I’m brimming with excitement. Overflowing really. Like splashing excitement out into the streets. Why? Because I have two favorite things happening today on the blog:
- I’m kicking off a new Thursday series focused on helping us wives Feel Beautiful. It’s been my personal and public goal in 2015 to get us wives believing and feeling the beauty God created in us. I’ve had a few posts on this subject (Feeling Beautiful: From His Perspective, Feeling Beautiful: 8 Things I Learned While Shopping, Feel Beautiful in 2015: “Fight the Frump”!, Feel Beautiful: Dust Off Your Exercise Shoes!), but I’m now inviting other marriage bloggers to chime in on the subject in whatever way they choose.
- We’re starting this series with one of my favorite people! Sheila Wray Gregoire has been a friend for years, and she’s a go-to resource for marriage, parenting, and authentic Christianity. I encourage you to follow her blog and check out her books.
And now, heeeeeeere’s Sheila!
When I give my sex talk at churches, I often ask the women, “how many of you can name 5 things you LOVE about your body?”
The women glance around awkwardly, and a few raised hands pepper the audience.
Then I ask, “now, how many of you can name 5 things you HATE about your body?”
Almost every hand in the room goes up—often to various cheers around the room.
We all feel it—that body insecurity. We want to be beautiful, but how can we, with the stretch marks, and the wrinkles, and the muffin top? Our bodies change. And after you’ve pumped out a couple of babies, you can never sneeze in the same way again.
We’ve all heard plenty of pep talks: your beauty is on the inside, not the outside! Women of all sizes can love sex! Sex is about a deep and abiding love, not about two perfect bodies.
And to a great extent all of that is true.
But it’s not the whole truth, because sex, even if we may not like to admit it, is actually done with our bodies. It isn’t done only with our beautiful hearts or our gorgeous minds. It’s done with the muffin top, stretch mark, pock marked bodies. And that means that if we feel lousy about our bodies, sex is going to be affected—as are other areas of our marriage. When we feel lousy about our bodies, we’ll feel lousy about our self-worth. And that is a recipe for a pretty unhappy woman.
A wise woman (hint: her name is J) once told me that “happiness is a gift she could give her husband.” I interviewed J for my new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change a Marriage, and we talked about how finding peace and joy ourselves is such a gift to our men who feel like they have to make everything better for us. And when they can’t make stuff better, they feel lousy. Inadequate. So they retreat.
If your man can’t make you feel beautiful, because you yourself don’t feel beautiful, then he’s going to retreat. He’s going to feel inadequate. And that’s going to drive you even further apart.
So how in the world do you feel beautiful?
1. Think of yourself as a beautiful woman
This sounds odd, but the things that we tell ourselves become the things that we act out. What are you telling yourself? “You gained 5 pounds again!” “You look so much older than you are.”
Try telling yourself something else: “That top flatters you.” “You have lovely eyes.” “God gave you a great nose.”
Everyday, tell yourself something good about your body.
2. Have a Go-To Beauty Routine
That’s easier to do, of course, if the top actually DOES flatter you. Sometimes we feel frumpy because we get in a rotten groove. We’re so tired with little kids and with work and with just plain life that we give up. Why wear earrings if the kids are going to pull on them? Why do your hair if every time you head to the bathroom someone calls for you?
And so yoga pants and T-shirts become our wardrobe.
Listen, ladies: it takes no more time to put on a pair of jeans that fit and a shirt that flatters than it does to put on yoga pants and a T-shirt.
And you can brush and gel your hair, and put some foundation, blush, lipstick, and mascara on in less than 4 minutes. I swear.
The trick is knowing what makeup to use, and having a hairstyle that’s easy to wear.
Go to a drug store and ask the makeup artists to show you how to do a simple, 2-minute face. Go shopping with a fashionable friend and ask her to help you find 5 quality outfits. When we hate our bodies, we tend to buy stuff on clearance that looks awful because we figure that’s all we deserve. Buy 5 outfits that make you look great. That’s all you need—and it will make the world of difference to your confidence level.
3. Feel Your Body
When we hate our bodies we tend to ignore them. We don’t want to notice anything below our necks because then we’ll be reminded how ugly we are. So we stop listening to our bodies’ cues. We forget that maybe we do have a libido!
Take time to FEEL your body everyday. Do 5 minutes of stretches. It’s luxurious! Do 10 minutes of a basic yoga or pilates routine off YouTube. Of course I could say exercise, but how many of you will actually do it? Even if you don’t work out, I think stretching is a great way to remind yourself, “I have a great body! It can feel wonderful.”
4. Look Great for Your Husband
When my husband would say, “let’s go out for dinner,” I used to rush upstairs, put on some makeup, change my clothes, and be I’m ready to go! And a few years ago I realized that I was getting “prettified” for strangers, but never for my husband. When we went out I looked great. If he were coming home, I’d still look my worst.
But my husband is the only one who is supposed to enjoy my body!
So now, 15 minutes before my husband comes home, I head upstairs to get into a flattering top and put on a bit of makeup. It tells him, “I’ve been waiting for you!” And it reminds me that I like feeling pretty for him.
If you do these things, you’ll start to think of yourself differently—you’ll be concentrating on what you like about your body, rather than what you hate. And you’ll be feeling more confident! That makes you a lot more likely to want to embrace sex.
But I can hear some of the protests now.
But what if my husband is doing things that make me feel ugly?
Maybe he looks at porn. Maybe he watches Game of Thrones—and then wants to get it on (with you). Maybe you caught him texting another woman.
And all you can think is: am I not pretty enough? What’s wrong with me?
Oh, my sweet friends. That’s so sad.
There’s nothing wrong with you. He is choosing to devalue marriage and to devalue sex. He is making sex into something which is only physical, rather than something which is also spiritually and emotionally intimate. And the more he does that—the more he trains his brain to be aroused by an image, rather than a person—the less he’ll be able to be aroused in your marriage.
And hear me, ladies: it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with the lure that porn has—a lure that often started for many guys right around the age when they were getting their first sexual feelings.
But even though it has nothing to do with you, that doesn’t mean that God hasn’t placed you right here to do something about it.
Your husband isn’t just hurting himself by looking at porn, or by watching nudity on TV. He’s hurting himself. He’s wrecking his sexuality. He’s harming his marriage. And he’s putting a huge wedge between him and God.
You may be tempted to do nothing. You may run from conflict. Like I say in 9 Thoughts That Can Change a Marriage, many of us are peacekeepers, trying to keep the lid on issues, rather than peacemakers—people who confront and solve issues.
Be a peacemaker. Put your foot down and say, “no more porn. No more nudity. This stops here.” Get a third party involved if you have to. But whatever you tolerate will continue. It is okay—it is MORE than okay—to say, “this needs to stop.”
So think of yourself as a beautiful, capable woman. A woman who takes pride in herself and her marriage. A woman who believes in real beauty, not in the false beauty our culture sells us. A woman who stands up for pure beauty in marriage. And when you start doing those things, I pray that you will start to feel beautiful—just as God made you.
Sheila Wray Gregoire blogs at To Love, Honor and Vacuum, where she talks mostly about sex. And sometimes gets people riled up! Besides 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, she’s also the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and 31 Days to Great Sex. And she’d love to give you her free downloadable ebook, 36 Ways to Bring Sex Back to Your Marriage! Get it here.