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Honesty is essential in a relationship. But just how honest should you be?

That question is at the center of a rather curious legal suit that made the news last week. A Chinese man divorced his wife for giving birth to what he considers an ugly baby girl, sued her and — astonishingly — won!

Believing the baby to be the result of an affair, the husband underwent a DNA. Sure enough, the baby was his and that’s when his then-wife fessed up — she had about $100,000 worth of cosmetic surgery done to her before they met.

He sued her on the grounds of false pretenses, for not telling him about the plastic surgery and duping him into thinking she was beautiful, which brings up some interesting questions.  Is cosmetic surgery deceptive? (Update: the story is a hoax, although, yes, the husband divorced the wife, but over her infidelity not her surgery).

Why do so many people, women especially, undergo cosmetic surgery? And, how honest must they be about it?

Addressing the first question, plastic surgeon Bryan Mendelson, author of In Your Face, says “people have surgery not to impress others, they do it to impress themselves. For many people, it’s about getting their confidence back,” and almost all of them don’t tell their spouse. One study of Norwegian women who had cosmetic surgery indicated 20 percent had eating disorders.

Meanwhile, sociology professor Victoria Pitts-Taylor, author of Surgery Junkies: Wellness and Pathology in Cosmetic Culture, points to the incredible power of the cosmetic surgery industry that holds many of us sway:

“Women who get cosmetic surgery are pressured to have the right reasons for doing so. So women are not supposed to be especially vain. They’re not even supposed to say they’re being competitive. Instead, they’re supposed to use this liberal empowerment language — ‘I’m doing it to do something positive for myself.’ The cosmetic surgery industry has really capitalized on this and has kind of sold cosmetic surgery back to women through the language of liberal feminism.”


Still, must women or men always tell their partner they went under the knife?

Never mind the study indicating that 24 percent of men would like their partner to undergo cosmetic surgery, especially liposuction and breast implants, because they think she’ll look better (not sure I trust the study’s results based on who conducted the survey, but still).

But, what “should” we fess to? Fake boobs aren’t easy to hide, period. Nose jobs, however, aren’t always as “in your face.” Tummy tucks, chin lifts and lipo? No one can tell, so why tell? Botox and Restylane? Sometimes, it’s pretty apparent, especially when women get to the point of having an immobile face. Facelifts? They can be disastrous but often aren’t.

How much cosmetic surgery would you have to have to feel compelled to tell the truth? Or does it only matter if you’re making babies and your children may look radically different than one parent?

Getting back the angry Chinese husband, I am somewhat perplexed by his anger; making babies is a crap shoot. Some of the best-looking couples I know have birthed some rather odd-looking babies who grew up to be good-looking young adults. It’s the story of the Ugly Duckling. My parents called me Khrushchev when I was born because I wasn’t all that cute and evidently looked like I could have been the former Russian president’s kid — or the Russian president himself. About 18 months later, I started to get with the family genetic programming. Thankfully, I don’t look like Khrushchev anymore. Crisis averted! And my two sons are very good looking and look nothing like each other, despite working with the same genetic material.

And really, wouldn’t the husband wonder why his wife looked so different from her parents and siblings, assuming he’s met them?

But, I digress.

Few of us are honest when it comes to attracting a mate, surgery or not. As one study about mating strategies notes, perhaps somewhat dishearteningly, “although honesty is considered a virtue, it is not quite the norm when it comes to mating strategies. Men and women engage in deceptive practices to obtain an edge and to profit at the other’s expense.”

Sounds like what Ms. Cosmetic Surgery did. She wanted to snag a husband to be the father of her children, and, after spending $100,000, she did.

Was she wrong?

As one of my fave people, behavior economist and The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone — Especially Ourselves author Dan Ariely, says few of us are 100 percent honest.

Everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats — just by a little. Except for a few outliers at the top and bottom, the behavior of almost everyone is driven by two opposing motivations. On the one hand, we want to benefit from cheating and get as much money and glory as possible; on the other hand, we want to view ourselves as honest, honorable people. Sadly, it is this kind of small-scale mass cheating, not the high-profile cases, that is most corrosive to society. tweet

So there you go.

I’m not sure whether being less-than-honest about your cosmetic surgery is the kind of “small-scale mass cheating” that is “most corrosive to society” or not. It certainly was enough for her then-husband to feel pimped.

Was the husband wrong? Was the wife wrong? Were they both wrong?

What would you want to know about your partner’s cosmetic surgery choices, and why?

Photo © starush/Fotolia.com

One Response to “Should you tell your spouse about your cosmetic surgery?”

  1. Michele says:

    Many women hide their cosmetic procedures from their husbands, including surgery. Manily because men generally speaking think their wives are beautiful regardless of how their wives may fell about their looks. Here is a blog I wrote on this subject,

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