Forget What You Look Like While Making Love

I no longer care what I look like when my husband and I make love.

Let me clarify. I do care about being clean, shaving my legs, wearing something sexy, etc. But I used to be so self-conscious about the expressions my face made or how my body might appear to him in certain sexual positions. I wanted to look beautiful throughout — just like how lovers look so attractive throughout the sex scenes in movies.

I confess to even sucking in my tummy or lying at an angle that made my breasts look more perky or posing in what I considered sensual ways. You know what happened? I just made it harder for myself to get fully involved in the experience. I was taking a part of my brain and focusing it on my looks rather than the sensations I was feeling, or his gaze-worthy body, or the intimacy we were enjoying.

How about you? Are you too aware of what you look like while making love? Are you self-conscious about your body and your facial expressions? Do you feel uptight in some way as you try to control how you come across to your beloved husband?

Blog post title + illustration of woman making satisfied expression

I suspect he’d rather you stop all that worrying and get far more into enjoying the experience. Just keep a few things in mind:

He’s in love with you, not your glamour shot.

Look, it’s great to spruce up for your husband and present yourself in a way that makes him feel special and you feel confident. But at the end of the day, your husband knows what you look like. You’re not going to fool him by sucking in every time he walks into a room, or he’s going to start wondering why you always look constipated.

If he’s interested in or responsive to making love, then your husband knows he’s getting the whole you — not the you from your 1990s glamour shot. And honestly, he’s no glamour shot himself. We are real people with real bodies, and our desire for sexual intimacy in marriage goes beyond what you look like in any particular moment. It’s about the life you have together and nurturing an even deeper connection.

Enthusiasm trumps appearance.

Husbands often tell me that they want their wives to express themselves fully in the marriage bed, untethered and with enthusiasm. What makes you look good to your husband is the expression on your face showing that you’re enjoying what’s happening and the shifts in your body that might make some parts less objectively pretty but show that you’re “into it.” He wants you to let go.

And I almost hate mentioning this, but I believe a big part of the appeal of porn for men is just that these women seem so eager and excited about sex. I am NOT saying you should be your husband’s porn star (jeez, I hate that saying), but it’s informative about what men intrinsically desire. What God intended is surely not for any man to use porn to satisfy these longings, but rather for a covenant husband and wife to be enthusiastic in their marriage bed. Just read how the wife in Song of Songs speaks: “Take me away with you — let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (1:4). She’s in a hurry to get busy, because sexual intimacy is part of her intense love for her husband.

Sex is funny.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Sex is a funny activity. It’s funny-peculiar and sometimes funny-ha-ha. Of all the ways God could have gotten this procreation thing done, we have to get naked, get into positions you don’t really use for other activities, and then make movements that are really quite amusing if you think about it. Personally, I think this shows that God is in favor of joy and fun for His creation, and we should embrace the humorous part of sexual intimacy in marriage.

Once you accept that as part of the whole deal, it frees you up to be more playful and vulnerable in the bedroom. Suddenly, when you grunt like a wild animal in the middle of sex, you’re not embarrassed, but rather tickled by how much you were getting into it. (Likewise if it’s him doing the camel grunt.) You don’t mind the funny facial expressions, because that’s part of the whimsy of lovemaking. Hey, even if you fart right in the middle, you two might just laugh rather than freak out (yes, it’s possible).

If you learn to lean into the experience, not stressing about your appearance, then you and your husband will enjoy lovemaking even more. And I’d bet you’ll look really good to him, all excited about having sex together.

But if this all sounds like a tall order for you — forgetting what you look like while making love — my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, has more tips on preparing for a night of vulnerable lovemaking and letting go in the moment.

50 thoughts on “Forget What You Look Like While Making Love

  1. Nick Peters

    I’m a man who weighs about 110-120 pounds. I am extremely underweight. That will never change. I used to be self-conscious about my body. Then I married my wonderful wife.

    Now I have no problem flaunting my body around her. I don’t care if the rest of the world sees a scrawny little weakling. She sees her man and that’s all that matters.

    And this post is definitely true. I don’t care about having a supermodel. My wife is beautiful to me and I don’t give a darn what anyone else thinks and yes, her enthusiasm is everything to me. It means so much to me to know I can bring such joy to a woman like that.

    Reply
  2. libl

    This is something that bothers me. I am mostly fine with my body (though I avoid leaning forward because my breasts sag in a funny shape when I do). But, my face I am keenly aware of. I am a….ahem….unique beauty and while my face isn’t anywhere near conventional beauty standards, my “orgasm face” is even farther from it.

    95% of the time we have sex in the light, but I actually climax better in the dark because I can just let go and not worry at all how I look. I TRY not to worry at all, but it is there all the same. I am learning prettier ways to climax without losing my intensity and pleasure.

    Reply
      1. Libl

        I don’t know, J. Probably not. He has told me how beautiful I am while asleep when I know I don’t look like sleeping beauty judging by the drool on my pillow. Lol!!

        Our current sex life is still rather new to us. We’ve had many years of problems, and he never really used to open his eyes and look at me during sex. And we also went through years of him not giving me an orgasm. (He still doesn’t exclusively. I masturbate during intercourse, but he is a LOT more involved in the process than he used to be.) He only within the last 12 to 18 months has started actually watching me during sex. So, it is actually a fairly new phenomenon despite being married for so long.

        I think I am more conscious of it, too, particularly my bust and my face because he has seen so many movie sex scenes and those are the two areas, even in more mild sex scene films, that are emphasized….a beautiful O-face, and perfect breasts. How can he see so much of it and not be affected by it? To me it is similar to him seeing something that looks hot on the catalog model with big boobs and is tall and lean. So he buys it and I put it on and it looks horrible because I am not that body type. I can just imagine his confusion as his mind flips from perfect model to me in the same outfit and wondering why I don’t measure up. I can see the disappointment that his hopes for the hotness the model achieved isn’t achieving it in his wife.

        Not that I am less than the model, but it is that phenomenon of seeing something (fantasy) so much and allowing it to conjure feelings and emotions and then discovering that reality cannot compete. Instead of understanding reality and cultivating what works within those parameters.

        We have grown enough that should the outfit faux pas happen we laugh about it, but it still carries a twinge of hurt.

        Wow, I wrote a lot more than I intended to. Readers Digest answer: no, hubby probably doesn’t mind at all.

        Reply
        1. J Post author

          Maybe you should keep that conclusion in mind.

          But I do hear you about the movies and magazines setting completely unrealistic standards. It’s really messed with us in subtle ways, and we have to step back and realize those actresses and models have directors, makeup artists, hair stylists, personal trainers, and airbrushing. I try to never forget the famous quote from Cindy Crawford who said that SHE didn’t look like Cindy Crawford in real life. And shouldn’t marital love be about real life?

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          1. Nick Peters

            Let me say this as a man.

            What if your man was hesitant to take his shirt off around you because, well, you see all those movies and all these guys have a perfect six pack and such and he doesn’t and he doesn’t think his body is good enough for you and you’re judging him and wishing he was one of those guys.

            You would probably feel offended and/or saddened and tell him you love him just the way he is. You married him and that isn’t going to change.

            Why not think of your husband thinking the same way? When I see a scene like that in a TV show, my thought is “I would love to be doing that with my wife right now.” I’m not comparing her body to theirs.

            We men are simple. We just want to see you.

          2. J Post author

            Yeah, I appreciate that comparison. I do believe, however, it’s hard for men to understand how much constant pressure women in particular have to be beautiful according to current standards. Men have pressures in other areas, but it’s body image concerns affect more women than men and societal messages play into that a lot. I guess I’m saying that we’d also like husbands to be patient and encouraging as we struggle against the tide. Thanks, Nick!

          3. Nick Peters

            I get the thing about the media, but here’s the deal.

            First off, guys can have this too. We notice women looking at the much more muscular people and such. I remember before I met my Allie that I would sometimes be with girls in a break room during work and they would talk about guys and only talk about their bodies. Any time I heard them say they just wanted a nice sensitive guy who cared about their feelings, I called bullocks on it. I was right there and was always overlooked.

            Second, the media does do this to women, sure, but here’s the difference. The media isn’t in the bedroom. The media isn’t watching. A woman making love has an audience of one. If she gives any message that she is not good enough, she is actually projecting that onto her husband and saying that he thinks that way about her. She won’t be free with her husband as much as she could be. She’s also implicitly saying he thinks about her just like the media does. I don’t think this is intentional, but that is the message.

            No one else needs to be in the bedroom literally or even in one’s own head. The media isn’t there. You have an audience of one. Don’t put ideas on him he never gave. My audience of one finds my body pleasing and that’s all that matters.

          4. J Post author

            Nick, I absolutely agree that men also receive messages from the media that are damaging to self-image (particularly in the area of physical strength). I also have heard husbands say they feel sidelined when a wife won’t simply believe her “audience of one” and feels the continued pressure of outside messages.

            However, I would really encourage you, and other husbands, to simply accept that you don’t understand completely what it’s like to be a woman in our society. Any more than I understand completely what it’s like to be a man in our society. We certainly can understand overall what it’s like for the other gender, but not having walked exactly in those shoes… I agree that we should spur one another on to clearer thinking and believing our spouse. But it’s not a switch women can just flip; it’s a process to replace the negative messages (external and internal) with greater self-confidence, our husband’s viewpoint, and — most importantly — God’s perspective of our worth.

          5. Nick Peters

            J. I agree with you about the media, but I follow the idea of telling yourself the truth. Women focus so much on what we’re not focused on. I adore my wife’s body and it makes no sense to me that she doesn’t realize that. We can talk all we want to about the media but women must tell themselves the truth. The media is not in the bedroom. I agree also with E2. When I see a sex scene like that, I think she really wants sex. That’s what a guy wants the most. He would rather have a plain Jane as it were who really really wanted sex, than to have a Miss Universe supermodel who had no desire whatsoever.

          6. J Post author

            I agree with everything you said, except — again — I feel the need to point out that it may make no sense to you, but it’s a challenge for women. Honestly, some of what you men do makes no sense to us, but there you go! Male and female are different, but thank God for that, eh? 🙂

          7. Nick Peters

            Yes. It is a challenge, but it all depends on what one will believe. Will one believe a lie or the truth? Who is the person they married?

            It would be interesting to see a post on the things about us men that don’t make sense. I think we’re pretty simple really.

          8. e2

            It *is* hard for us to understand. When I met my wife, she had small breasts. When I asked her out for the first time, she had small breasts. When we were making out on the couch and I tried to steal second base, she had small breasts. When I proposed, she had small breasts. When we said “I do” she had small breasts. We have been married for decades, during which I have steadfastly lusted after her small breasts. Yet, throughout those decades, rather than seeing how much I love and desire her breasts, she has compared herself to large breasted celebrities and often apologized to me for her small breasts.

            So, yeah, we don’t understand. I don’t understand why my expressions of desire for my wife’s breasts are so ignored while the perceived messages from the fashion industry are so easily accepted.

            And, we don’t understand why women are often more concerned with their appearance than their sexual enthusiasm. If I see a steamy love scene on TV, I’m not thinking, “Wow, she has large breasts.” I am thinking, “Wow, she really wants sex.” The bride in Song of Solomon did not think herself beautiful saying she had neglected herself, but she still wanted sex with her husband saying “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.”

          9. osueyedoc

            We we take the assumption that the media equally portrays men and women in equally sexy ways, the response of women and men are different and we cannot change that. God can help us to change that response, but I think it is more difficult for women because, as we all know and J has said many times, the greatest sex organ is the brain. I think that is true for women more than men though. We are more visual and strive to be more intimate through our thoughts. Women need to mentally prepare for and feel sexy with their thoughts before being satisfied with their visual stimuli. So each sex is working towards the same goal: intimacy. How we get there is different depending on where we start. Men start visually and women start mentally. As long as we are going on that path, God will help us. He cares about our marriages.

  3. osueyedoc

    It’s all very true. Just like anything else, a husband’s perspective is different than the wife’s perspective. Maybe my wife feels differently, but I can’t remember making love in the dark to avoid having to see out bodies. We’ve only done that a handful of times anyway. I think her body is beautiful in any form, but she’s always been sexy and I don’t see her any different than when we got married at age 23 (we are 40 now). It has taken years and much convincing for her to understand that her body is not only beautiful, but something sexual that God has given to have pleasure and to become intimate and more united in our marriage. I love how you mentioned the funny things that happen during sex: the sounds, positions, fluids, faces, etc. It really can be embarrassing early in the marriage, but when you can get over that and realize that you both have different sounds, positions, fluids, faces, etc, it can add to the fun and also the visual stimulus of sex. All of those things are now a turn-on for both of us. We try and have the washer running, the fan on, and music going to avoid having our children hear us because we make lots of sounds! We both feel overuse of positions can take away from the intimacy, but we still try different ones a little at a time. I won’t get into fluids, I’ll leave that up to J. My favorite is the faces – one of the best visual turn-ons for me, especially during climax. And that feeling is very much mutual for both of us.

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    1. Nick Peters

      If wives knew how much we good men are utterly amazed and stunned at their beauty, they’d never be self-conscious. Proverbs tells a man to delight in the wife of his youth. Why not give that chance?

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      1. Boymom

        Tears nearly. Tell your wives again and again. Don’t give up. Don’t get defensive. It’s just as bad to be the one NOT chosen when the boys and men try to date the same 5 girls. It’s been said here a lot, but I have to add, a woman (me) can grow up with no idea she is beautiful to men. I have a lovely, curvy, but plump body….yet the only real date I ever has was with the man I married. He couldn’t get enough of me. Then I discovered the pornography. I thought I was his beautiful, and I was devastated by his betrayal. I wasn’t the one he preferred. He preferred to look at them and not me. He quit looking at me. And never told me I was beautiful or even looked good. Now, 19 years later….he is finally in recovery and I’m so happy. But the recovery for me is hard…hard to believe it. So, don’t assume she really knows.

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        1. Nick Peters

          Boymom. J knows me well and is friends with me on Facebook and has been interviewed by me on my podcast so she knows all of this well, but I don’t stop doing what you’ve recommended for my wife. My wife has her own weight problems. On top of that is bipolar and depression and PTSD. I have been woken up in the middle of the night as she panics from a hallucination and never once complained about it. (Not that I’m thrilled of course.) I post on my Facebook every day except Sunday a message of love to her and a marriage meme. I regularly compliment and praise her. For me, it’s just going to take a lot to break through a wall she’s built for a long time. Oh. We also both have Aspergers which makes us a unique relationship.

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  4. Bill

    Wow! Thanks, Doc– beautifully, tenderly, and passionately written. My wife is 77 and I’m 83 and we both are passionate lovers still after 45 years of marriage– at least twice a week, but if it were up to me I’d make it seven times a week. Even after all the years I cannot get enough of my beautiful wife. We’re mostly loving each other orally for at least an hour and a half each time, and, boy, are we good at it! Fantastic! Thanks again for writing.

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  5. Lyn

    I am so grateful to God for giving me a husband who could make me, always shy and lacking confidence in myself, feel like a sexy bombshell, despite that extra 25 pounds, despite my insipid commentary and sometimes silly singing during our intimate moments. Yes, the goofy stuff is fun, and as I like to tell him, even more so because it’s our secret, just between the two of us.

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  6. married guy

    Hi,

    I just wanted to add that women also struggle with porn. In fact, the most recent statistics put it at about 50/50 in terms of viewing porn. That really shouldn’t surprise us since God put powerful sex drives in both men and woman and when those are satisfied either could be tempted toward a variety of damaging things to fill the void left by rejecting spouses. Thanks for your article.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Yes, women also struggle with porn. I don’t think the 50/50 is accurate, but it is more than many people think. Thanks for pointing that out.

      Reply
  7. anonymous for his privacy

    My husband is a very humbly self-confident man, and he didn’t worry at all about my seeing his ostomy bag, nor did he ever say anything suggesting that he felt badly about it. Not sure whether it’s his confidence or men really feel very differently about their bodies than women!

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  8. Four Under Four

    I have to say, it’s a bit frustrating to read all these comments from the men. Can you just trust that it’s different for a woman than it is for a guy? Please?! And quit saying how it doesn’t make sense? Just because something is not in line with your personal experience does not mean it is silly, wrong, or a lack of effort on the woman’s part. I could easily say the same about a lot of the stuff men tend to think or do, but that wouldn’t be right. And if a woman’s looks didn’t matter to men, there wouldn’t be billions of dollars spent on advertising that revolves around beautiful women. I realize that to most men, their wife doesn’t need to look perfect all the time, but most men still struggle with looking sideways at the models so the message that women receive is “I’m wife material, but he wouldn’t mind if I could look like that model while I’m at it”. I am not saying any of the men commenting here are like that, but just that it is a common thing and women do feel the pressure, making it hard for us to believe that our man didn’t just “settle”for what he could get.

    Also, while I understand the appeal of an enthusiastic bed partner, it is discouraging to me because I sometimes have to struggle so hard just to be a willing one, and enthusiasm seems like a bit much to ask, lol! Our bodies are just a treat sometimes, aren’t they?

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    1. J Post author

      YES to your first paragraph!

      As for the second one, I thought about that with lower libido wives and wondered if it might leave a wrong impression. I don’t believe enthusiasm requires a wife have an independent, before-sex drive, but responsiveness in the marriage bed and being able to embrace and enjoy physical pleasure she feels. Indeed, a woman’s body may not cooperate and that can be frustrating, but treating sexual intimacy like a positive experience for yourself and your marriage rather than a duty (which, sadly, some lower libido spouses do) is more what enthusiasm should look like there. Hope that clarifies! Thanks.

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      1. Four Under Four

        Thank you! That helps a lot! I make an unending effort to be willing and available, and when you said “enthusiastic” my heart sank a little, because I just can’t always muster up emotions of excitement. I do see how treating sex like a duty would be discouraging for the other spouse. I sure hope I don’t come across that way to my husband!

        And I’m glad you didn’t find my first paragraph offensive. I wasn’t trying to offend, just asking for some grace.

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  9. e2

    When I was in my early twenties, I began to go bald. (I was also scrawny and had no butt.) At the time, I saw all the commercials showing women lusting after full-headed men. I thought of rogaine, hair transplants, and all the other stuff thrown at me by the media, and I feared no woman would ever want me. This was in the 1970s when sexy men had long, thick hair.

    But, even though my hair got thinner and thinner, I still got dates, and *every* girl I dated told me my balding head didn’t matter and they backed up their words with physical affection. So, I made a choice. I decided to believe the person i was with who was kissing me rather than the people in the media who didn’t know me from Adam.

    This is why it is hurtful to me that my wife is so insecure about her body, when I have told her for decades through words and actions that I think she’s hot. From where I sit, it feels like she has greater faith in Madison Avenue than me, her husband.

    I can accept that, as a woman, her insecurity makes sense. I agree that, in this area, women are different and I can accept that, but in accepting that, I also have to accept the pain of her not believing my compliments and physical desire. I also believe that my wife could choose to believe me.

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    1. Nick Peters

      I have to say I’m quite puzzled by how things turned out here. J wrote a post saying to the women “Don’t worry about what you look like. Your husband would rather have the passion than anything else. He knows what you look like. He still loves you. He still says you’re beautiful.”

      The guys that I see here showing up are agreeing with that and yet it looks like we’re being argued against. I wonder why it’s not being celebrated? We’re the demonstration of the claim. J says to the women to not worry about your looks. Your husband is not critiquing you like that. He desires your femininity and delights in it. We show up and agree. Shouldn’t this be the good news?

      Is it hard to really believe that? I’m sure. It’s kind of a too good to be true for many women, but the alternative is to treat your husband like a liar. That’s where it hurts us guys, and it does! We dote over our wives and love on them constantly and we’re still not believed. E2 is right. It’s easier to believe the media at times than it is to believe us, but we’re the ones that said “I do” and made a lifelong commitment.

      Ladies. If you have a good husband who’s not watching porn, here’s the truth. He does live in a world of temptation and if anything is frustrating, it’s that he saves his eyes all day for you and wants to see only you only to come home and have you hide yourself from him. It makes no sense to us whatsoever.

      Why not try something like this? Go for a couple of weeks and just throw caution to the wind. Be uninhibited. Leave the lights on. Take some initiative. Try seeing what it would be like and see if your husband really appreciates the change or not. If he doesn’t, then you can come back and tell that your husband is a jerk, but I think you’d be surprised because if you married a good man, he just wants you and he wants to be wanted by you.

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      1. J Post author

        You said: “The guys that I see here showing up are agreeing with that and yet it looks like we’re being argued against. I wonder why it’s not being celebrated?” I can see how that would be confusing. Let me try to clear up my own position.

        We absolutely should encourage wives to believe their husbands and especially believe their God regarding their intrinsic, feminine beauty. But when a husband seems upset that his wife doesn’t quickly chuck off all those societal messages to the contrary and embrace his viewpoint instead, I think he’s not fully understanding the difficulty of achieving this worthy goal. Imagine all your life you receive messages about whether or not you measure up to a particular standard (in this case, beauty). One one side, you have a scale that says you’re beautiful, valuable, gaze-worthy. On the other side, you have a scale that says you’re flawed and unappealing. If that latter scale is far more weighted, it’s hard to re-balance. It will take effort and time to realign her viewpoint in keeping with the truth. I only want husbands to understand this difficulty and be patient and encouraging while she makes changes.

        On the other hand, some husbands pour positive messages into their wives and get rebuffed time and time again. To those women, yes, I call them on that: Whether or not you immediately believe it, ladies, you need to accept that he’s telling the truth that you are beautiful to him, and you should accept that compliment with grace. Shucking off your husband’s statements feel like you’re accusing him of lying (because you kinda are.) Instead, let his compliments help re-balance your scales. But while a loving husband can really help, the wife also has to make efforts to replace her own negative self-talk with the truth.

        I hope that helps clarify my own perspective.

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        1. Nick Peters

          I think E2 and I are in that latter category and J, you know my wife and I and you know that I love her deeply, but I also know about her issues so it does give me some perspective on this. If any woman is concerned, just really ask your husband what he thinks. He won’t lie. In fact, if you ever realize you’re changing your clothes and your husband is peeking around the corner or stops everything else he’s doing, you know what your body does to him. My wife’s body drives me wild and every time I get to see her body, I realize I’m getting to see a special treat. It thrills me with delight.

          Now if a man is watching porn, then yes, the wife has reason to be suspicious. Guys doing that need to stop it.

          I think in the end J we probably agree more than we disagree.

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          1. sunny-dee

            Well, obviously, there’s the fact my husband was using porn. But, also, he doesn’t peek around the corner at me; he very literally will run from the room and close the door if I try to change clothes when he’s in there. He continually rejects sex and any alternative form of physical intimacy. He asked me to quit wearing lingerie or trying to initiate sex because it made him uncomfortable.

            So, no, I do no believe him AT ALL when he compliments my appearance, and if that means I’m accusing him of lying … well, that’s more on him for lying, right?

            I believe he (wants to) believe it when he says it, and would be upset at being accused of lying. I also believe that what he is saying is not true to him — wishing something were different isn’t the same as it actually being different.

            I can tell you what throwing caution to the wind looks like. On a good day, he looks sad and gives me a tired sigh and starts explaining how he’s not in the mood. On a bad day, he snaps at me that he can’t force himself to have sex and will physically push me away and ask what I’m thinking. Or will yell at me in the middle of a very crowded restaurant that it is completely unfair to just tell someone that they should have sex. (This was when we were first starting fertility meds, and I had to have sex at a certain time within the next 3 days. Y’know, to try to conceive.) That was a really fun date night.

            Thankfully, I’m calling the doctor tomorrow to start IVF, and you can’t have sex with IVF. So, he’s off the hook for the next 3-5 months. If it goes well, I’ll just IVF it for another kid and — I mean this entirely sincerely — we never have to have sex ever again. I am over it.

            And, my hand to God, I am seriously considering asking him to never compliment my appearance. It is beyond painful, and I do not want to hear lies in my ears any more. I am living a life without love, without sex, and with limited emotional connection, all by his choice. I. AM. NOT. going to live being insulted to my face on top of it all.

          2. J Post author

            This is heartbreaking, sunny-dee. I’m so sorry for your experience. But I’m going to ask a tough question here: Is this really a situation into which you should be bringing a child? Wouldn’t everyone involved be better served for you and your husband to stabilize your marriage first? You two obviously fell in love at some point and got married; I’d think there’s something here worth salvaging, nurturing, enjoying. But it does sound like you two need intervention, perhaps some counseling. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, because it really is coming from a place of compassion. I just know what it’s like to have a bad marriage (been there, done that), and having kids at that time didn’t make it easier, but rather harder. Moreover, if we hadn’t vastly improved our marriage, I think our issues would have inadvertently spilled over onto our kids. I’m praying fervently for you today. May God bring you comfort and counsel.

          3. Anonymous

            J,

            That is totally not harsh — trust me, that is something I have evaluated myself, and (if it weren’t) it would truly be a kindness to point it out, even if I didn’t like to hear it.

            Honestly, I’m 37. I’m healthy with good egg counts and hormones and all, but still, there is a stopwatch in effect here. I was having a horrible day yesterday (could you tell?) and some days are certainly easier and better than others. I am not and do not want to give up on working on my marriage, but with age and a lot of problems it’s not going to be fast or easy and I have to accept that somethings won’t be resolved (eg, a normal, healthy sex life). My options now are “screwed up marriage with kids” or “screwed up marriage without kids,” and it may be a selfish choice, but I want to at least try for “with kids.” If I try to wait until everything (or most things) in my marriage are fixed, I won’t be able to have children at all.

            There are major problems in our marriage — I don’t want to minimize that — but there are some core things that aren’t. My husband isn’t an angry man (if that makes sense) and this week was unusual in that we actual had a fight — seriously, that only happens, like, once every year. Both of us are committed to our marriage (asterisk — I may murder him, but, you know — till death do we part) no matter how imperfectly it is playing out daily. In that sense, we’re stable. I have a stepson already whom I absolutely adore and love and I count him as my “first” kid. (My husband and MIL both comment on how close we are.) He is happy and well adjusted and I’m introducing him to the Lord, and seeing how he is going is encouraging. And I have a terrific support system in my family, friends, and church.

            Believe me, I have asked myself long and hard about bringing a child into this, but I’m not trying to “fix” anything in the relationship with kids. The idea of having no kids, no future … trust me, “barren” is truly an accurate term. It makes the future feel empty, in a different way.

            It’s not going to be easy, and I don’t have on blinders to that (though I probably can’t even guess at all the ways it’s going to be hard).

      2. Four Under Four

        It wasn’t that men agreed with her point that bothered me. It was the approach. You accused women of believing lies, and went on to explain how senseless our struggle is for all these reasons you find logical. Some women … actually reject their husband’s words to the point that they do much damage. A lot of us don’t go that far, but we do struggle. How is it helpful or encouraging to basically tell us our struggle is invalid and silly? That is what bothered me. It would be easy for me to say that about a mans temptation to look at pornography or the cute girl on the billboard. “Silly men, don’t you know that’s wrong? Just quit it!” Our struggles with our human nature are a little deeper than that!

        Reply
        1. Nick Peters

          No one said the struggle was easy. The first step though is to examine the problem. So here’s a question. Are wives believing lies? If your husband praises you regularly for your beauty and shows great interest in making love and you keep telling him explicitly or by his actions that he doesn’t really mean that or if you hide because you think you’re not good enough, you’re believing a lie. You’re putting standards of everyone else in the mind of your husband. Someone might not like hearing that, but if we believe something untrue, then we believe a lie and it keeps us from enjoying our marriage to the fullest.

          I can say it’s the same for me in a different area. I’m terrified of water. When my wife goes to the swimming pool and I come along, I panic very easily. I can’t find it easy to trust my wife in there. Am I believing a lie? You bet I am. I’m actually believing that my wife would let something happen to me. I know she wouldn’t, but the fear of a negative experience is there. We go see a counselor together and she’s told my wife “You let me talk to him about it and just let him be in the water like he’s said.” What’s the simple solution? Trust my wife. It’s really that simple. Knowing the path and walking the path are different, but the first step is to know the path.

          What men like myself were saying is we love our wives deeply and they are the most beautiful beings we have ever seen and we long to celebrate that. Shaunti Feldhahn has a picture at her Facebook with a quote from a man that says that every time a man undresses his wife, it’s like opening a Christmas present every time. It really is. It is such a gift. We live with these women that in our eyes are virtual goddesses of beauty every day and we don’t get to celebrate them. Every time we are not trusted, it tells us we don’t measure up. We’re not good enough. It’s hard.

          And of course, as a theologian, I can say we do this with God. I have often pondered a case where I hypothetically come to God and say “I don’t get it. I do everything I can. I love her and praise her and treat her so well. I have done so much for her. What does it take to get my wife to just fall into my arms and trust me?” I can picture God saying back “Hey bonehead. I’ve been asking you that for a few decades.”

          The solution? Simple. It really is. Doing it? That’s the battle.

          Reply
          1. J Post author

            I think this is where the mismatch in understanding is: “You’re putting standards of everyone else in the mind of your husband.” I don’t think it’s an Everyone Else vs. Husband dichotomy. Rather is Our Self-Image vs. His Viewpoint. And our self-image has been shaped by many different things, including messages we’ve received from media, our families, our friends, men, ourselves, etc. So a husband saying, “Why don’t you just believe me?” doesn’t immediately tear down that whole mountain of messages that have gone into how we view ourselves. Husbands can absolutely help re-balance us toward the truth, but it could be frustrating to a wife for a husband to make it sound like it’s just Them vs. Him, because that’s only a piece of the challenge. An important piece, to be sure, but not the only one.

            And ultimately, we ladies, and men, should find our worth in Christ. Not in what anyone thinks of us, but what God says we are…His dearly beloved children.

          2. e2

            We not only hurt for ourselves but also for our wives. My wife tells me she appreciates hearing my compliments, but she will always see herself as unattractive. It breaks my heart to see how much she hurts inside and know that I can’t do anything about it.

          3. J Post author

            That is heartbreaking, for both of you. Praying that she can somehow see the truth.

          4. Nick Peters

            I think E2 and I are in the same place, although my Princess did agree yesterday to stop resisting compliment and such. When you talk about the self-image idea women have, where does it come from? I think it comes from the pressures put on them by society. I want so much for my wife to realize I don’t have those pressures on her. I love her just the way she is and when she says “But XYZ”, it doesn’t really matter to me. I want her to realize I love her as she is and then from there she can live life more confidently knowing she’s loved just as she is and can reach beyond to be even better than as she is.

          5. J Post author

            Nick, some of it does indeed come from the pressures of society. But some of it also comes from girls seeing that beauty matters in who gets ahead, who gets male attention, who gets ___[whatever]. Then girls look at themselves and compare to other girls to think about how they measure up. This is pretty common among women, because we are relational and tend toward wanting to be on par with our peers. (I could also give you the psychological research on what I just said, but if you’ll trust me on this one, it will save me an hour of going back and looking up all the studies.) Thus, some of our self-image just comes from thinking about how we measure up to the standard around us. It’s just that the standard around us now is exponentially larger and more prevalent with media always sending messages. In our current day, billboards, commercials, pornography, etc. aren’t helping, but think about this statement from the Song of Songs wife who had no television, no internet, no magazine stands, no billboards:

            Dark am I, yet lovely,
            daughters of Jerusalem,
            dark like the tents of Kedar,
            like the tent curtains of Solomon.
            Do not stare at me because I am dark,
            because I am darkened by the sun.
            My mother’s sons were angry with me
            and made me take care of the vineyards;
            my own vineyard I had to neglect
            .”

            At first, she declares she’s lovely…but it’s followed by self-consciousness and worry about her appearance. She was clearly beloved by her husband, but a tinge of doubt remained. Her husband does an amazing job as the book progresses of reassuring her of her unique beauty, and I believe that goes a long way toward her embracing her beauty, but I think wives simply want men to understand it’s a struggle that takes some time and effort for many women.

            Even now, when I feel 92% confident about my appearance, that 8% rears its ugly head at times. I figure just when I’m really old and wrinkly and not that objectively attractive, I’ll have finally conquered that last bit of self-image doubt and will feel 100% wonderful about myself. Maybe? 😀

          6. Nick Peters

            I hear what you’re saying about self-doubt. I think e2 and myself are here and saying “We understand you have this, but please understand that this is not our message to you.” Part of it for a wife is learning to believe her husband and in the same way, all of us have to believe the truth about what Scripture says about us. My own Princess has told me before she has a hard time believing what I say because of what everyone else says.

            The loudest way our wives speak to us though are by our actions. The more free they are in the bedroom and the more they are initiating towards us and letting us see them, the more we know they are confident in us and our love for them.

          7. e2

            We say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I think the Song of Solomon bears this out.

            J, you quote from Song of Solomon 1:5, which reads:

            I am very dark, but lovely,
            O daughters of Jerusalem,
            like the tents of Kedar,
            like the curtains of Solomon.

            Of course, the original text gives no hint beyond context who is speaking. You have followed the traditional approach of attributing the entire verse to the bride. But, Hudson Taylor, in his book, “Union and Communion” suggests a back and forth here. He writes:

            “Ah,” she cries, “I am black; — “But comely,” interjects the Bridegroom, with inimitable grace and tenderness. “Nay, ‘black as the tents of Kedar,'” she continues. “Yet to Me,” He responds, “thou art ‘comely as the curtains of Solomon!”

            This back and forth gives some logical sense to the contradictory statements in the verse, which sound confusing if spoken by the same person. When read as a dialog, we see that the groom finds his bride lovely and arousing even though she doesn’t conform to the universal standards of beauty of her time and place.

            I can only imagine the depth of her insecurity. Assuming the bridegroom was indeed Solomon, she felt she had to compete with his many other wives and concubines. Surely, in that harem, he would find another more beautiful than she… as society counted beauty. But, the bridegroom here wasn’t concerned with the acceptable standards of beauty. He found *her* beautiful, regardless of what society said. Finally, she was able to believe him, accept his desire as honest and enthusiastically respond, which results in the remainder of the Song. Had she succumbed to her insecurities and disbelieved her husband, there would never have been a Song of Solomon to write.

            Prince Charming sings in Cinderella, “Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?” Of course, it doesn’t matter which, but I think our downfall today is that we insist that it be the former. It’s not enough for us to be beautiful to one beholder who loves us. We want to know we are beautiful to everyone else, and in that, we place upon ourselves an impossible burden.

          8. Nick Peters

            I have to disagree on one thing. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. We can all have opinions on beauty, but they are either right or wrong. Beauty is fully objective because God is beautiful and He makes all things beautiful. The good news is that that means every woman is beautiful. They can do things to enhance or destroy their beauty, but in being in His image, they automatically have beauty to them.

  10. Ashley

    I read every comment, and I just have to leave my own. First off, I don’t worry about my appearance too much during sex. There have been times I’ve seen myself in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw, but I’ve never spent our bedroom time sucking in my tummy or trying to control my facial expressions.

    Having said that, body image has been a problem for me. We women have been taught from a very young age that a lot of our worth is wrapped up in our looks. That’s so wrong, of course, but that message has been hammered home. We have been so brainwashed, and simply knowing that doesn’t undo the brainwashing. I was trying to think of a man’s equivalent to some of this. I thought of the times I read of a tough man losing a leg, then losing his will to live. He felt like his worth was so wrapped up in being able to walk and work. Maybe that’s a bad comparison, but it’s the best I can do at the moment.

    Reply
  11. John

    If married women only realized how much joy they bring to their
    married husband in a smile or that look and then follow it up
    with such a giving of self at the moment.
    is all that really matters.

    Reply
  12. Anonymous for my husband's privacy

    I commented earlier about my husband’s ostomy. There are all types of garments made for women so their ostomy appliance won’t be seen during intimacy. I don’t know of any for men. I think, again, it does speak to women having many more concerns about being visually pleasing. Perhaps we, men and women, both know intuitively that men are more visual and women, less so.

    Reply
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