Avoid argument, let partner select own costume

Alison Bowen
Chicago Tribune

Are two people decked out as Barbie and Ken on Halloween the epitome of a healthy relationship?

Not necessarily.

Halloween can be a time for fun soirees. But for couples, it can also mean wrestling over different emotions toward costumes, from passion to indifference to vehement distaste.

One person might hate Halloween. Another might start plotting an ensemble in August. He wants to stay in and hand out candy; she wants to dance in masks until 2 a.m.

Then there’s the price tag adding more fuel to the fire: A RetailMeNot survey reported that Americans buying costumes will shell out, on average, $62 this year. The National Retail Federation offers a more conservative figure — $27.33 — but that’s still money for something likely to be used once.

Whatever a couple decides, their decision must center on the needs of the two people in the relationship, said Dr. Stan Tatkin, founder of the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy Institute in California.

“Any time partners do something that’s unfair or unjust or insensitive without considering their partner, they will pay for it,” said Tatkin, whose books include “Love and War in Intimate Relationships: Connection, Disconnection and Mutual Regulation in Couple Therapy.”

But unlike a onesie costume, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

“Like anything else, it’s really a matter of two people deciding what they want to do,” he said. “They can create any kind of a win-win situation.”

That might look like a costume each person is comfortable wearing, or the more gung-ho Halloween fan agreeing that if he wins the costume battle in October, he’ll agree to an outing the other person chooses at a later time.

But before you visit a craft store or costume shop, you need to communicate. Each party has to be respectful of the other’s choice of costume, Tatkin said. Dressing like a dictator might work, but acting like one doesn’t. So, no forcing your partner to wear something he or she finds uncomfortable. The same principle applies if one partner finds the other’s choice embarrassing or in bad taste.

Although the idea of fighting about Halloween costumes might seem trivial, Tatkin noted that these situations can cause long-term problems when approached without compassion and consideration.

“It is, after all, one night,” he said. “The way people behave over this is more important than whether they wear a costume or not.

“The mistake that couples make is they operate without thinking about the other person,” he added. “Anything they do is going to come back to them, whether it’s (about) a Halloween costume or a house or a vacation.”

Quick! I need a costume!

What can you throw together? We asked the experts.

Mummy: Holly Botsford, a spokeswoman for BuyCostumes.com, suggested wrapping yourselves in paper towels. It’s cheap, quick and easy.

Zombie prom chick: Women can throw on a dress, tease their hair and add some red lipstick to face and arms to resemble blood, Botsford said. Dark eyeliner doesn’t hurt.

Cat: All you need to do is draw a nose and whiskers on your face, Botsford said. (Black eyeliner works well.)

Solar system: Glue Styrofoam balls to your clothes to become spacelike, suggest the experts at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. A partner could be the sun, which is easy enough with yellow clothing and diagonally cut construction paper.