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Tattoos

People Talk About the Tattoos That Outlasted The Relationships They Celebrated

"Think of it as a marker of an important moment in your story, good or bad."

by Ellen Falconer
04 February 2019, 2:00pm

All images by Aleyna Martinez

Getting a tattoo with or for a romantic partner is a risky business. There’s even an old tattooing legend that says it’s a curse to get a tattoo of someone’s name or initial.

So what happens when the ink lasts longer than the relationship? VICE spoke to four people who got a tattoo for their boo, and far from being a source of regret or embarrassment, everyone we spoke to had a remarkably philosophical, even laissez-faire, take on couple tattoos.

These days getting a cover-up or laser removal is often easier than the break-up itself, so there’s no reason tattoos have to be permanent if you’re no longer attached.

And, hey, if you want to get a King of Hearts to match her Queen, who are we to stop you?

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Freyja, 23

How long have you had your tattoo for?
Three years in June.

Why did you decide to get it?
We were in Perth together as he was working over there, so had been doing long distance. We both wanted to get tattoos but weren’t sure what to get. I had always wanted to get this at some point and when I showed him he really liked it so decided to get it too.

How do you feel about it now that the relationship has ended?
Sometimes sad, but it is my favorite tattoo and still a nice memory.

Would you ever cover it up?
I’ve thought about it, but no I don’t think so.

Would you get another tattoo with/for another partner?
Definitely not.

Anything else you want to say about couple tattoos?
It’s just totally pointless really.

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Jana, 34

How long have you had your tattoo for?
Fifteen years.

What is the significance of it?
I actually got the tattoo just after the relationship had ended. She had moved to the UK and that was why it ended, so kind of sad. Throughout the relationship I had wanted to get it, then when we broke up I still wanted it, to mark that relationship, person, and time in my life. She was my first love, and taught me a lot, being older when I was a mere 18/19-year-old. The tattoo is a symbol/logo she designed for her freelance work, intended to look like a Japanese stamp.

How do you feel about it now that the relationship has ended?
I'm ok with it, like I said I got it after the relationship had ended. Over the years the association with her and that time has faded – now it’s just a thing on my arm. We are still friends to this day; she still can't really believe I have her name on my arm. The symbol is made from the letters in her name.

Would you ever cover it up?
Yes, but only because of its placement and if I want to continue my sleeve.

Would you get another tattoo with/for another partner?
Yes, and am about to get a 'marriage tattoo’ with my wife.

Any final thoughts?
Carpe diem.

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Jessie, 23

How long have you had your tattoo for?
I’ve had it for about 10 months now. It’s on my outer thigh on my right leg.

What is the tattoo of?
I got a rat. It’s a beautiful rat, but I got it because my ex-partner was born in the year of the rat. I’ve always been somewhat cautious about getting tattoos for people, and I thought that the association was perfect – we would know I got it for her, but an average person walking down the street wouldn’t.

How do you feel about it now that the relationship has ended?
I still love the tattoo. It’s gorgeous, and I love people’s reactions when I say I have a tattoo of a rat. Just because the relationship is over, it doesn’t mean that that person is no longer important. It’s a reminder for me about that time, and more importantly the growth I had after ending the relationship. Plus my ex loves that I have a tattoo for her, and I can’t let her get away with enjoying it too much.

Would you ever cover it up?
I don’t think I would ever get it covered up, but I would definitely add to it in an effort to shift the meaning, or I might just leave it. All my tattoos are a work in progress, regardless of how finished they look, and some of my earlier tattoos no longer mean what they meant when I got them.

Would you get another tattoo for another partner?
I probably would. I think it would just depend on the person I’m with, and what I was considering getting tattooed. I definitely wouldn’t get a name or something obvious, but I would get another tattoo for my partner similar to the one I’ve already got.

Anything else you want to say about couple tattoos?
I don’t think that couple tattoos are a bad idea; I just think that people execute them wrong. I got a tattoo for an ex, and I’m not left with a tattoo I don’t like. I love my rat, it’s beautiful, and it has a story attached to it, but it’s still a tattoo I can show new friends and potential dates without having to explain the reasoning behind it.

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Cara, 24

How long have you had your tattoo for?
I’ve had it for about six-and-a-half years now. It’s on my rib cage.

Why did you decide to get it?
It was my first tattoo, which I got for my first love. I wanted my first tattoo to have meaning so his initials seemed like a really good idea at the time.

How do you feel about it now that the relationship has ended?
For the first year after we ended I was very conflicted about it. I didn’t regret it but I wasn’t happy about part of him being on my body now I was moving on.

Would you ever cover it up?
I debated this for so long and ended up getting a quote underneath it instead by the same tattooist. It felt like better closure than just covering it, because in the end, he was three-to-four years of my life and he helped me grow and learn a lot about myself and what I deserve.

The quote I got is, “Life is like writing in pen, you can cross out your past, but you can’t erase it.”

Would you get another tattoo for another partner?
I’m definitely not against it. But I’d get something small and a symbol rather than initials. Every tattoo I have reminds me of a part of my life and another couple tattoo would do the same, whether we stayed together or not.

Would you recommend getting a couple tattoo to others?
If anyone’s considering getting one and is worried they’ll regret it, don’t be worried. Think of it as a marker of an important moment in your story, good or bad.

This article originally appeared on VICE NZ.