We've totally reached peak tattoo culture with Reuters reporting that 40% of millennials have at least one tattoo. Even in this atmosphere of tattoo acceptance, there are two sacred tattoo don't's:
1. Don't get your partner's name tattooed on your body.
2. Don't get matching tattoos with a partner.
If you do either of these things and it ends badly, be prepared to be the subject of a snarky Buzzfeed article filed under "Fail." The sentiment behind these cardinal rules is that when you inevitably break up — impulsive people that you are — you'll regret sharing a tattoo with your ex. Britney Spears and Kevin Federline got matching pink and blue dice tats together after they got married. Samantha Ronson and Lindsay Lohan also got matching heart tats on their wrists to celebrate their not-quite-eternal love.
Ronson, Federline, and Spears ended up getting the tats removed.
Some people think matching couples tattoos are a jinx. One of my favorite TV shows, The L Word, even built an episode around matching tattoos — a couple got matching tattoos on the back of their necks and their friends called it the "kiss of death." SPOILER ALERT: One half of the matching tattoo couple ending up cheating on the other and eventually left her at the altar.
No matter what, if you get a couples tattoo, people are going to judge you and question your judgment overall.
All of these thoughts rushed through my head as my fiancé and I sat in the waiting room of a tattoo parlor to get our matching tats. My first tattoo was an compass rose on my upper back. For me, the tattoo symbolizes my grandmother, Rose, and the compass points remind me not to second guess myself and to have faith that I will point myself in the right direction. My second tattoo was a cluster of peonies cascading down my upper arm and I got them because they are pretty and also because they symbolize good fortune. Who doesn't want more of that?
One evening, we found ourselves walking past New York Adorned, a shop with a really great reputation. We were both itching to get some new ink, but also didn't want to spend a huge chunk of cash since we are saving for our wedding. We hadn't planned on getting matching tattoos, but we had each wanted small anchors on our wrists before we even met. Unlike my purely decorative peony, my anchor tattoo has a lot of symbolism for me. My deceased stepfather was a sailor and he had an anchor tattooed on his forearm. He was a really stabilizing force in my and my sister's lives, during some rocky times. After his sudden and untimely death, that stability disappeared. My partner was also drawn to the stability that an anchor represents.
If I'm being completely honest, I wanted to have a matching tattoos with my partner. In spite of the stigma against it, there was something about getting them that felt special. My fiancé is my best friend, we love tattoos and we do almost everything together, so why not this? The fact that we both wanted the same thing just made the choice easier to justify. So, we decided to go for it together.
I love our matching tattoos. I enjoy the physical reminder that we are in it together for the long haul, even if friends and family think I'm crazy for getting it. "What are you going to do if it doesn't work out and you have this stupid tattoo that reminds you of the other person forever?" is something I've heard a lot.
But, partly because I'm divorced, if anyone knows that sometimes the things you think will last forever won't, it's me. I've survived the aftermath of a divorce. Before I met my current fiancé, I was married to a really wonderful woman. We couldn't make it work. I know that the things that hurt aren't physical. The dismantling of a shared life, the crumbling of the future that you were counting on, the crushing disappointment of your ex-partner; those are the things that hurt. I didn't get a matching tattoo with my ex-wife, but my regrets about the relationship run deeper than ink. If my fiancé and I ever breakup, and hopefully we won't, I would be too devastated over the demise of our relationship to worry about a splotch of ink on my wrist.
Plus, because the tattoo has meaning to me independently of my relationship, I wouldn't want to remove it or cover it up. Although, I would say that's a viable option if you get a couples tattoo and really need it gone.
Another lesson that divorce has taught me, is that if you aren't "all in" when it comes to your relationship, it doesn't stand a chance. I would rather live and make decisions that assume we will be together forever, rather than plan for things to fall apart. I don't think that getting a tattoo with your significant other is a huge mistake, even if the relationship doesn't last forever. Lindsay Lohan never lasered off the heart she got when she was dating Samantha Ronson. A tattoo that you share with a former partner can be full of meaning and remind you of the good parts of the relationship.
It doesn't have to be a "fail."