Dear LetterBalm: My girlfriend and I recently got engaged. She’s a great person, and I know we’ll be happy together because we’re compatible in all the important things, including that our families and friends are happy about us being together. We’ve set our wedding for next Spring, but the way things are going, I’m worried about whether we’ll get married at all. I’ll be happy with a small service, not necessarily in a church. I wouldn’t even mind eloping. But my fiancée is adamant she wants the full treatment – formal rehearsal dinner, big wedding party and church ceremony and fancy reception with all the trimmings. My fiancée and I and our families can afford a big bash, so money isn’t the issue. I don’t like the ostentatiousness and wastefulness of it all. I’m afraid our commitment will get lost in all the trappings. But she won’t let it go. What can we do?
— Uneasy Groom
It looks like you and your fiancée are facing the first serious test of your impending life together. How well you resolve this will suggest the tone of your marriage. So, Ms. L.B. cautions you to tread carefully. First, ignore advice from family and friends; you don’t need more opinions. Have a private, loving talk with your fiancée and ask her several key questions. Listen and don’t interrupt, even if you disagree with her answers. Your goal is to separate her needs, which are more serious, from her wants, on which she can compromise. Both of you should get what you need, but not at the expense of the other person. You must see where your needs and wants align with hers (and, suggest premarital couples counseling):
Natalie, we’ve been going at each other about our wedding, and I know it’s the first big fight we’ve ever had. I’m as demoralized about this as you are. Honey, can I ask you a couple of questions about things that have been bothering me? Why is a big wedding important to you? [Listen.] O.K. I get that. What are the wedding things you absolutely need, you must have? [Listen.] What are the wedding things that you want, stuff you can compromise on? [Listen.] It looks like we’ll have to make compromises so that both of us get what we need, but not at the expense of the other person. I have an idea that I think you might like: Since we have time before the wedding, let’s book some sessions with a couples counselor. An impartial expert might help us with this and other things that could come up after we get married. Look, I love you and I know you love me. Let’s do this for us.
Dear LetterBalm: My daughter is going into her senior year of high school. She was a cheerleader for two years. Last week they had tryouts – every cheerleader has to try out every year, and a committee of teachers and coaches makes the selection. My daughter and two other girls didn’t make the squad for next year. Her old squad members have been kind and supportive, but my daughter is devastated. Cheerleading was a big part of her life, and she feels humiliated in front of her classmates. My heart goes out to her. How can I help her?
–Sad for My Daughter
Ms. L.B.’s heart goes out to your daughter, too. A 17-year-old is learning young that life isn’t fair and that sometimes one is humbled in a very public way. Please don’t make light of her feelings. Don’t tell her that “it’s just cheerleading” or “you’ll get over this, you’ll see it won’t be that important.” Acknowledge her pain and the difficulty of her position. Gently guide her to see that, yes, this is a challenging time for her but that she’s a strong person and this loss shouldn’t define her for the rest of her time in high school. Remind your daughter that she shouldn’t give in to mean thoughts and behaviors – she should be kind to the girls who are taking her place because her pain isn’t their fault and she’s been raised to show integrity when things get tough. Talk to her gently, mindful that this is an exquisite teachable moment you and she will remember always:
Taliyah, I know this has been a sad and difficult time for you. My heart goes out to you because I see you in pain. You’re embarrassed, too, especially because everybody at your school knows what happened. Sweetie, this is a tough time for you and it will last awhile. But believe me when I say it will fade, it will just take time. You’re a strong person – remember how much you practiced to make the softball team and how hard you worked to earn first prize in the science fair? You’re amazing – and, I know you’ll work just as hard to begin your college applications and finish your senior year strongly. I also know you won’t use this as an excuse to be unkind to Jada and the other girls who made the squad. You weren’t raised that way; besides, you’re not a mean girl.
Dear LetterBalm: All my life, I’ve been flat-chested. My breasts look like two quilt squares, even though the rest of my body is O.K. I’m currently dating a man whose previous girlfriend had ample breasts. I compare myself to her in my head all the time. When we go out, I think he’s looking at other women with great bodies. Lately, I don’t even want to take off my bra when we have sex, which makes him mad. I’m afraid my boyfriend will break up with me because of my small breasts, but he says I’m perfect the way I am. I really love him. Should I have breast enlargement surgery?
You seem to have focused all your lack of self-confidence on your breasts. But even you admit that the rest of you is acceptable. Ms. L.B. wants you to bear in mind that some of the most beautiful, talented and desirable women in movies and theater have chests flatter than pancakes. How about Keira Knightley (pictured), Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Cameron Diaz, Debra Messing, Kristen Stewart and Natalie Portman? They don’t obsess about their attributes, and they attract some of the sexiest dudes on the planet. From what you say, your boyfriend finds you attractive; a lot of men don’t fixate on bosoms and, in fact, like smaller breasts. And, remember that many women would kill for a slim, pretty figure. Consider a few sessions with a cognitive behavior therapist to change your own attitude. You certainly don’t want your anatomy to get in the way of your true love. At some point when you’re feeling better about yourself, you might seductively take off your bra and tell your boyfriend this, keeping it simple and not bringing up the subject again:
Lester, I’ve been such a goof about my chest and I’m sorry for obsessing about it. You’ve always been nothing but devoted to me, and it’s clear you really love my body. We’re crazy about each other, and we love each other just the way we are. I’m lucky to have you, sweetie.