Carolyn Hax: ‘Obsessed’ ex-husband insists their daughter has long hair

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Dear Caroline: My ex-husband is obsessed with our 7-year-old daughter’s hair. I once had him cut off inches below his shoulders, and he threatened legal action. He said it hurt him – that he couldn’t look at her for days. I asked him to keep cutting his hair because he is so concerned about its length. She just had it cut, and it looks nice and healthy. My daughter loves her long hair and I’m ok as long as it’s taken care of.

But tonight we found out that her friend had cut her hair. It was the first time I had heard our daughter express her interest in cutting her hair. I told her father and informed him that I could allow him to make the decision on the length of his hair. He will push her to keep it for a long time.

Any tips for co-parenting with this type of person? Many times I “give in” because if I don’t he comes after our daughter yelling, saying bad things about me, etc.

Anonymous: You co-parent “with this type of person” under the regular care of a therapist equipped to handle someone as dangerous as him, to develop strategies to protect yourself and your daughter, and to mitigate the damage he has already caused and that he will do. continue to do, at least in the short term.

You also co-sponsor with an attorney who supports your efforts to document everything for the purpose of demonstrating to the courts the urgency of protecting your daughter against him in the long term. The national domestic violence hotline,, can help you find local support within your means.

As described here, your ex demonstrates a degree of concern and control that is simply beyond a benign explanation. It’s unbalanced. In addition, he is ready to psychologically punish a child – which is forbidden for some reason, but certainly for actions you taken, and especially for such a trifle as the length of the hair.

The fact that his fixation is about his child living up to a traditional standard of female beauty makes him creepy.

Even without all of that, even if we take the scary hair out of the conversation – you say “several times” you change your approach to parenting because you know he will act towards and/or around your daughter when the person with who he’s mad at is you. Wow. This sets his level of maturity at adolescence or less, and his priority to his ego above all else.

With either of these problematic behaviors, it creates a deeply unhealthy environment for a child. With both, it’s a human emergency.

Appeasement is ill-equipped for this task.

I assume you are aware of this, but face the real and demoralizing problem of having your hands tied, at least for now, by custody arrangements. But I type it out loud anyway because the sense of urgency is easily dulled by necessity and daily routine – and what you describe calls for a sense of urgency that is fresh in the morning and renewable daily until so you can limit your daughter’s exposure to the toxic environment she calls “dad.”

Get the psychotherapist ASAP (resources here:, talk to a seasoned lawyer, and start treating this as way more serious than your little girl’s hair length.

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