I consider Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage my blogger twin. In addition to writing about sex from a Christian perspective, we share several things in common: raising sons, a love of baseball, an appreciation of a nice glass of wine, a similar sense of humor, and a desire to vacation on the beach together.
We’ve shared several phone conversations, and I’m extra-eager to meet her in person someday. In the meantime, I just love getting to read her posts in which she encourages women toward healthy, godly sexuality in their marriages.
For my Feel Beautiful series, she’s letting us in on tips for how to feel beautiful beneath the sheets. Read on…
Entertainment and social media and Photoshop have schemed us, haven’t they? At least when it comes to what qualifies as “beautiful.”
And what’s ironic, if we are being honest, is that we know we are being schemed. Few people look at the covers of magazines as they’re schlepping their Diet Coke through the supermarket checkout and think, “Those photos are totally real.”
We know that the endless stream of images and video clips vying for our attention are a pale representation of accuracy. (I mean, seriously, these people spend literally hours in hair and make-up, even before digital trickery has had its final say).
Even though we logically know that all those “beautiful” people likely look much more average without the professional manipulation, we still struggle.
We struggle with feeling less than beautiful, less than attractive, less than sexy in our own skin, in our own real lives. You know, the place where we live every day, hopefully with the people who genuinely do love us for who we truly are, not who we wish we could be.
So what’s a gal to do, especially when it comes to feeling beautiful beneath the sheets?
Sexual intimacy is a huge roadblock for many women. Can you relate? Are you beyond self-conscious about the wrinkles, loose flabs of skin, extra pounds, lack of muscle tone, and evidence of years gone by?
I get that.
Because I love sex, I’ve learned a few things along the way about feeling beautiful beneath the sheets. Maybe I’ve even learned some things that could help you in your real life in your real body:
1. Stop looking at your sexual encounters through the filter of every romantic movie love scene.
See how I did that? I circled back to my previous observations about how we are schemed into believing that for something to qualify as amazing, it has to look like what is depicted on the screen.
The next time you see a love scene in a romantic comedy, imagine a crew of 30 people standing on a chaotic set 10 feet away from those two “lovers.”
Imagine Joe the camera guy asking that the lights be adjusted. Imagine Dee the make-up artist putting concealing powder across the actress’s chest to dull the natural shine of her skin. Then imagine all the other people, from the props assistants to the set designer to the script person to the sound tech using every ounce of professional mastery to make you believe this scene is totally natural — totally like how things happen in real life.
Feeling beautiful beneath the sheets has a lot to do with recognizing — embracing — that real sex is not movie sex. Real sex is better.
When you and your husband make love, it is astoundingly beautiful and holy and right. Because it is real.
2. Shed a little light on the situation.
Usually when a woman feels conscious about her body, she wants complete darkness when she and her husband have sex. For some women, even complete darkness in the room isn’t enough. She wants the two of them completely under the sheets as well.
Her theory, of course, is “If he can’t see me, then I won’t feel so self-conscious.”
I’m going to challenge this conventional line of wisdom.
I’m not saying you need the overhead light on, but consider turning on a closet light and cracking the door to let some of that light peek into the room. Consider lighting a candle on the nightstand. Or turning a small lamp on.
If your husband is like most husbands, he wants to not only touch your body, but also see it. Sure, you may not feel comfortable with the lights on full blast, but some light on your body allows him to see your curves and softness — and allows you to feel good about the way such visual stimulation brings him pleasure.
These are all confidence boosters. Pleasure and sexual excitement are powerful distractions that keep us focused on what matters, rather than on what we don’t like about our bodies.
3. Try something new sexually.
Do you feel apprehensive about being naked with your man, to the point that you always play it safe sexually? Do you always follow the same repertoire when you make love, never venturing into new touches, techniques, and positions?
Well, it’s easier to feel beautiful beneath the sheets if we remember that sex is supposed to be fun! Yes, it’s also passionate and romantic and “gaze into my eyes” longingly. But more than anything, it’s supposed to be freedom for a husband and a wife to thoroughly figure out what brings each other intense sexual ecstasy.
And here’s the thing.
When we begin to appreciate the freedom to explore each other’s bodies within the exclusivity of our marriage, we find there is thrilling beauty in being the one who does it for him.
Be the one who leaves no doubt in his mind and heart about how much you hunger to feel his skin against yours. Be the one who makes him climax hard through your intentional presence and sexual playfulness.
If that’s not beautiful, I don’t know what is.
For more reading, check out two of my all-time must-read favorite posts on body image and sexual confidence: A Body that Never Quits and Extraordinary Sex in Your Ordinary Life.
Julie Sibert writes and speaks out of her own story, encouraging couples to nurture authentic sexual intimacy in marriage. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, two sons, and a dog named Stella who is busy destroying the yard. You can follow Julie’s blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com.
14 thoughts on “Feeling Beautiful Beneath the Sheets with Julie Sibert”
We are having nice weather lately and yesterday as I was driving around, I saw lots of men outside, working, getting their mail, etc. Not a single one of them was an Adonis. Not a single one of those men had admirable muscles, sexy builds, chiseled good looks, well-coiffed hair…..they were just every day middle aged men. But none of them were unattractive, either!!!
Just because someone doesn’t look like the cover of a magazine doesn’t mean they aren’t amazingly attractive or sexy or beautiful. And, it is amazing how many men actually LOVE a softer woman. It enhances her curves.
Plus, sex is great exercise. Switching to woman on top 98% of the time has done wonders for my hips, thighs, and buns. Great workout!
As a man, this is nice to hear. Thank you for taking the time to post it.
A much-needed post. Probably many wives (and nearly all husbands) will agree with Julie in their heads, but a lot of females’ hearts will tell them otherwise. Hearts are fickle, and your heart, like Eve’s will lie to you, ladies. You ARE beautiful.
“If your husband is like most husbands, he wants to not only touch your body, but also see it. ”
This sentence says a LOT. It contradicts the LIE in those ads for Victoria’s Secret. If couples (both genders) would only believe this, and take a hint from the Song of Solomon to praise the wife’s beauty, Victoria would be out of business tomorrow. Ladies, your guy wants you naked for lovemaking. Even better, stay that way with him all night, so he can bask in your beauty. It is a positive boost to a man’s ego to know that you trust him to look you over and enjoy the view. God made us that way.
And SHAME on you husbands if you’ve ever teased your with with a deprecating comment. If she musters the courage to ask, “Do these new jeans make me look fat?” the answer is “NO.” Always. A wife’s backside is that part of her anatomy she is most conscious of. So start praising her beauty when she’s wearing clothes, and you’ll get to see her when she’s not more often. Don’t insist on sex with the lights on, if she doesn’t like it. But tell her she’s beautiful (she is!), and say it often.
Preach it, Eric!
While my backside isn’t the body part I am most conscious of, anything that sounds like he is displeased with me or finds unattractive is hurtful. Thankfully, my DH is very complimentary of my body.
As for my backside, though. It is fabulous! So fabulous that I changed a self-proclaimed ‘boob guy” into a “butt guy.”
I am self conscious about my skin. I have a skin condition that flares up and is NOT attractive. It is mostly on my back, and I would give anything to be able to show off the sexy shape of my bare back…..and get massages.
The female bottom is probably meant by the phrase “joints of thy thighs” in the King James Version of Song of Solomon 7:1. It appears only once in the S of S, and positioned near the end of the book it seems obvious that the writer meant it to reference a comment made by a husband to his new bride, rather than tamer remarks which appear earlier, for couples not yet married. The verse continues that these “joints” are “like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.” That workman, of course, is God Himself, who made woman so beautiful to perfectly complement man.
“By euphemism,” Strong’s Concordance says, this can also refer to the genitals. Only in the human female are the genitals protected by a pretty protuberance, which serves her, besides something comfortable to sit on, as a vestibule to the most private and precious parts of her body.
When my wife and I married 52 years ago I learned that she was not the least bashful about sex. But she has always had a bit of a phobia about keeping the lights on–which to me seems a contradiction. But in bits and pieces over the years I’ve learned the probable issue: Until after our first child (she was nearly 30) she had small breasts. She’s also blessed with a fairly fleshy Rubenesque rear end, which, I’m ashamed to say, I did not learn to praise until we’d been married many years. But as a teen she was occasionally teased because of her small breasts and larger-than-average bottom. This kind of cruel teasing, I am sure, is at the root of the fears many women experience at appearing naked in the light, even for the eyes of a loving, considerate husband.
And BTW, my oldest granddaughter is named Katie!
I recently discovered that having some light on helps me stay focused on and connected to my husband, and memories of past abuse and trauma are much less likely to occur than with total darkness. I am also more likely to stay connected if he speaks lovingly to me during sex. These comments have more to do with feeling cherished and safe than with feeling beautiful, but I thought them worth mentioning here. Thanks.
Ouch. I’m so sorry you’ve gone through this.
One thing I will say is that I’ve had several counseling experiences — and about half of them were helpful. The others, not so much. I encourage you to try another Christian counselor, maybe even go on your own to get some help for how to handle your difficult situation. Unfortunately, what you’re describing from your husband is not respectful, and I can’t imagine why he thinks it’s okay. I’m saying a prayer for you.
I like the light on so I can see HIM!
Well sadly I have almost a phobia of my husband seeing me. He appreciates beautiful or sexy shaped looking women and I frequently see him unconsciously showing me his preferences through instinctive glances when with me. I am not unattractive but through his focus of what is acceptable and not in other women (ie. “there are the most number of the most beautiful women in Sydney compared to our city”, said and argued after a business trip. One of many many comments) I have somewhat withdrawn. Couple this with that For Women Only message and the visual Rolodex rot there’s no way I’m comfortable naked anymore knowing how men are ‘wired’.
The last time all I thought of from beginning to end was ‘he looks like he’s liking my breasts, great that’s stuffed when they start sagging or shrivelling more as I age, don’t get used to it because this is what he will be lusting after in younger women. Please don’t touch, no,no, he’s going to touch my butt which is the wrong shape, not the shape that turns his eyes in crowds or walking. Oh no, he’s running his hand down my side (major freeze) probably desperately looking for a slim tiny waist to get aroused by etc etc etc.’ I’m fit and in shape, not ugly at all but feel like the ugliest most ashamed woman you could find when sharing a bed with my husband. I just cried on and off through the night afterward as he slept soundly. I absolutely detest sex now. There is nothing sacred or beautiful or ‘ours’ about it now i know he’s programmed for young celebrity looking things. I leave the light on to do the right thing, another respect box ticked even if it’s traumatic for me.
He’s “programmed”? Look, I still notice that there are very handsome men more than a decade younger than I. Do I want to be with any of them? Absolutely not! I want my husband.
And just because his brain stores images in a way yours doesn’t, doesn’t mean he doesn’t desire and love you. That said, he shouldn’t be commenting on the beauty of other women. Have you explained how that hurts you? If not, please calmly let him know that bringing up how other women look feeds into a wife’s insecurity about her appearance.
It isn’t dealing with this issue to shut down. I ache for you, really I do, but I pray you can find some ways to address the problems, find contentment in your own beauty (regardless of what anyone thinks), and embrace confidence as the daughter of the King of Kings. Blessings!
Programmed, ‘wired’ for a more commonly thrown around word, yes. As Shaunti’s books explain along with many scientific studies male brains respond to (desire) certain ratios of female bodies and faces as well as within age limits (fertility stuff) with a chemical high which does not occur to ward images outside those inbuilt unconscious preferences. It’s sad that christian marriage books like that one and Love and Respect focus a lot on the importance of meeting your husbands need for sex while focusing also on men’s visual nature and a wife’s role in pleasing her husband with her appearance. Once I researched the science of the visual nature things went downhill. Can’t unlearn what I’ve learned now, unfortunately. You’re right though i can be confident that I am the daughter of the King of Kings and in prayer time feel that acceptance for sure regardless of my marriage. Thanks for the encouragement.
If J will permit me to comment again, I’d like to answer LADY from personal experience. This is for men who read this blog; and ladies, you have my permission to show it to your husbands.
I’ve been married to the same woman for 52 years. Early in our marriage my wife remarked one day that she has “An hourglass figure, but all the sand has gone to the bottom.” Well, I knew there was a bit of truth in that, but I had no clue how to deal with it from a godly and scriptural point of view. Yet I was a young pastor, a graduate of two Bible colleges. I’d been taught in college that the Song of Solomon was only a picture of Christ and His church. Spurgeon and other great preachers of the past believed this, so who was I to question it?
Then one day I learned that Jewish rabbis of the period of the Babylonian captivity (c. 700 BC) expected their male students to read the Song of Solomon at age 13 to learn how to treat a wife. Wow! Did God have something in this for me? So I began praising my wife’s body, and several things happened. For one, I had a happier wife. For another, she gradually became gladly willing to undress for me. Finally, I lost most interest in looking at other women and girls; and since by then I was teaching in a college, I had a lot of pretty young women to look over, if I’d been inclined to do so. I still see pretty girls, of course, but the sexual pull has faded into the distance.
To borrow a phrase from LADY’s post, I became “programmed”–or more to the point, reprogrammed. As a matter of fact, men, that’s what happens in any area of Christian living if you read the Bible, practice it until it becomes a habit, and prayerfully ask the Lord to enable you to abide by it.
Thank you Eric for your comment, your wife has been blessed by your kind words to her.! My husband does say kind things but his actions and other comments have undermined them. My job is assessing and interviewing people for positions in which their integrity is very important (similar to foster care) so it’s very difficult for me to not pick up on incongruences or inconsistencies even if I wanted to unfortunately. Due to this actions always have higher meaning than words for me.
Perhaps the practice the jewish rabbi’s taught the 13 year old boys was a wonderful preventative measure at a young age and could be taught today to ward off future marriage problems.. Since women have 2/3 brain area more than men engaged in reading non- verbal communication (we call it women’s intuition!) we ‘know’ what our husbands are attracted to and if his attention suddenly swapped (due to being taught to) to praise our bodies which may be opposite to what we’ve seen/heard him praise it may come across as dishonest. Women love genuine, real. Sadly I’ve recently read christian marriage books that read like formulas to understand your spouse and include formula like practices to make them feel loved and respected etc. honestly if my husband has to use a formula to grow attraction for me I’d rather be companions. I would say only say what is genuine because women are 2/3 better at interpreting non-verbal communication than men (this reveals true communication) and it could undermine trust to compliment where another message has been strongly given previously.
One thing that is helping me though is taking a step back and seeing my husband through new eyes. Previously to me he was the most desirable male on earth! However, when I was deeply hurt I really looked at him from a more distant position and observed that his body / looks are not perfect. This takes the pressure off me and puts the focus on where it belongs, him. If he is ungrateful is it my problem? No. If he fed his eyes with others does the Bible say it’s my problem? No, it warns men to take control of this nature of theirs and the lust that may result. Do I have to work extra hard to meet his standards to please him so he won’t stray? No, I should present what God has given him in a wife and know that what rejection reflects back to me is a result of the fall. It concerns me greatly that Christian authors such as [name removed] and others lay the burden of their husband’s tendency to sin on their wives by encouraging them to compete with the temptations faced by being more available, more adventurous, more attractive looking. This will never work. The flesh is greedy and that is a dangerous track to walk, I know because I’ve tried and I began to hate my body/face in the process because it seemed like the thing that stood between myself and full love and desire from my husband and is something I cannot change. Now I will believe differently. My real focus needs to be to guard my heart from bitterness and be generous in the bedroom whether my husband sees the beauty God created in me or doesn’t because he’s too blinded by his visual preference for a certain kind of butt.
My prayer is that any ladies experiencing similar please hold fast to
‘I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.’
I understand what you’re saying. But sometimes, I’ve worked from a formula to improve something in my marriage, and the feelings follow. It’s not ingenuous to me, any more than waking up in the middle of the night to hold and feed my baby when I really wanted to sleep — it actually shows my commitment to my spouse and my vows.
You are definitely right that we are not responsible for our husbands’ choices, though. And we can make choices to see ourselves as God created us, rather than everything riding on how our husbands see us. Thank you.
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