Ask Amy: Wife's body image and self-esteem are at stake

FresnoDecember 28, 2013 

Dear Amy: My wife is small-chested, but, to my eyes, not unnaturally so. She has expressed concerns that her small chest size might be related to our difficulties in conceiving (but, to be fair, we are both in our 40s), and she is visibly bothered by displays of women with large breasts (which, as you know, are ubiquitous).

I want to tell her that she is normal, but I don't really have enough information to say that conclusively. I do tell her that she is attractive, and believe me, she is. People comment all the time about her beauty, and we have very strong sexual chemistry. I find her body, including her breasts, very attractive, and tell her so.

I do notice, though, that she doesn't do the things that many other women do when it comes to body care. She doesn't shave her legs or under her arms. She doesn't get manicures, pedicures, massages, facials. I'd suggest those things to her, but she would just see it as criticism of her appearance (and she is already very sensitive).

What can I do to help my wife?

— Love Her

Dear Love: If your wife has a fairly constant preoccupation and dissatisfaction with her body, she might have something called body dysmorphic disorder. People with this become obsessed over a "flaw" that others may not notice. This can have a devastating impact on self-esteem and relationships.

You should lovingly reassure her that she is naturally beautiful and absolutely normal and that you love her just as she is. Many women don't pursue facials, manicures and spa treatments; this does not indicate that she is less feminine than women who do.

She should definitely follow up with her physician about her fertility, but she should also ask about her breast size. She should also see a psychologist so she can talk this through to find ways to cope with this preoccupation.

Dear Amy: I would like to thank "Widowed in Bethesda" for his honest and heartbreaking account of what it is really like when a spouse or partner dies. People who have been in your life for a very long time have a way of disappearing. In my experience, the busiest people were the ones who also made time for me.

Like Widowed, initially I wanted to be alone. I wasn't able to tell people what I needed. The most comfort I received was from people who worked to maintain the friendship, even though my life had changed dramatically.

— Been There

Dear Been There: There has been an outpouring of support to "Widowed"; I know his letter is helping other people.

 

Contact Amy Dickinson via email at askamy@tribune.com, follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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