Ask Athena: Too Much Skin in the Game

An impromptu tattoo can really scar a relationship.

This summer, I met the greatest girl and we really hit it off. Now she just totally freaked me out by getting my full name tattooed around her upper arm – without even asking! She says it’s no big deal (she has a lot of tats) but now I feel this pressure to stay together forever and it’s only been four months! Am I wrong to feel weirded out? Is this a red flag? What should I do? PS we’re both 26.

– Name Withheld by Request, Germantown

Dear No Name,

Fun Fact: tattooing a lover’s name is considered bad luck and a jinx for the relationship. Certainly, such a move seems to be tempting fate.

Whether you believe in superstition or not, the fact remains that tattoos of someone’s name are the most commonly regretted design. Indeed, the hands-down, top reason people give for undergoing painful and expensive tattoo removal is get someone who’s no longer under your skin, off yours.

This is not your problem, of course, but your girlfriend’s. You’re not out of the woods yet, though. An indelible mark may have been made on your relationship as well.

Whether your girlfriend admits it or not, she’s putting unnecessary pressure on your romance. Her tattoo might just be a lark to her, but everyone else who sees your name on her arm will make assumptions. Permanent ink = forever. Is this where you are as a couple? Most tattoo artists will agree it’s kind of a rule to run new ink by your significant other, especially something so highly personal.

Was this an impulse tat? Was she at a convention recently, or visiting a shop with friends, and somehow didn’t have a chance to call you, “Hey baby, what do you think if I get your full name embedded on my body for life?” Does this action reflect clues to her personality? While she could be coming from a good and loving place, there are red flags on top of red flags, here.

image from @..ashlyn.grace

Name tats can reinforce jealousy and possessiveness. Someone who’s confident in a relationship wouldn’t feel the need to make such a conspicuous statement (and so early on). People who are pathologically insecure will often rush important bonding milestones, trying to “lock in” a desirable partner whether or not the feelings are mutual. This is not a healthy foundation.

I’m not telling you to run but… Consider having a conversation with your girlfriend, to share your concerns. There’s a chance she’s picked up on your vibes and may be relieved to have an excuse to get it removed or covered up with more artwork.

Perhaps one day, you’ll both be in the mindset for some matching ink, may I suggest that instead of names, consider complementary designs that form a diptych when you’re together but still make sense on their own (just in case). Remember though that there’s no ink in the world that can keep you two together, if you’re not a good fit.


  1. Relationship ended
  2. It’s a bad tattoo
  3. Professional reasons
  4. Design feels out of style
  5. Partner doesn’t like it

Tattoo regret” happens – and it’s not the end of the world. Though today’s removal treatments are costly & imperfect, a good tattoo artist can turn any shameful stinker into a work of art you will be proud display. Fun Fact: one of the city’s best tattoo shops is right here in NW Philly, on Ridge Avenue at the border of East Falls and Allegheny West.

The only negative thing we’ve heard about Frequency Tattoo Company is that it can be hard to get an appointment, they’re frequently booked solid, with a growing list of staunch clients willing to wait. Highly recommend.   — ed.

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Read last month’s Ask Athena here.

About Athena 46 Articles
When she’s not advising mortals, Athena spends her time on earth in NW Philly with her husband, two sons and a day job where she’s paid to tell important people what to do (naturally). Send your questions to

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