Carolyn Hax: ‘Obsessed’ ex insists their daughter have long hair

Dear Caroline: My ex-husband is obsessed with our 7-year-old daughter’s hair. I once had it cut an inch below her shoulders and he threatened legal action. He said it hurt him — not being able to look at her for days. I have asked him to keep getting her hair cut as he is so concerned about her length. She just had it trimmed and it looks nice and healthy. My daughter likes her long hair and I’m fine with that as long as it’s taken care of.

But tonight we found out that her friend cut her hair. It was the first time I heard our daughter express an interest in getting her hair cut. I told her dad and let him know that I’m okay with letting her decide the length of her hair. He will urge her to hold it long.

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Advice on co-parenting with this type of person? I often “give in” because if I don’t, he takes it out on our daughter by yelling, speaking badly of me, etc.

Anonymous: You are co-parenting “with that type of person” under the regular care of a therapist who is able to deal with someone as dangerous as you, strategizes to protect your daughter and yourself and the Mitigating the damage it has already done and will continue to do, at least in the short term.

You are also co-parenting with an attorney who will support your documentation efforts all to demonstrate in court the urgency of protecting your daughter from him in the long term. The National Domestic Violence Hotline,, can help you find local support within your means.

As described here, your ex shows a level of concern and control that is simply beyond benign explanation. It got out of hand. Also, he is willing to psychologically punish a child – which is forbidden for some reason, but certainly for actions she took, and especially for such a small thing as hair length.

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That his fixation with insisting his child conform to a traditional standard of female beauty makes it creepy.

Even without all that, even if we take the creepy hair thing out of the conversation — you say “often” that you change your approach to parenting because you know he’s opposite and/or close to your daughter behaves when the person he’s upset with is you. Wow. This sets his maturity level at an adolescent or below and his priority as his ego above all.

With each of these problematic behaviors, he creates an environment that is deeply unhealthy for a child. With both, he’s a human emergency.

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Appeasement is ill-equipped for the task.

I assume you’re aware of this, but face the real and demoralizing problem of having your hands tied by custody agreements, at least for now. But I’m typing it out loud anyway because a sense of urgency is easily blunted under the hustle and bustle of necessity and daily routine — and what you describe requires a sense of urgency that’s fresh in the morning and renewable daily until you’re able to limit her daughter’s exposure to the toxic environment she knows as “father”.

Get the psychotherapist on board ASAP (resources here:, speak to an experienced attorney, and start looking at this as a lot more serious than the length of your little girl’s hair.

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