Should Your Partner Have a Say if You Want Botox?

Emily Siegel | January 7, 2016

Cosmetic procedures put relationships to the test


Botox was once the vice, or luxury, of the One Percent. But in recent years, this appearance-enhancing injectable has permeated society — becoming cheaper and more accessible than ever. (Thank you, Groupon.) A New York Times article even reported that 1 in 20 U.S. women has had cosmetic surgery, and Botox procedures were up 748% in 2014 since the year 2000.

As the stigma fades, a new dilemma is rising: do our significant others have the right to determine whether we can or can’t get cosmetic procedures? Feminism dictates that our bodies are ours alone. But what if, in the campaign for female independence, this is one needle point that could damage our relationships?

A growing number of my friends have gotten Botox, so I asked: did they consult their partners? The answer was a resounding no. Not only did they want everyone to think they were naturally plumped and sans lines (no one else’s business but theirs), but they also rebuked their lover’s participation in anything regarding personal appearance: clothes, hair, cosmetics, etc.

So I asked my live-in boyfriend, Jose, about Botox. His reaction — something between horrified and dismayed — caught me off guard. “I don’t think you should do it,” he said. “I won’t tell you no, but I would find it unattractive.”

I was stunned. Because to me, Botox is like Starbucks: you never really want to get your coffee from there, but that shit is convenient as hell. Just because I don’t want Botox now doesn’t mean I won’t be glad it’s there 10, 20 years down the road.

In turning the conversation over, I considered my boyfriend’s right to voice an opinion. Botox isn’t the same as, say, fake eyelashes or a spray tan. This stuff has major implications. It’s expensive and (possibly) dangerous. If I splurge on injectables, it may affect our paying bills on time. Then there’s the whole issue of attraction. There’s a chicken-or-egg thing when it comes to confidence, especially in the wake of Botox: even if it does make me feel good, will that last if he hates it? Is not Botox, after all, a sort of race against nature’s clock?

Questions flooded out: am I on autopilot to not let a man influence my looks? This person is my partner — we make plenty of other decisions together. Does he deserve to participate? Would I expect him to tell me if the situation were reversed? If this were a same-sex relationship, would I hesitate before asking my partner?

And then there’s the argument that we, as women, should make these decisions on our own. That once we open the floodgates, it might be difficult to draw the line between where our partners’ opinions are warranted and just plain regressive.

So I spoke to Matt Lundquist, the owner and director of Tribeca Therapy, a center for psychotherapy.

“A terrible situation has been created in which women are expected to look young and in shape well into their 40s and 50s, but they don’t want their male partners to know how much work goes into looking that way,” Lundquist explains. “They don’t even want them to participate in the decision. Cosmetic procedures should be a joint decision. It isn’t anti-feminist. You wouldn’t make a big decision, like buying a new car, without asking them, so why should this be any different?”

But what if it’s just your car?

Lundquist urged me to look at same-sex relationships. Do these couples feel the same vehement hesitation before letting someone influence their appearance?

Wherever you fall on the spectrum — graceful aging, minor Botox, full-on face lifts —is okay. That’s your decision. But here’s the question, and I’d love to know what you think: if you’re in a committed relationship, should the decision around Botox — or any form of plastic surgery — be strictly yours? Or should your partner have the right to participate? If our hesitation stems from leftover feelings of female marginalization, then is it time to embrace the fact that it’s 2016, and today we treat our partners as partners? Is it time to buck gender norms and just be good significant others?

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; Tod’s cuff, Eddie Borgo ring.


  • Every time I go shopping with my slender friend I’m still surprised by how much she needs another person’s opinion on what looks good on her. “I don’t know how you want to look like” is always my response.

    I was taken aback because I’m the type of person who would go wedding dress shopping alone. Some people are motivated by other’s opinions. Some are not. Neither perspective is wrong, but it’s important that you and your partner have a similar mindset.

    I’ll add that the Real Housewives franchise has effectively scared me away from any Botox procedures.

  • Leandra Medine

    While I can understand why a woman would feel compelled to get sign off from her significant other and can absolutely understand why it’s not anti-feminist to seek that counsel, I still believe that ultimately if in my heart of hearts, i really wanted botox, I would get it. Botox is just another euphemism, like clothing, for doing what you want at your behest. No? It boils back down to confidence at the end of the day and if what will make you feel confident is an injection, then that’s all that matters right? the waters just get murky specifically with any vanity procedures because the impetus there doesn’t feel authentic to who we are as individuals, almost the exact opposite, in fact.

    • Leandra Medine

      but who knows, maybe i will take that back by the time i turn 40.
      also, when considering why we want botox…to preserve “youth” ostensibly — i wonder this: WHY do we want to preserve youth? we’re conditioned to believe that our safety in relationships is always at risk at the hand of a younger woman, so that thinking so engrained in our psychic architecture that we forget we don’t actually want botox? it’s just one more way we feed into the patriarchy? i am looking forward to developing wrinkles, frankly. Joan Didion looks great.

      • Kerrith

        I am almost 40 and my friends are creeping up there too. Recently, my good friend got Botox in that wrinkly area right between the brow and did not tell her husband. She thought he’d think she was silly for doing it. She obsessed over this one square inch of slightly wrinkled skin and after she got the Botox she felt much better/ more confident. I asked her how she kept it from him and she answered that he would never notice something like that. So, it had nothing to do with staying younger looking for him. He doesnt care if she does or does not have wrinkles. Which I thought was an interesting aspect of the story. I for one am good with the wrinkles and greys coming in. My husband doesn’t care as far as I can tell. I’m more concerned with the dullness and am on a constant search for products, and more importantly nutrition and exercise that helps to bring back a little bit of the glow.

        • Stephanie

          Agree! I am pro-botox, although I’ve never gotten the procedure. Like your friend said, I don’t think partners/friends can actually tell you’ve had the procedure. They may notice something like “you look so nice today” but not “you had botox”. Being fair-skinned, I am a hard-core suncreen fan and am hoping that proves to be my fountain of youth.

          • Leandra Medine

            you mean pro-tox, right?

      • sandra

        I also wonder why we want to stay young. It’s like going into a battle you know you’re going loose, so why should we fight it? society is the only part winnning as i see it. I think we should put our energy on doing something (activity) that will increase our confidence and increase our knowledge, but then again we live in a society where we constantly judge ourselves and compare us to models, so it’s hard not to judge our apperence, but it’s not impossible.

        • sarah

          we want to stay young because the young get the attention. the older people who look great are those who care not. their body language is laisse faire

      • sarah

        iris apfel.

      • little c

        I started doing it just after I turned 40 only b/c my doctor suggested it, and I thought WTH. I have kept it up b/c it’s always a little flattering when other ppl mistake me for younger than I am, nothing to do with what my husband thinks. And I don’t really care that much what other ppl think about how I look (and I will always tell my real age if anyone asks) but I do care in the same way that I want to look my best so I buy nice clothes, stay current in makeup etc. I feel good if I know I look my best is all. Whether we like it or not, people actually do treat you differently based on what they think your age is and if you are in a job like mine where you are dealing with the public it can be helpful if they are just not all that sure.

  • Alessandra

    This kind of relates to my theory on asking questions knowing full well how we expect the other person to respond.

    If I ask a particular friend “how does this dress look?” they will tell me I look fabulous without nary a glance in my direction. If I ask my mom the same thing, she will tell me her honest opinion. And we as humans over time learn to anticipate these types of responses from the people we interact with. Maybe we tailor our questions to the people we want to hear a certain answer from?

    I have hereditary wrinkles in my forehead that look like the Grand Canyon, but ya know what? It’s ok! Maybe tomorrow I will dislike them, but we’re allowed to be fickle.

    If I ask my boyfriend “What would you say if I were to get Botox?” he would most likely say “You can do what you want….BUT I don’t think you need it.” (anticipates me needing confidence boost. Kind, but I’m looking for genuine here). If I ask my mother the same question, the ball would be put into my court.

    So I guess it comes down to: who’s a straight-shooter when it comes to questions you ACTUALLY want a truthful answer to?

  • Marion A.

    I think absolutely a woman’s choice is her own however when you are a part of a committed relationship you are in many senses agreeing to share yourself with another person. Thus I think it’s only right to consult your partner even if it’s just to let them know that this is happening. On the other end I’d like to know if my boyfriend with whom I’ve been in a committed relationship with for a year was planning any major changes in his appearance. A few months ago he told me he wanted to get another large tattoo I know that ultimately he’ll get what he wants but I’m happy he considered me.

  • Aubrey Green

    I think it depends on why you are asking your significant other.

  • Beatrice

    I was extraordinarily lucky to grow up surrounded by women who employ the “fuck it” approach to aging. My mom looked in the mirror when she was 45, said “My face is falling,” and then shrugged and got on with her day. But it isn’t that easy for everyone–maybe I am coming from a place of privilege, because I have never truly hated a part of myself enough to change it surgically or with injectables, and the language used around aging when I was a kid was all very positive. Wisdom over conventional beauty and all that hippie jazz.

    In terms of talking to my partner, I absolutely would. We talk about every major decision (and every minor one), so why would I not discuss this sort of financial investment with him? Money and feminism aside, elective surgery like a facelift does come with risk, like any surgery would–talking about that is important.

  • Rocky Mantle

    A say, no; an opinion, yes.

  • I did go wedding dress shopping by myself. Ended up not seeing anything I liked and quite a lot I truly hated.
    What I remember about the experience was I met a number of women on that day who were all on the same solo errand. After the fourth shop and “Hey, I saw you at Xxxx”, it became a girl gang event. It wasn’t so much “Oh, that would be great on you” as “Hey, that is a piece of crap and not worth your money”. Much talking-out-of, no ‘hey, buy that!’ No dresses were bought, but a couple of rounds of drinks later.
    Do we encourage or discourage each other? Depends on the errand I’d wager. And when my girlpal got Botox, she did not tell anyone until months later. Cause…ew…botulism.

  • Jessica

    My boyfriend lost a hundred pounds and has extra skin he is planning on getting surgically removed. When I brought up getting Botox, he was at first against it, but when I reminded him he’d be getting a cosmetic procedure as well, that I don’t deem any more necessary than getting rid of wrinkles on your face, he saw that supporting each other in whatever we want to feel good about ourselves is the best road to take.

  • KKM

    Ok 49-almost-50-year-old weighing in with a HELL no. I was a journalist who was lucky enough to learn about it before it was approved by the FDA and all my friends pooh-poohed me but guess what? I easily look 10 to 15 years younger than they do and they all get it now. My husband thinks it’s “weird” and “odd” but if i hadn’t had it–preventatively–who knows if i would look as young as I did attracted him in the first place? It’s all about how you feel, in your own skin. My thought is a lot of you are so young it isn’t a concern (yet), but aging isn’t for pussies (Bettie Davis quote), so whatever you do to feel good about yourself, go for it ladies! And, like most things, it can always be done in moderation! Once a year will suffice.

  • Amy

    It is ultimately your body. Didn’t our mothers fight for these rights over the last 50 years at least? Why do you need to ask a man to make a decision about your body? If it is what feels right to you, then it is your choice, and your choice only.

    Now if your man would give you the same consideration, like, “Hey i was thinking of getting a nipple piercing or shaving my head bald” then ok, maybe you have an equal type of partnership. But in my experience since it is still a patriarchal society, guys do what they want and women have to “check in” with their significant other. I remember when the ex came home from a “break of 3 months” and was fat, bloated, and cut all his hair off. I was pissed and also disgusted by his appearance. This wasn’t the guy I fell in love with or was attracted to. But at that point, he obviously didn’t care anymore. I think it’s a different thing when a person is trying to better themselves.

  • Alison

    Damn you, Man Repeller! I wanted to read this thoughtful article, but got distracted by the bracelet. That jewelry is gorgeous.

  • Sarah

    If i really wanted the procedure done, I would not require the consent of my partner before going for it. If I needed another opinion I would consider his the same as I would from a same sex partner or friendship.

  • ttmountaingirl

    I had botox and did not ask/tell/discuss with my hubby. Didn’t even think about consulting him or anyone else. Researched it…went and did it cause I wanted too and there is just too much other stuff to talk about. I don’t know who made the rules or implications on how partnership should look….but I found the right guy for me. I told him eventually, like 2 months later. His response…”Thats great..It’s your art, go for it! You are your own canvas.”

  • ttmountaingirl

    I had botox and did not ask/tell/discuss with my hubby. Didn’t even think about consulting him or anyone else. Researched it…went and did it cause I wanted too and there is just too much other stuff to talk about. I don’t know who made the rules or implications on how partnership should look….but I found the right guy for me. I told him eventually, like 2 months later. His response…”Thats great..It’s your art, go for it! You are your own canvas.”

  • wesgerrr

    I’ve always wanted to get a breast enhancement and my fiance really doesn’t want me to. He thinks since I have body dysmorphia/EDNOs/an addictive personality, it could cause a problem. But I also know he doesn’t like the look of fake breasts so I’m torn on what to do. I guess since I can live with my B cups, nothing.

  • hannah sowd

    I’ve been an esthetician for 18 years so I’ve seen the rise of Botox first hand and SO many of my clients hide it from their spouses. For some it’s a money issue but for most it’s the worry of how they will be perceived. Personally, my husband knows I do various procedures (including Botox) but we don’t discuss it, he just thinks I look great. I think cosmetic surgery that requires general anesthesia is a game changer considering the potential risks, that’s a conversation I would have with my spouse.

  • Batch

    An interesting concept. In my personal opinion I find that should I wish to have botox it should be entirely my decision – not my partners. What upsets me most about this is that I should have to keep it secret or even have to make a point of it being my decision. The issue is, every woman that your partner will admire in the press or model.. work extremely hard to look that way. They have botox, boob jobs, personal trainers and chefs in many instances. But its done well and it looks natural. So the issue is, the standards have been set- but many partners will not support you taking these steps as they think it represents a superficial tendency within you. There is a double standard, we are expected to look beautiful but not talk about it. If I talk about it then I am penalised as shallow, vacuos or “imperfect” – thats the greater issue. It takes effort to look a certain way and that should be a part of the discourse if we are to ever truly find equality. A woman doesn’t have to not wear makeup and dress like a man to be respected (though she can wear it if she wants) … a woman can also indulge in feminine and yes, vain pursuits if she wants… because its your own choice.

    instagram : @sophie_batch

  • streats

    I think if it might affect your joint finances, it’s a decision to be made together. As for the attraction bit, I’d consider that as the same as a major haircut; I know it’s not the same, but would you ask your SO’s opinion before chopping off 14 inches of your hair for example? Maybe a tattoo is a better example – would you tell your SO if you were going to get full sleeves or a chest tattoo? What about birth control? My ex hated the idea of the implant so I stayed on The Pill. I figured it affected both of us, but in retrospect I think I should have had more backbone.

    I don’t personally see the appeal in Botox so I doubt I’d ever get it (but who knows), so it’s hard for me to relate, but I think if I decided something was important for me to do, I’d finalise the decision in my own mind and then tell my SO, “Hey, so I’ve been thinking a lot about X, and these are some reasons why it’s important for me to do this.”

  • Fearless Flyer

    If it were something that you may need to take time off for, or to have a significant recovery, or a good sum of money, then perhaps in terms of safety and finances it’d be best to discuss with your partner- however I’m curious what kind of same-sex couple he’s referring to? Male or female – because even then we have different socialisation with male vs. female.
    At the end of the day it’s up to you whether to discuss it with your partner, but the decision can only be made by you. It’s not anti-feminist to have the discussion, but I’d also be wary about what your partner is reacting to – is he thinking of the pool drain lips of Goldie Hawn in the First Wive’s club? The leonine-like sculpture of someone who worships at the house of the scalpel?
    My sister has had botox to get rid of the ‘devil’s horns’ she had when she furrowed her brows. It’s made her happier and no one was the wiser.
    In fact, I think there are many people out there with Botox who we’d never even notice.
    And at the end of the day, Botox, like what you wear, and what you think, is up to you. If it’s something you feel would improve your quality of life, I don’t think it has much difference in the way of people who go to the hair salon every month or two, and in the future I wouldn’t be surprised to see a hair salon with a botox groupon.

  • Myra Esoteric

    I think it’s absolutely sexist that men should tell their wives not to have Botox or plastic surgery. I plan to have Botox as I get older definitely.

  • little c

    OK, if its done right, Botox should not be obvious. Meaning your b/f or whomever should not even be able to tell it has been done. I have been doing it for about 5 years now and altho my husband knows and knew from the start he also knows that no matter what he said I still would do it, but seriously I know he can’t tell. So nevermind, I can’t seriously believe this is even a question!