Making the decision to undergo plastic surgery is a deeply personal, important one. And with most major decisions in life, getting support from your loved ones matters.
Whether you’re considering plastic surgery or supporting a partner through his or her journey, there are several factors to consider. We spoke with Florida plastic surgeon Dr. Armando Soto about the most common fears, questions and ways to approach supporting a partner considering any procedure. Check out his valuable advice below.
What are some typical fears a person considering plastic surgery may have when it comes to telling a partner?
Most often patients are concerned that their desire to pursue an enhancement may destabilize their relationship in some manner. This could be because the patient’s interest might be viewed as selfish by their partner or because it will require a commitment on the part of their partner in terms of financial, emotional and psychological support. They sometimes, irrationally, fear that admitting they don’t feel as attractive as they would like will cause their partner to view them in a less positive way.
Related: How to talk about plastic surgery
What key phrases or approaches would you suggest a person use to share their decision with a partner?
I believe the most important things for patients to be able to convey is that they feel that their outward appearance doesn’t match their sense of vitality, and that this is distressing to them.
At the end of the day, that harmony between the way in which we see ourselves and the image we present to the world is what I provide my patients — and it is very valuable.
However, a partner concerned about the expense, risks and recovery may not always immediately understand. Often, it’s also important that the patient be able to express to their partner that their interest in pursuing plastic surgery is not a symptom of a problem in their relationship or an indication they are preparing to leave. Partners will often worry that this is the case, but not articulate it — making it difficult for the patient to understand the resistance.
I would suggest helping their partner understand that, in life’s quiet moments, when putting on their bathing suit or emerging from the shower and looking in the mirror, they simply aren’t happy. And while they are very grateful that their partner still finds them attractive, they also would like to feel more comfortable with their appearance, and becoming so would make them more able to find fulfillment as a partner as well.
If the partner does not respond agreeably, what do you advise the patient consider?
First, I would recommend he or she carefully consider their partner’s concerns. It may be that they are legitimate and need to be addressed before surgery could safely be considered. I once had a patient who was so eager to proceed with her breast lift that she neglected to tell me that she had been having short episodes where her heart was racing and pounding. Her husband expressed concern about this at her preoperative visit, and we sent her for a cardiac evaluation. It turned out she needed medication for a minor but relevant heart condition, which would have necessarily raised the risks of surgery for her.
If the partner’s concerns can be addressed through education, we always make ourselves available for a second visit with the partner. We want to make sure they understand all the issues involved, including why we believe it is reasonable for the patient to be considering what they’re considering. We help answer any questions and also get into the details of the procedure: its anticipated outcome, recovery and risks.
It is very rare for a patient to express to us that a partner is presenting unreasonable resistance. When it does happen, as you might expect, it is a symptom of a relationship which has already been unhealthy for some time. In these thankfully quite rare situations, we recommend the patient first come to a peaceful and comfortable decision in her own mind about how she would like to proceed, emphasizing that she will need a support system in place before we can move forward.
Sometimes we need to delay the procedure until the patient’s life is less turbulent and their support system is more stable. I always remind my patients that we need to focus on the big picture: being safe throughout the procedure and its recovery, and being happy with beautiful and natural-looking results. So we need to make every decision in a manner which maximizes the chances of this occurring.
How can a partner be supportive both before and after the procedure?
Be present. Come to your partner’s consultation. Ask questions and express your thoughts and concerns. Learn about how you will be best able to assist with recovery. Help keep notes on questions that come up throughout the process as well as any instructions and precautions given during office visits. Most importantly, providing the emotional and psychological support that is often invaluable in the early part of the recovery period.