A Dilemma

October 04 2020 | by

DEAR DR. POPCAK: I’ve been wondering whether it’s right to accept my boyfriend’s suggestion that I get breast augmentation. He says that he likes me the way I am, but he also adds that I would look even better if my breasts were just a little bit larger – and he is willing to pay for the operation himself! Personally, I am uncomfortable with the idea of cosmetic surgery. My boyfriend is, in effect, subtly putting pressure on me. I love him deeply and I fear I may lose him if I refuse. Should I accept just to please him?


Situations like this often cause us to feel torn and unsure of what the best thing to do might be. We want to please those we love, but we also need to do what is healthy and right for ourselves.

First, I would like to refer to Song of Songs 4:7 which tells us, “You are all together beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” God created us in his image and likeness. He loves us unconditionally for who he created us to be. Because of this, he intends for those in our lives – particularly our partner whose mission is to help us get to heaven (just as our mission is to help our partner get to heaven) – to love us wholly with the unconditional love that God has for all of us.

It’s important to understand the true meaning of love, both so that we can know how to love others and so that we can know when we are being authentically loved by others. The Church teaches us that to love another person means “to work for their good.” Thus, when others are loving us, they are working for our good as well. The opposite of love, however, is use. Loving someone builds them up and makes them feel like more of a person. Using someone makes them feel like an object. When we use another person for our own personal gain or someone uses us for theirs, we are not loving the way we are called to love – and certainly not in the way that God loves us. I would encourage you to ask yourself, “Do I feel loved by my boyfriend – as though he is working for my good – when he makes these comments and pressures me towards receiving cosmetic surgery? Or do I feel as though I am being used by him?”

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to decide if you are being used by someone:

       - Does the person make you feel uncomfortable?

       - Does the person make you uncomfortable to say “no.”

       - Does the person ignore your needs or disrespect your boundaries?

       - Does the person pressure you to do things you genuinely believe are not in your best interests?

If you feel this way a lot, or even some of the time, there is a good chance you are being used instead of being authentically loved.

So what do we do? God commands, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This doesn’t mean we have to allow people to continue to treat us in a way that makes us uncomfortable – in a way that we know is wrong – so that we can be nice to them. It means setting and maintaining the boundaries that are necessary for us to have a healthy, meaningful, and intimate relationship with them. In this situation setting a boundary may include saying something to your boyfriend such as, “Maybe you don’t mean to say this, but when you suggest that I receive cosmetic surgery it makes me feel like you’re objectifying me.” Beginning this sentence with the phrase, “Maybe you don’t mean to say this,” helps to avoid falling into the trap of being accusatory; therefore, the other person’s emotional defenses don’t go up and you are more likely to have an effective conversation. If you feel that this is an issue that runs deeper than a superficial suggestion (which I would venture to guess that it is), I would encourage you to set a boundary by asking that you both receive counseling together or that you take a course in the Theology of the Body together to begin to understand the deeper reasonings as to why these comments from your boyfriend fall under the category of objectification and use.

Although setting and maintaining boundaries often feels scary, just as you shared that you fear he may leave you if you say no to him, I encourage you to recognize the importance of setting boundaries so that you can have a more meaningful, intimate, and virtuous relationship – and ultimately so that you can live the life you were meant to live.

Updated on October 04 2020