Q&A with J: Getting Over Your Baggage

I feel like I’ve been answering a high percentage of questions lately from newlyweds. But I’m happy to do it, and I’m sure today’s question applies to plenty of wives in various stages of their marriage. Read on:

I’ve so enjoyed your blog thus far and am grateful for your spiritual guidance. I am a newlywed and want desperately to have a deep sexual relationship with my husband. I’ve found it so difficult to be in the mood though for a number of reasons: 1. My body image is a mess. This is the worst I’ve felt about my body in a long time and I hate being aware of it. How can I be naked and let someone touch me when I hate my body so much? 2. I had an abusive ex that still haunts me and creeps into my thoughts. 3. I was raised really devout Catholic and I still feel guilty for the “dirty” parts of sex. For some reason I can’t get out of this juvenile mind set.

All of this combines to make me not in the mood. Like ever.

I love my husband so much and I want our marriage to be a successful one. Any advice to work through my baggage I would very much appreciate. And so would he.

Other wives, did you see yourself in there somewhere? This reader did a great job of separating out the topics, so I’m going to deal with them in that order.

Q&A with J: Getting Over Your BaggageMy body image is a mess. This is the question so many wives ask themselves: “How can I be naked and let someone touch me when I hate my body so much?” I’ve tried to answer this question in so many ways and enlisted other wise wives to help:

Don’t Touch Me: I’m Ugly!
Facts and Figures
3 Practical Tips for a Sexier You
Husbands, Help Us Feel & Be Beautiful
Feeling Beautiful: A Wife’s Goal for 2015
Feeling Beautiful: From His Perspective
Feel Beautiful in 2015: Fight The Frump!
Feel Beautiful: Dust Off Your Exercise Shoes!
Feeling Beautiful: 8 Things I Learned While Shopping
How Do You Feel Beautiful? with Sheila Wray Gregoire
Put Your Body to Work to Help You Feel Beautiful with Gaye Groover Christmus
Feeling Beautiful Beneath the Sheets with Julie Sibert
Feeling Beautiful Starts in the Mind with Keelie Reason
Permission to Feel Beautiful with Bonny Logsdon Burns
4 Ways to Feel Beautiful When You’re Not Really Feeling It with Jolene Engle

I also deal with this issue several times in my devotional book, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriagewith scriptures and focused prayer.

But today as I leaned back in my office chair wondering if there was anything else I could add, I paused to listen to the background music coming through my earphones. Was it a coincidence that Casting Crowns’ “Voice of Truth” was playing? Maybe, maybe not. But here’s the conclusion of the chorus:

Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe
The voice of truth

I encourage you to go through those posts and my book, which include wisdom and tips about feeling beautiful. But Casting Crowns is right: It’s ultimately about training our minds to agree with God’s perspective of us. It won’t happen overnight. But we can choose to listen, we can choose to believe, we can choose to rehearse the truth in our heads: You are “remarkably and wonderfully made“! (Psalm 139:14 HCSB).

I had an abusive ex. I’m not clear on what type of abuse this entailed: verbal, physical, or sexual. Or even all three. But I’ve seen the damage that domestic abuse causes, the open wounds it leaves in the victims, the pain they have to heal from. Domestic abuse can be caused by a woman or a man, but statistically it is more often the male — and I believe this is Satan at work. As usual, the accuser creates nothing, only twists what God created.

Overall, God made men biologically better equipped to be a physical protector. Man’s physical strength should be used to keep others safe, but Satan turns that on its head and convinces some men to use their might to abuse others instead. It’s a horrible thing, and if you’re being abused, you need to get out and get out now. Your situation is extremely unlikely to change, and will likely get worse, unless and until you break the cycle by pulling away.

Thankfully, this reader is out of that situation and now in a marriage where abuse is not occurring. God be praised! So what about the baggage left over from that awful experience? Once again, it’s about retraining. That was then, this is now. So here are some straightforward tips on getting past the bad memories:

  • Remind yourself that your husband is not that guy. Over and over and over. As many times as you need to. To protect ourselves, our bodies learn which stimuli signal danger and react accordingly. For abuse victims, this can mean that male hand touching you can cause you to tense up, even if it’s a different hand than the one that struck you. You’ll need to do some self-talk to distinguish this stimulus from that one. It will take some time to decouple the stimulus-response, but you can make it happen.
  • Let your husband know what triggers your fear. Communicate clearly which activities cause the bad memories to leap to the forefront of your mind. Explain how he can best touch and arouse you in ways that won’t cause you emotional pain. And look, if there are certain things that need to be off-limits, at least for the time being, tell him. For example, if a young girl was forced to give a man oral sex, she can take that off the sexual menu with her husband, because it’s just too close to the original event. Over time, her comfort in the marriage bed could improve enough that they can revisit that topic, but it’s not reasonable to push optional activities that send you reeling.
  • Have the agreement that you can pause and regroup as needed. If you’re in the middle of lovemaking, and something happens that evokes your fear response, you can call for a momentary break. Just say something like, “Hold on, I need to breathe for a moment.” Then take deep breaths, do your self-talk, and guide your husband on what you need, whether it’s slowing down, touching you elsewhere, or reminding you how much he loves you and will protect you.

Don’t stop being intimate. Because what eventually happens with bad baggage versus our marriage bed experiences is the scales tip. If you put baggage on one side, and your marriage on the other, you can eventually get so many positive experiences of sexual intimacy with your husband that you reach a tipping point. And then sex truly feels like a positive thing. Not that you don’t remember what happened to you, but it no longer defines your view of yourself, men, relationships, and sexuality like it did before.

I still feel guilty for the “dirty” parts of sex. I’m not sure what the “dirty parts” are, but it sounds like maybe it’s the whole kit-and-caboodle. Church tradition really did a number on our perspective of God’s gift of sex. It’s a shame really, but I do see many Christian voices — both in the Protestant and Catholic communities — now trying to correct the fallacies.

I keep coming back to Satan, but really I think that’s where this thing comes from: the effort of Evil to convince us that bad things are good and good things are bad. But read Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter.

Sexual immorality is evil. Sexual intimacy in marriage is good. Let’s not confuse the two.

Sexual immorality is evil. Sexual intimacy in marriage is good. Let's not confuse the two. Click To Tweet

Much of what I said earlier about self-talk, listening to the voice of truth, and tipping the scales applies here. But I’d also suggest that you do an exercise of listing what you believe about sex, then searching for the biblical truth about that subject and the real conclusion. For instance, you might write:

Good girls don’t have sex. Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Song of Songs 2:3-4 Good wives delight in sex with their husbands.
Good girls don’t initiate sex. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits. Song of Songs 4:16 Good wives invite their husbands to have sex.

Once again, Intimacy Revealed is an excellent resource for helping you view sex the way God designed it to be — as an intimate expression of love between husband and wife.

But if you don’t know what’s okay and what’s not, talk that out with each other, remembering the consent that matters most is your Heavenly Father’s. And He smiles on husband and wife sharing the intimacy and pleasure He gifted to marriage.

You have a process to go through, but your mind and your experience can be turned around. Take one small step today, another tomorrow, and so on and so on. Together, you can grow your marriage bed into a beautiful place you both anticipate with delight!

23 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Getting Over Your Baggage

  1. Ashley

    I’d like to comment about the body image thing. I too have had body image issues, and a few months ago I stopped to ask myself why. I mean, other than the fact that it’s a common problem for us women. Here are some memories that I had as I was thinking about things:

    When I was a teen I babysat a little girl who said I was fat. She also made fun of my arms, because they were too hairy. The boys I had crushes on liked my skinny friends instead of me. A couple guys would talk about how gorgeous some cheerleader was who shares my first name. They were always quick to point out that they weren’t talking about me. Then as soon as I lost weight in my late teens, I went to youth camp and a guy there was interested enough to have someone introduce him to me. That seemed to confirm that I’m only pretty if I’m skinny. I have more examples, but I’ll stop with those.

    I’m still working on how I feel about myself, but I think it helps to understand the history that shaped my feelings. Do I really want to let a mean little girl cause me to think less of myself now that I’m in my 30’s? Or what about those immature guys who like cheerleaders? When I put it in that light it’s easier to focus on taking care of myself, being healthy, and having a good marriage.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Yeah, in all honesty, one comment from a friend in college dinged my self-esteem so badly…and she had no idea. It was a throwaway for her, but I carried that criticism so deep for so many years. Thank goodness I finally let that go! It was too much pressure for both of us.

      Thanks for sharing. Glad you’re working on this, Beautiful!

      Reply
    2. libl

      She addressed how she feels. Now she needs to address why she feels this way. I mean, really get into the history. And then explore why she is letting those reasons dictate today. After that she can ask what she wants/needs out of it all? An apology? Understanding? Affirmation? Acknowledgment? Finally, she can decide how she wants to move forward.

      For me, I accepted truth:

      1. I am not everyone’s cup of tea, but I am uniquely beautiful and sexual in my own way. I can present myself boldly to my husband and it is up to him to accept me (or reject me) but either choice does not dictate my beauty, sexuality, or worth.

      2. That boy who inappropriately touched me in 7th and 8th grade has no power or influence over me today. He was wrong. I was young and confused. I forgive us both. That touch 100% belongs to my husband now and I give it fully to him.

      3. Sex is not just for hubby. I am highly sexual, too, and deserve to take charge of my sexuality and sensuality. I have every right to enjoy sex and engage my senses.

      I did not want to wallow any longer, lost in wrongful thinking and hurting myself and my marriage, so I made a decision.

      Reply
  2. Lynn

    Such a difficult situation, especially the feeling that sex is dirty and women aren’t supposed to like it. I’ve often heard the expression “she likes the [male organ]” used in a pejorative way. I worried that my husband would think I was a ‘dirty’ person for sharing in activities that he obviously enjoyed, and he always reassures me about this when I feel compelled to ask him. I’m so glad my insecurities don’t wear him out! At some point, our lives become so much easier if we just put our irrational thoughts (I’m worthless, I’m ugly, what do people think, etc.) aside and refuse them. It’s taken me many years to learn to do this, and I still struggle at times. However, my life is much better now than it ever was before.

    Reply
  3. Mike

    I have so many thoughts running through my head. First, I want to say thank you for tacking these very difficult subjects. Second, I think a woman’s body is so beautiful. My wife is overweight and sagging, but I think she is beautiful. I love to see her nude body, handle it, caress it, and love on her. I cannot understand how women do not like their bodies. Third, I cannot understand how a man can abuse a wife physically. Verbally and emotionally, yes. That is done way too often and I wish I could apologize for all men who do this. Forth, I know I was taught incorrectly about sex in my home and church. It has taken much time and effort, but we have gotten over much of our baggage in this area, mainly due to you and other bloggers who are teaching biblical truth. We are enjoying our marriage bed more than we ever have in our whole lives. I read many of your blogs to my wife. Thank you

    Reply
    1. B

      Hey Mike, I find your comment interesting. I’m a married woman, and I am surprised to hear someone say they cannot understand how women do not like their bodies. We women are bombarded every day, hundreds of times, by images of “perfect” women. We know that photoshop and stylists exist, but still, the pressure to always be better is, well, intense pressure. We feel like we will never, ever measure up. The beauty industry likes it that way and they work very hard to convince us we are lacking.
      Not to mention the weather is warming up, and confident women everywhere are strolling about in minimal clothing, adding to the feelings of inadequacy in the rest of us.
      I’m not that old, and I’m about a size 10. My husband claims he likes my body. However, lately our culture has been telling us that to be beautiful, a woman must possess a certain figure, including a big, round booty. Well, my body isn’t shaped that way, nor will it ever be sans surgery. I struggled with this for a long time. I wore long shirts to cover my non-existent curves, and I complained a lot about how ugly my body was. I honestly felt really, really badly about myself and my worth as a wife. Especially if I noticed my husband noticing the rear curves on another woman. It was confirmation that I didn’t measure up and he was unhappy being stuck with me.
      (That’s not true, he doesn’t feel stuck, but I believed this for a long time).
      Anyhow, I’ve only recently begun to heal, realizing I need to find all of my worth in Christ, not in the opinion of others, not in what the “world” says, and not even in my husband. My husband seems much happier now that I’ve stopped putting myself down so often.
      Anyhow, I’ve begun running, and things are shaping up “back there”, but it’s still not “big and round” and I doubt it ever will be. And it’s okay. I am who I am and my husband says he loves my body the way it is (although I still have a VERY hard time believing him, but I’m trying.) but yes, it’s very, very hard. And yes, I still struggle with feelings of never measuring up, but I am learning to battle those feelings, but it is super tough.
      I am also tall, about 5’9″, and I have mostly tiny female relatives. It brings them joy to put me down, and make fun of my height, and call me names. They have done it since I can remember. As an adult, I have had to consciously battle slouching, because I have been tall since about age 12 and I was horribly embarrassed by it. For many years I truly felt “real” women, “feminine and beautiful” women, must be short, petite, and tiny.
      We are going to an event today. I went out on a limb and bought a pair of heels, which I NEVER wear because of the whole teasing thing. My husband LOVES them. He really wants me to wear my new shoes, even though they make me even taller. I’m going to go for it, even though the tiny women will be there, insults blazing, no doubt – but it’s time I learned to ignore them and stop letting their comments dictate everything I do and feel.
      Thanks for the discussion!!

      Reply
      1. Carly D.

        Hey B! I LOVE your honesty. I can relate to feeling like you can’t believe your husband. It’s a hard, hard battle with skimpy dressed women everywhere. Especially at the pool. I pray we both can learn to freely trust our Heavenly Father! He loves us just how he made us. If we can fully do that, we won’t be so insecure or worried about the women around us. I’ll be praying for us both!

        Reply
        1. e2

          Carly D.

          From what I’ve read elsewhere, those “skimpy clad women everywhere, especially at the pool” are also insecure about their bodies. It seems body insecurity is nearly universal. Tall Ginger-esque women want to be petite Mary Anns while petite Mary Anns envy the tall Gingers (which is probably why they tease you, B… pure envy). I once watched as two teen-age girls compared their toes with each other. One had shorter toes while the other’s were longer. What they shared in common was a disdain for their own toes and a desire for the other’s. This insecurity isn’t limited to the ladies. I am overweight and have reached an age where no amount of diet and exercise will give me the buff body I want. I don’t like how my face is aging. I wish I had more hair on my head and less on my back. My wife never looks at me with desire and I can’t blame her; I’m nothing to look at. I accept that she’s not as visually oriented as I am, but I remain insecure about my appearance. But, while I feel no sexual desire from my wife, I am *not* insecure about her love. I trust her when she claims to love me, even if she shows her love in ways that are different than I would prefer.

          Reply
  4. Eric

    “Newlywed” wrote: “3. I was raised really devout Catholic and I still feel guilty for the “dirty” parts of sex. For some reason I can’t get out of this juvenile mind set.

    I’m going to try to respond to this without raising the hackles of Catholics who may be reading this post. First, let me say that my answer would be the same if she had written, “I was raised a devout fundamentalist Baptist. I am a Baptist with a master’s degree from the Catholic University of St. Francis, and I have worked as a substitute teacher in a Catholic parochial school.

    What I’m writing is a bit of history, so don’t turn me off just yet. It’s basic to the misunderstanding that many people have re married sex–that includes Catholics, Baptists and anyone with a “religious” conscience, but of no particular denominational affiliation. Paul wrote an entire book about it–the epistle to the Colossians–in which he highlights the need for freedom in Christ regarding personal behavior (what we eat, what we drink, and (by inference) how we have sex. Greeks who followed the Gnostic teachings of Plato believed that the physical body is evil, and only “spirit” is good. Christian monastics (ascetic bachelors such as Augustine, Jerome, Thomas Aquinas) who borrowed this philosophy of Gnosticism from the Greeks claimed to have a special mystical knowledge, and that the Christian life consists of crucifying physical desires (especially sex, which they falsely claim was a result of Adam’s Fall) and trying to develop a life of “spirit.” (This is also known as asceticism).

    Paul wrote that “in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2b-3). Not in Plato. Not even in Augustine, but in Christ! Christ reconciled us to Himself “by his physical body [or] body of his flesh” Col. 1:22, NIV & KJV). Notice that our salvation came via an act of Jesus’ flesh–His death on the cross; and in this same flesh He rose three days later.

    “Christ has liberated us unto freedom,” Paul writes in Galatians. So “don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). This liberation includes sexual freedom with one’s spouse, as J points out in her quotes from the Song of Solomon. Read these verses and claim them for your own.

    Eric (who this week celebrated 53 years with the wife whom he still loves to see naked; and who like me to!)

    Reply
  5. James

    J- As a Catholic let me say I appreciate your response to her comment. Some other “writers” have taken that type of comment and simply created lies about the Catholic Church and twisted doctrine. You are correct. Yes both Catholics and Protestants have twisted sex. It’s human nature to do so. But you handled that part in a polite and respectful manner.

    Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Eric

      James’ comment (June 2) is addressed to J, but it also continues a thread re the origins of what he calls “twisted sex,” which I also wrote about. Augustine, who was briefly married, taught that The Song of Solomon was only an allegory of Christ and His bride, the church, and that the Song had nothing to do with human married sex. This was the prevailing opinion of both Catholic and Protestant Bible scholars until well past the middle of the 20th century; it was believed by many well-known evangelical pastors, evangelists and radio and TV Bible teachers. After Woodstock (1969) and the hippie-led sexual revolution, Christian writers and marriage seminar leaders began to reevaluate the S of S. By the beginning of Century 21 a flood of books, and later, blogs, challenged these old ascetic, pietistic, legalistic Gnostic false notions (all four labels fit). This brought new life to passages in the Word of God that promote married Christian sex as a means of joyous bonding, and not merely for procreation.

      Having been taught Augustine’s false doctrine re the S of S, it took me half my married life to get over the shame and suspicion that sex was a bit animalistic and dirty. Too, Bible words and phrases such as “the lust of the flesh” (I John 2:16, KJV) compounded the issue for me–and I’m sure for millions of other Christians born before Woodstock, blew the lid off the secrecy of sex issue. Simply put, the phrase, “lust of the flesh” does not mean the normal appetites of the human body, but the “cravings of the sinful man,” or sin nature (see I Jn. 2:16 in the NIV.

      Satan’s bag of tricks, however, pits human hearts of all generations to misuse and misunderstand the gifts God has created for His children to enjoy. Once we indulge in unclean thoughts and actions (namely sex outside the green pastures of the marriage bed), shame clouds our thinking and we shrink from doing, with our spouses, what God made us to do. I’d like to challenge every man reading this post to lead your wife by practicing some principles found in the S of S: Tell her she’s beautiful in specific ways; say it again and again. She needs to hear this much more often than “I love you”; many, perhaps most women, I believe, struggle with body image IN INVERSE PROPORTION to the struggle that normal men have to avoid unclean thoughts about the bodies of other women. If you enjoy having her naked in private with you, this may be what it takes to get her happily nude–for lovemaking or a private session of skinny dipping. When you make love, please her FIRST; give her orgasm priority over yours. You’ll be glad you did!
      Eric

      Reply
      1. J Post author

        I agree with almost everything here! Except I probably wouldn’t make Woodstock the turning point… Anyway, thanks for the comment. 🙂

        Reply
      2. SadToday

        Eric, I wish you could talk to my husband. He tells me he loves me all the time, and I’m trying to believe him. But…

        “Tell her she’s beautiful in specific ways; say it again and again. She needs to hear this much more often than “I love you.” YES YES A THOUSAND TIMES YES! This may be completely wrong, but I am so sick of empty “I love you”s. Oh I wish he found me beautiful. He claims he does, but I find it very hard to believe.

        And, “many, perhaps most women, I believe, struggle with body image IN INVERSE PROPORTION to the struggle that normal men have to avoid unclean thoughts about the bodies of other women.” AGAIN, YES, I could not agree more! In fact, just this evening…

        We went out for ice cream. It was supposed to be a fun treat. Alas, the young woman selling the ice cream was busty (as am I, but again, I guess I’ll never be enough) and wearing a very tight, white tee shirt. Did he notice? You bet he did! Did he even try not to notice? Um, I don’t think so. Just slap me in the face, please. It would hurt less. I can see that she’s all of 20 years old. I know at times like this he wishes he weren’t married – he’s never said that, but he NEVER looks at me with the same longing I see in his eyes when he notices a new, better, more exciting woman. I’m not ugly, but I’m just not able to compete with every single person, you know?

        The good news? It didn’t bother me as much as it used to. I’m working on finding my worth in Christ, not in my husbands attraction (or lack thereof) to me. I get that he’s a guy and she was kind of hard not to notice. And more good news? I held my tongue. Why start a fight over something I cannot change? So what if he is lying when he says he loves me or tells me I’m beautiful. In fact, he made a nice comment about my breasts this afternoon, but that was obviously a lie, since he found a pair of younger ones he’d much rather gawk at. I wish he’d just not compliment me at all, when we both know he’d rather have said ice cream girl. I know men look, but I’d prefer it not be done right in front of me. It’s hurtful. And the thoughts that go trough my head. They’re terrible. Like, “I bet he wishes I’d choke on this ice cream so he could just leave me under this picnic table and go run off with that much hotter woman he obviously prefers to look at.” Yeah. It’s not a good feeling.

        I’ve decided to keep my thoughts to myself which is a big step for me. But it will be a while before I am comfortable having him touch me again. I don’t like the idea of being his living rubber doll, standing in for whatever woman he is fantasizing about at the time. He says he doesn’t do this, but I have read too much online, plus I saw him struggling to keep his tongue in his mouth while gawking at her tonight, and so I do not believe him. I don’t think he loves me. He loves me like a friend, but not like the most special woman in his life. I don’t think he’s ever made love to me, I think it has been some fantasy girl in his mind every, single, time. How very, very sad. I’d love to, just once in my life, know what it’s like to have a man HONESTLY find me attractive and have me be enough. I’d love to know what it’s like to have the man I love actually want to make love to ME, and not use me as a receptacle. His eyes are almost always closed. Since most things I read say men are visual and love looking at women, this is direct proof that he is fantasizing about someone else.

        I wonder if my husband knew how much this hurt me, if he’d even care. I really doubt it.

        I hope some men read this and learn from your wise words.

        Reply
        1. J Post author

          Okay, I’m just going to say it. Because you’ve commented many times, and I’ve been at this from every angle. But here you go: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” (Proverbs 14:1).

          I will not assert that your husband has it all together or is free of sin. I’m sure he’s got a long list of stuff he could/should do differently (don’t we all?), including that he needs to keep his eyes focused on you. But you are tearing down your house when you refuse to believe anything he says, assume you know what’s in his mind and heart, and treat him like the enemy. I’m so glad you’re learning to get your worth from Christ, but that also means you have a calling to be Christ-like when it comes to your husband. Treat him with grace. Please. Your marriage is in the balance, and I want you and your marriage to someday thrive.

          Praying for you.

          Reply
          1. SadToday

            I hear you, I really do. I try not to read his mind, but honestly, what else could he possibly be thinking while gawking at another woman’s breasts while I am standing right there? And he did it twice. Three times actually. So it’s not like it was just a glance. It’s rude and completely proves he does not find me attractive or desireable.

            I’d like to treat him with grace, and I kind of am by keeping my mouth shut. But I don’t want to be a fool and act like he is interested in me, when I have never, ever seen him look at me with such interest.

            I’m really not sure how to have a thriving marriage while knowing that I am not attractive to my own husband. It’s a really painful place to be. I’m not sure even what grace would be in this situation? Just forget it ever happened, even though it hurts me deeply to know he doesn’t love me the way I love him? That my breasts, that he claims to love, are no longer enough for him? Fine then. I’m okay with that. But do not try to touch them while pretending they are part of another woman. That’s just really unfair. It seems like it would be foolish to just let him do whatever he wants and not be hurt by it. Sorry. I really don’t mean to be difficult, but I hate these situations.

            I am much less angry than before, because I know it no longer matters if my husband loves me or finds me attractive. God loves me, and that has to be enough. I cannot look for my worth in another human. So I do have more peace in that area.

            But no, I’m not going to be happy about the fact that he prefers practically every woman he sees to me. And if he looks with such interest while I’m there, how much does he indulge when I’m not there? It’s painful to think about.

            So maybe you think I’m tearing my house down with my hands, and maybe I should pray about that. But is he not tearing his house down with his eyes? If he loved me, he wouldn’t have stared at her breasts with me standing right there. I’ve watched other men with their wives at church, and they never stare at other women. Because they love their wives for real. I’d love to experience that kind of love from my husband.

          2. J Post author

            I think you’ve read me enough to know that if he was standing here, I’d say something like: “Dude, stop looking at other women! Your wife is the only one who should get that kind of attention. And don’t make her ask if you think she’s hot and you love her — tell her often without prompting. Make her believe she’s the only girl in the world you want to be with!!!” Of course, he’s messing things up if he is indeed seeking out women to gawk at and lusting after them. That’s just plain sin.

            But since I’m talking to you, what I see as a problem are statements like this: “I try not to read his mind, but honestly, what else could he possibly be thinking while gawking at another woman’s breasts while I am standing right there?” Off the top of my head, I can think of several things he might be thinking; for instance, sometimes a woman shows so much cleavage even I (who am clearly not a “breast man”) have a hard time looking away. He could be wondering if those things are real, wishing she’d cover them up more, or even thinking they’re too big. (Yes, there are men who believe in such a thing as breasts being too much for them.)

            I don’t know what he’s thinking, but you’re making leaps from what you observe to conclusions about him and his love and your relationship. And those aren’t the only possibilities. Even if he noticed some woman earlier, that doesn’t mean he’s fantasizing about her when he’s with you.

            Also, you don’t know what’s going on with other men with their wives either. I’ve known men that you’d never guess, but they are struggling with a huge pornography problem or had an affair or haven’t touched their wives in weeks. Maybe those couples you see are doing great, but maybe not. Believe me, I did that so much when my marriage was struggling — comparing my husband to others — and it just doesn’t work well.

            I’m merely praying that you deal with the real issues in front of you. Maybe your assumptions are right, but (and I think this is more likely) you might be off in some of your conclusions and your husband really loves you after all. What if you could work from that assumption and make things better? My heart truly goes out to you. I can hear the hurt in your comments, and I’m praying for you and your marriage to heal completely. May God shine down on you. Many, many blessings!

  6. Amanda

    Actually if you have been abused and suffer from PTSD and sex is traumatic for you, any therapist will tell you to stop having sex for a while in order to feel safe. If sex feels abusive because you havent healed from past abuse, then gritting your teeth and letting it be done to you will make it so much worse (I know from experience). Now I’m not saying thats what you said but one should be careful with advice like “dont stop being intimate”.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Yeah, I totally understand. I didn’t say that, of course. Nothing in my post should be read as “grit your teeth and let it happen to you.” Clearly, that’s not what I’m about. And it’s a good suggestion for an abuse victim to get outside help to work through the issues.

      Reply
  7. Lynn

    My mother had a little book, written in the late 1950s by a Catholic priest, about how to tell your children about puberty and sex. She bought it because my dad refused to talk to my brother about the birds and bees. I have no idea what she actually told my brother, and she never told me more than about menstruation (which she did very well, and two years before I absolutely had to know), but I did read the book as an adult, and I was amazed, because what it said was nothing like what I had learned and believed. For example, it said that once a couple is married, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them feeling physical desire, imagining sexual activity with one another in such a way as to cause desire, anticipating it during the day even with physical feelings. This was a good thing to know, since, as the book made clear, all of these things were sinful outside of marriage.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Hello J-
    I am another wife who has suffered from a poor body image my whole life which has had a negative effect on my marriage. I can relate with Ashley above with her memories of high school I also was ignored by boys, and teased in high school and in college because of being on the chubby side. Those memories stuck and they have affected my entire life.
    My husband is a wonderful man- throughout our marriage, IT DIDN’T MATTER what my jeans size was. When he first met me, I was at a slimmer weight after dieting, and I gained when we were dating and after marriage. No matter what, he has treated me the same every year, no matter the number on the scale. I have weighed a range from 135 up to 185 over 18 years of marriage and 4 pregnancies. It’s as if he looks at me through rose-colored love goggles! LOL!
    My problem is that I don’t like to get intimate these days, because I currently don’t feel good about my weight and aging. I know that bothers him. I want to leave my nightshirt on, lights off, covers on, and I feel ‘uncomfortable.’ I am up to size 14/16, and the higher end of what I’ve weighed in my life, which gives me complete self-loathing. I also read too much on Internet boards, with those anonymous comments about what men REALLY think about overweight women and it hurts! 🙁
    My body image demons haven’t gone away. I just want to get in shape again for ME and to be able to keep up when we go on vacation and go hiking. That is what bothers him BESIDES my frequent refusals of sex- he wants me to enjoy exercise as much as he and our kids do. I can’t keep up on hikes with him and our teenage kids. I wish I liked exercise and running like some of my friends do, but I have to FORCE myself to like it.
    Sorry for the long bloggerific post. I’m happy that my husband still tells me I’m beautiful. After reading the comments here, I feel like I should be grateful for what I have!
    To the woman above whose husband has a wandering eye and stares at busty women- I am so sorry he does that! He needs to accept that it truly HURTS you. It doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t love you! Sometimes it’s as if they can’t help but notice other women in an aesthetic way, the way we like to look at a bright flower garden, or a colorful sunset. It catches their eye. Sometimes a handsome, younger man catches my eye, too- but I look away and forget him an hour later. Just some hunky stranger, LOL! My husband is who I love. I hope that your husband can become more sensitive and loving. It might not be a big deal to him, but it is to you! Perhaps talking about the issue or even better, some good counseling may help.
    As for me, this issue of feeling passionate and confident about intimacy in marriage is something I have prayed about to resolve itself, but the negative feelings keep coming up! I need prayers.

    Reply
  9. e2

    It occurs to me that this near-universal body insecurity goes all the way back to story of the fall in Genesis. When they were first created, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed. After eating of the forbidden tree, they became ashamed and sewed fig leaves together to hide their bodies… but, from whom? The only people they had to hide their bodies from was each other. It appears that eye-opening self awareness (and with it, self-insecurity) is one of the essential curses resulting from the fall.

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Q&A with J: Top 5 Questions Readers Ask about Sex | Hot, Holy & Humorous

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