. You’re infantilizing your girlfriend. She’s capable of making decisions about what she does with her own body, and it was 100% out of line for you to cancel her appointment.” – CrystalQueen3000
“YTA. You DO NOT get to decide things for her like that. Whether it’s OCD or not, it’s ultimately her choice. You did NOT handle it in her best interest but in what you THOUGHT would be her interest. But you get to have an opinion, not take over.”
“As someone who has a mild variant of OCD, I guarantee you, you have harmed, and you have f**ked up so bad. OCD is a disorder that comes with intrusive thoughts and a fear of losing control you desperately wanted to maintain. What you did is literally make her lose control over a situation by taking it from her.”
“There is a reason why OCD therapy, even exposure, happens in a controlled way and a controlled environment. It’s about building up trust in yourself with help of people who know what they are doing.”
“What you basically did is tell your girlfriend she isn’t to be trusted and shouldn’t trust herself. Well. F**king. Done. (slow clap)” – Narrow_Amphibian_305
“As someone with OCD, not doing compulsions is literally excruciating. If it’s my decision to not do the compulsion, it’s somewhat manageable. Not doing compulsions because someone else FORCED me without my consent? That’s a huge issue, and I would immediately lose so much trust and comfort with that person.”
“YTA. Learn about OCD, and the best ways to manage it, and then support your girlfriend in her decisions. It’s not your job to manage it for her, as if she is somehow completely incapable of making her own decisions.” – Infamous_ad_2979
“Other than it being on the fifth year anniversary, OP gives ZERO evidence as to why this decision to get a tattoo was OCD. I have lived with someone with OCD my entire life, and if the girlfriend’s pattern is doing things in fives, then the natural conclusion to this being OCD driven would be to get five tattoos on the fifth anniversary.”
“If that were the case, I’d be concerned, but it was one tattoo, not five. OP also doesn’t state what the tattoo is of nor why the girlfriend chose that design.”
“And how does OP know what the therapist thinks of the tattoo? Is he going to therapy with her, or is the therapist telling him, and if so, does the girlfriend give permission for this?”
“There are so many red flags that OP is controlling.”
“What really clinches it for me, though, is OP saying that the tattoo must have been driven by OCD because now her OCD is acting up. No, sir, her OCD is acting up because she is STRESSED, which is a trigger for OCD habits. Educate yourself. The higher the stress, the stronger those impulses can become.”
“Additionally, she isn’t upset about not getting the tattoo. She’s upset about not getting it on a specific date that was significant to her. Meaning she recognizes she can still get the tattoo (and likely will, maybe on the 10-year mark, or on the fifth day of a month, or something) and is really only upset that she missed the significant date. This is further proof that the tattoo itself is not the OCD symptom. The date on which she gets it is.”
“OP, YTA, and you need to educate yourself on OCD better.” – Glittering_Act_4059
“The biggest factor for mental health (as I understand it) is whether it causes harm/dysfunction to the individual or others around them. How does her getting a tattoo hurt anyone except maybe her if she regrets it later? But that’s a crap reason to stop anyone from doing anything (on the off chance they might regret it later).”
“I also find it really hard to believe that the therapist said “it’s a bad idea” if the therapist is trained in OCD, then they know these are compulsions, and making a judgment call on something she’s compelled to do would only hurt their therapeutic relationship.”
“OP, YTA for taking this decision away from her and diminishing her autonomy because she struggles with mental illness.” – EPark617
Others pointed out it was up to the girlfriend to decide if she regretted the tattoo or not.
“YTA. She’s an adult, not a kid. You’re treating her like she were your minor daughter. That’s controlling and icky.”
“She may very well regret getting a tattoo, but that’s still her choice to make. Just because someone has a mental illness doesn’t mean people have the right to step in and make decisions for them.”
“The only way this would be okay would be if she were incapable of operating on her own. People with that level of mental illness are usually in institutions or require 24/7 care. Nothing you’ve said indicates this.” – FrederickChase
“YTA. I have mental health issues that cause me to fixate on things, and I have fixated on getting tattoos several times. I’ve only ever gotten one of those tattoos, and I absolutely love it. I had enough presence of mind to know that the other ones weren’t the best idea for me!”
“Your girlfriend can make this decision for herself, and if she regrets it later, she’s in good company.” – Neither-Dentist3019
“My question is… why does it matter if it’s fueled by OCD? If she wanted the tattoo anyway, but her OCD also made her feel like she needed to get it on the fifth anniversary and any other date would be wrong… where’s the harm in doing it?” – ThatInAHat
“I’m no expert, but my guess is the OCD did not cause her to want the tattoo. It caused her to want to get the tattoo on that specific date. Like, she probably would’ve wanted the tattoo anyway, but it wouldn’t have been so important to do it on the 5th anniversary.”
“Unless the tattoo she was planning to get was something completely absurd, I don’t see why OP is convinced this was a bad idea.”
“Death anniversaries are really hard, so I understand why she’s upset that OP interfered with how she was going to honor her mom on that day.” – Sleeping_Lizard
“YTA. Jesus Chr**t, it’s a tattoo to commemorate her mother. Even if the timing was more for her OCD than her mother, so what?”
“You don’t even sound like you understood how much this would impact her, much less have a plan in place to help her cope.”
“At least she’ll have no trouble getting a five-year anniversary tattoo of your breakup.” – Sparrowonawire
The subReddit was endlessly frustrated with the OP for how he handled this situation, not only because he had taken the control out of his girlfriend’s hands in what she did with her body and how she processed her grief, but also because of his seeming lack of understanding of OCD and how its symptoms appear.
If they somehow stayed together after this, the OP needed to educate himself on his girlfriend’s mental health needs. But if they more than likely did not, hopefully, the girlfriend would be able to find a secondary date that was comfortable for her to complete the tribute to her mother.