- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband is making me have plastic surgery to save our marriage. We managed to save about $25,000 while he was in Afghanistan and he wants to take about $15,000 and use it for me to have surgery on my nose and breasts. I am very disappointed in him for the way he is acting about this. He even suggested I go to Brazil to have the procedures because it would cost less money.

Ms. Vicki, we are not rich people and as you know, the economy is terrible. We are like most people who are in an upside-down mortgage. We moved in to our home almost two years ago and have no equity. There are so many things we could be doing with $15,000, like doing some renovations to increase the value of our home or just plain saving the money for retirement or our children’s college.

Instead my husband is telling me he’s always felt my nose is too big and that my breasts are too little. He even had the nerve to tell me this has been a total turnoff for him for many years. He says being deployed three times has given him a new perspective on life: You only get one life to live to the fullest; so he wants a woman on his side who looks good, and I don’t right now.

Where did he get this view of life? Goodness, the women in Iraq and Afghanistan are fully clothed. I know he did not get to see beautiful women when he was deployed to those places.

I’m really concerned about his behavior and I’m scared he is going to drop another bombshell, like “Oh, by the way, I want a divorce.” Am I crazy Ms. Vicki; is this really about my big nose and my small chest? - Husband Wants a New Model

Dear Model,

I regret saying it like this, but “Houston we have a problem.” First of all, if you are happy with your nose and breast size, then good for you. It’s your nose and your chest. Your husband can’t make you have a surgical procedure you oppose.

I have several friends who are military spouses. Many of them had plastic surgery with money the family saved while the service member was deployed. However, these spouses wanted to have the procedure. They were not forced or coerced.

I have a big nose, big lips and a huge head. I wouldn’t change these features if I could. I like who I see when I look in the mirror and I don’t need validation from anyone. Now I have to be honest. If there was a pill that would zap away 40 pounds, I would be the first in line to buy it. Believe me, I still like what I see, I simply commit every day to eating healthfully and exercising.

Back to you and your husband. Something must be going on with him. After all of these years he tells you he has always been repulsed by your appearance? I’m sure multiple deployments can give one a new outlook on life. I just thought it would make you focus on what really matters.

In this case, I recommend marital counseling. Your husband is being very critical of your personal appearance all of a sudden; this is not a good sign. I believe he’s up to something, and I’ll leave it at that. In the meantime, let him know you would like marital counseling for the both of you. If he refuses, then speak to a counselor on your own. What you are enduring is not good for your self-esteem.

You can seek counseling services on base or contact Military OneSource to be connected to a provider in your community. The services are free.

Here’s the deal: Going to Brazil won’t change this situation. There’s an elephant in the room. It’s time to figure out what it is. Stay in touch.

Reader responses to previous columns:

• I read the March 19 letter from “Lost in Translation” with interest. It has brought back a sea of memories. A few years ago I was also a new Army wife, far from home overseas and a physical therapist. I can relate to many of the things “Lost” is complaining of. I went from supervising therapists at a well-known teaching hospital to a small base in Europe, where the pecking order was related to my husband’s position.

Since we were overseas, most of the spouses did not work. I, too, felt like the odd man out. Fortunately I was able to make friendships that I have to this day with a few of the women.

Seek out people who have similar interests. Even though they may not be employed, they can be interesting and knowledgeable ladies to have as friends. Working in itself does not make someone interesting or a good friend. Minimize your contact with those who are petty or who are interested in one-upmanship. Living off post is an excellent suggestion.

An Army life is different than civilian; embrace its benefits. Speak at the women’s luncheons on a topic with which you’re familiar. Physical therapy can benefit everyone; give a talk on exercises for new mothers or running injuries. Students love to hear about the career options in physical therapy.

Become active in your own way in the Army community. Looking back I laugh at some of the mistakes I made when getting accustomed to the Army ways, but cherish the friends I made. - Physical therapist in Md.

• I read your March 19 response to a wife who went overseas with her husband to Japan. I couldn’t believe the answer you gave her.

You know and I know the reason he is mistreating her is because he is seeing a Japanese woman. I’m an Army wife and was married 40 years to a GI before his death. I’ve seen it all; you’re still too young and don’t know what’s going on or you don’t want to believe it, but it is true.

Tell “Trouble in Japan” what’s really going on so she can save her marriage. The woman he’s seeing is trying to get a free ticket to the United States, and everybody knows they will do anything to get here, even if they have to break up a marriage. Tell her the truth.

- Ms. Budcigs

• I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful column. I read it each week in The Washington Times. You give honest answers to the questions you receive - answers that people are afraid to give these days for fear of offending someone.

- Casey in Alexandria

• Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her Dear Ms. Vicki column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearmsvicki @yahoo.com.

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