Category Archives: Body Image

You Say Your Wife’s Attractive, She Says No. Now What?

I got into a conversation recently with a husband about how his wife doesn’t feel attractive. He continues to tell her she’s beautiful, she continues to downplay or dismiss his statements, and at the end of the day, she still feels unattractive and he feels discounted.

Some of you —husbands and wives — can relate.

I’ve written before about the importance of wives embracing their bodies and being naked with their hubbies (you’re welcome, guys), as well as what a husband can do to help his wife feel beautiful.

But let’s revisit the issue today, because I’ve had a few insights since then. Especially since my own body has been changing a bit in the last few, menopause-is-frustrating years.

Why does she feel unattractive?

Numerous husbands don’t understand why their reassurance about their wife’s beauty isn’t enough to quell the worry in her heart. Shouldn’t a hubby’s view of the matter be the controlling one? If God and her husband say a woman’s pretty, why isn’t that enough?

If God and her husband say a woman's pretty, why isn't that enough? @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Let’s demonstrate what’s going on with a scale.

On the left are all the times throughout a woman’s life she has felt less than attractive — based on slights she received from others, comparisons where she felt short, trying on clothes that sent a message of not-good-enough, watching the “prettier” girls get more attention, witnessing her body change due to pregnancy, aging, weight gain, etc. Each of those is a small piece, but together they weigh down the side that concludes Not Attractive.

On the right is hubby’s assurance that his wife is lovely, and yes, each of his pieces is bigger, more important. But it’s still not enough to balance out the scale, because she’s internalized so many other messages.

Consequently, the answer may seem to be just tell her she’s pretty a lot. Eventually, the scales will balance and everything will be a-okay.

Except many of you already know that approach often doesn’t work. Certain obstacles make it unlikely that just heaping more compliments on your wife will convince her of what you already believe — that she’s genuinely attractive.

What are her specific wounds?

Author Leo Tolstoy wrote a brilliant first line for his novel, Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I don’t know that happy families are indeed all alike, but it’s so true that unhappiness can be very specific.

Likewise, your wife’s inability to believe your words about her beauty is not about a simply balance of unhappy versus happy. Rather, she carries wounds from her experiences, such that the answer isn’t re-balancing the scales on the whole as much as healing her specific hurts.

I’ll share a personal example. Nothing my husband could say about my breasts being enough for him could erase the daily memories of the junior high locker room, where I was so clearly the flattest chest in 6th grade. And 7th grade. And 8th grade.

Don’t get me wrong: His reassurances were meaningful and beautiful and welcomed. But they didn’t get at the core issue of this young girl inside me still wounded by judgmental glances, inconsiderate taunts, and feelings of inadequacy. My difficulty believing my husband wasn’t personal against him; it was rooted in my woundedness. And I didn’t shed that sense of not-enough until I addressed the underlying hurt.

What are your wife’s specific wounds? Was she teased about her body? Has she struggled with weight? Was she actually the “pretty one” valued for her beauty, but now her body doesn’t measure up to that standard? Was she sexually harassed in part because of her shapeliness?

I don’t know what’s going on with your wife, but you should. You should ask why she feels unattractive and what incidents in her life have caused her to feel less-than.

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Should you validate her viewpoint?

I’ve gained a lot of weight in the last few years. I’m still not a large woman, because I spent most of my life being rather skinny. And no, skinny isn’t fun either, ladies. Just trust me that a lack of curves can be as difficult as an excess of them. But I’ve added about 25% to my body mass, and it’s been a challenging adjustment. I don’t know how many times now I’ve mentioned to my (beleaguered) husband that my midsection is Out Of Control.

Spock, beautiful husband that he is, tends to respond with statements like, “Just more of you to love!” Does that make me feel better? Sure, it does. Right up until the next time I look in the mirror.

My hubby has also turned to such options as suggesting diets, exercise, and other ways to address the Michelin tire inflating just below my waist. This did not make me feel better, despite his good intention to help me address the weight gain.

And Spock has tried various other approaches to assuage my fear that I will increase in belly size until I look like Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the girl who inflated to a large blueberry before being rolled away by the oompa loompas.

And only recently did it occur to me what I really want when I discuss this issue. I suspect it’s what most women who feel unattractive want.

I just want to be heard.

I don’t want my husband to validate my viewpoint. Indeed, I hope he genuinely believes I’m more attractive than I often feel.

But I do want him to validate my feelings. I want him to sympathize with my woundedness and my struggle. I want him to let me tell my story and work through how to address the issues. I want to know he’s on my side — not just believing that my beauty is worthwhile, but that my story is worthwhile too.

So how can you help your wife feel attractive?

Ah, I made you wait until the end to give you actual tips! (Unless you cheated and scrolled down to this heading, in which case go back up and read the rest.) But at least I’ll make this part easy with bullet points!

  • Ask her to share her story of why she feels unattractive. What messages has she received throughout her life about her beauty, and how does that impact her feelings now?
  • Listen and validate her feelings. Not her viewpoint—her feelings. You can say that you don’t agree but you understand better now why she feels that way and how hard it is for her to believe she’s beautiful.
  • Tell her why she’s attractive to you. Be specific, including aspects like what drew you to her, what parts of her face and body are particularly appealing, what you see when you look at your wife.
  • Don’t expect a one-and-done. This should be an ongoing discussion, not a single conversation. In fact, be willing to listen again and again and spread out your compliments, so they build up and help to tilt the scale some.
  • Offer to support her positive efforts to address the issue. That could mean treatment for an eating disorder, counseling for past wounds, a gym membership, walking the neighborhood with her, helping her update her wardrobe with more flattering clothes. Mind you, this doesn’t involve cooperating with negative efforts, like fad diets or obsessive behaviors, but rather positive efforts that address physical and emotional health.
  • Don’t offer your own treatment plan. A corollary to the previous point is not to play fix-it with your wife’s beauty concerns. For instance, if she’s overweight, she doesn’t need you to tell her that more exercise and less food will result in less weight. If she feels flat-chested, don’t point to a plastic surgery billboard and say, “Well, we could buy you ones like that model!” Whatever your wife’s specific issue, you get the point.
  • Pray for her. This struggle doesn’t make sense to a lot of men, but it’s a fairly universal concern for women. Like it or not, what’s-acceptable beauty messages are pushed at us throughout our lives, and they take a toll. A loving husband can do a lot to ease that burden, but a loving husband praying for his wife is even better. As Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

I was tempted to say, “Tell her to search Scripture to see what God says about her.” Except such advice often comes across as offering a treatment plan: “Take two verses and call me in the morning.” Citing Scripture at her could be helpful or it could backfire, depending on your wife. So while it’s important for your wife to recognize that she was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that she is wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14), maybe talk about those principles instead of throwing verses at her.

Now despite this post clearly being aimed at husbands, I invite the wives to chime in, so men can better understand and address this our body image worries.

Ladies, what would help you to overcome your concerns about attractiveness? What could your husband do to help?

Do Average People Have Rock Star Sex? YES!

Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage and I have a lot in common. We both enjoy baseball, wine, the beach, sex, and writing about sex. (Plus, we share a name. Shh.)

Hopefully, you already follow her blog, where her posts are biblical, practical, and funny. But I’m more than thrilled to have her on the blog today. All I had to do was hold her bourbon hostage offer a nice invite, and she was eager to come on! Thanks, Julie. Take it away!

Julie Sibert

Several years ago, the book The Millionaire Next Door became a bestseller. The premise of the book is that many of the people who build financial stability and wealth do not look wealthy. They don’t have all the calling cards that we typically associate with wealth — extravagant houses, cars, and clothes.

The book came to my mind recently, but not for financial reasons. Just like we often have a narrow perspective on who is financially wealthy, we also can miss the mark on who we think is having great sex.

We likely can blame Hollywood for this. Storytellers are pros at making us believe that a perfectly proportioned body, stunning hair and make-up, and gorgeous eyes are the only pathways to truly great sex. But being physically beautiful by society’s standards isn’t what equates to phenomenal sex. There are a lot of average looking people experiencing indescribable passion and pleasure in their bedroom.

You don’t have to be strikingly beautiful physically to enjoy passionate lovemaking. If you struggle with body image and think you can’t have great sex because your abs aren’t flat, your arms are flabby and you have wrinkles around your eyes, consider the below three tips to gain a healthier perspective:

1. Start noticing how average most people are.

There’s that old adage that if you are thinking of buying a red car, you suddenly see red cars everywhere. It’s like you put an image in your mind, and your mind said, Check! I’m on it. Let me show you every red car I can find!”

If you feel sexually inhibited because you don’t feel your body looks stellar, it may be because you’ve kept an eagle eye out for people more attractive than yourself. You’ve let a self-fulfilling prophecy play out in your heart daily, and that perspective is glaringly biased toward seeing physically beautiful people. What a crappy comparison that always leads to the same place — you believing you are ill-equipped to have great sexual confidence and sexual passion.

But here’s the thing. If you stand back and take a broader, more objective look, you’ll see that the majority of people are not stunningly beautiful by society’s standards. Most people look average. They are real people; not a photoshopped or professionally-styled version of a real person, which is what we see on TV, in movies and on magazine covers.

Do some people have remarkable natural beauty? Well, sure. But they are the exception, not the rule. Start looking around and you’ll see what I mean.

Just like there are a lot of millionaires who don’t look like millionaires, there also are a lot of average people having great sex. Can you start to embrace that perspective? Doing so likely will boost your motivation to pursue more sexual passion with the person you married — you know, that person who also is fairly average looking.

2. Shed light (literally and figuratively).

I have a friend who told me once that she never has sex with the lights on because she is so self-conscious about her body. And yet her husband longed to enjoy the visual stimulation of enjoying not only her skin next to his, but also the freedom to see her.

If you can relate to this struggle, consider this. A little light in the room when you make love can help you grow in your sexual confidence. When we insist on making love in the dark or under the covers in an effort to hide, we are diminishing a passionate aspect of sex — visually enjoying each other. Literally shedding light on the situation can be as simple as having the closet light on, turning on a bedside lamp or lighting a few candles.

You can figuratively shed light as well by having a heart-to-heart conversation with your spouse. If you struggle with body image and you think it is why you are hesitant to fully lean in to sexual passion, then tell your spouse about your struggle. Express your desire to grow in sexual confidence. Ask for what you need. If you need more specific affirmation about your body, share this need with your spouse.

Getting comfortable in your own skin can be a joint endeavor, but it has to start with you shedding some light.

3. Agree with God about passionate sex.

God is so generous. He could have designed sex for only procreation, but instead, in all His creativity, He opened the floodgates on how amazing sex can be. He designed sexual intimacy as a treasure trove of arousal, pleasure, and oneness.

And nowhere does God tell us passionate hot sex is just for the pretty people. Nope.

He says, All you married folks, enjoy! Delight in your spouse sexually, even if they don’t have toned legs. Have sex as often as possible! Go for it! Don’t hold back in savoring your orgasm and your spouse’s orgasm. It doesn’t matter that neither of you will ever be photoshopped onto a magazine cover. I don’t care about any of that. I created sexual pleasure for all the married people, not just the ones who have mesmerizing eyes and big breasts and an uncanny ability to style their hair.”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing a bit, but you get the idea. God is a huge fan of sex because it was His gift for married people. He wants you to enjoy the gift now, rather than hold off until you lose the weight or clear up the acne or get a new wardrobe. He gave you the gift of sex to savor throughout your married journey — all the seasons and all the messy moments that are inherent to marriage.

Letting body image sabotage intimacy with the person you adore does nothing more than downplay God’s truths for your marriage. Who among us wants to say to God, “Nah, Lord, I think you must have meant the gift for someone else.” Um, not me. And I’m guessing not you either.

To come full circle, I will say this. The millionaires I personally know — they don’t look like millionaires. And all the people I know who say sex in their marriage is great? They don’t look like movie stars. They look average. They look like you and me.

For more reading, I have this post on sexual confidence and whole page with posts on body image.

You also have a few more days to get in on an opportunity I have for you to Build Better Sex in Your Marriage. You can find it at this link. The offer is available until June 14 and includes awesome bonuses, so I encourage you to take a look. Could be a great investment in your relationship!

Julie Sibert speaks and writes out of her own journey about sexual intimacy in marriage. You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Nebraska with her husband, two sons and a rambunctious dog named Stella who is trying to destroy the yard.

J here – If you missed it, be sure to check out our Sex Chat for Christian Wives podcast episode on orgasm, where Julie Sibert joined our “virtual kitchen table” conversation!

Are Women Harming Male Body Image?

We’ve all seen the completely unrealistic images of women with uber-long legs, teeny waists, melon breasts, and flat tummies. They’re on magazine covers, billboards, advertisements, and posters plastered around your local mall. Too often, we look at those pictures and wonder, Is that what a beautiful woman looks like? Is that what men want?

I’ve written plenty about body image for wives, arguing that all those PhotoShopped, airbrushed images undermine the beauty of individual wives—who are varied in their appearance but beautiful nonetheless to the Creator who made them, to the husband who married them, and to all others who love them. Which should include ourselves.

The Era of the Six-Pack

These days, women are not the only ones having unrealistic images and ridiculous expectations pelted at them. Just ask any guy who’s semi-aware, and he’ll tell you the “six-pack” is the new must-have for many men.

When I Googled “how to get six-pack abs,” I got 76.5 million results. Admittedly nowhere near the 496 million one gets if they Google “how to get big boobs,” but still a crazy high number. And how many guys out there are actually going to end up with washboard abs?

Yet six-packs, tight butts, big biceps, and every other muscular show of masculine strength is all the rage now. From Magic Mike to male cover models to superhero movies, the men who garner attention female attention are sporting a body that most only get with a strict diet, extensive exercise, and methods like taking diuretics. And guess what? If a male model or actor is over a certain age and still sporting a six-pack, they may also have had surgical intervention, such as liposuction to suck out fat and reveal muscles more prominently.

Meaning the average man…just can’t live up to the ideal.

Before the Abs Frenzy Took Hold

A lean yet muscular look has become a new standard for male attractiveness. But it hasn’t always been. Just look at these classic actors once considered particularly handsome in their day (and yes, they’re shirtless to show what I mean, but I avoided anything I thought was too much):

With the exception of Paul Newman, those are all just men who are in good shape, reasonably muscled, but not ready to wear today’s Captain America unitard. They’d be sent to a dietitian and personal trainer to push themselves up to the new, ridiculous standard.

Chris Evans, the Captain America actor, told a magazine about getting into shape for his role in Avengers: Infinity War: “For this film it was about three months of training, and I wasn’t looking forward to it…I’ve always liked going to the gym, but these weren’t normal gym sessions. I was puking at the gym. They were brutal, absolutely brutal.”

Seriously, are we wanting our men to puke so that we can look at steel abs for an hour and a half? If so, I don’t think we can say that women are the only ones being fed a pile of poop when it comes to body image.

Are Women Leading This Charge?

I blame a lot of players for unreal beauty and strength standards in our culture—from casting agents to magazine publishers to advertising executives to gym promotions. But you know what? Long before the ab craze, there was Fabio. And who bought those books and fell for the cover model? Women.

Who’s sharing “man candy” pics on Twitter and Facebook? Women. (And a few gay men.)

Who oohs and aaahs over Jason Momoa’s chest? Women. (He’s the actor who played Aquaman.)

The truth is that I don’t know if women are leading the charge, but they are contributing. And for a group of people who don’t like having Barbie-shaped expectations thrown at them all the time and object to being objectified, maybe we should own our part and do better, ladies. Maybe it’s time to create a new standard in our minds for what a handsome man looks like.

What Do “Real Men” Look Like?

Real men have varied body types just like women. Some are lean, some are bulky. Some are broad-shouldered, some are narrow-shouldered. Some display strength in their chests, some in their legs. I could go on and on with the variations, but you get the point that God made a plethora of physiques, all of which can be appreciated.

But your average guy, even in shape, is not going to look like the next Fabio or Black Panther. And we wives shouldn’t make our husbands feel bad about that. Rather, we should regularly and honestly show that we like and desire our husband’s body. Men are struggling with body image too.

Men are struggling with body image too. @HotHolyHumorous Click To Tweet

Gary Thomas wrote a fabulous post about The Only Man/Woman in the World, talking about how our own spouses should become The Standard for us. And while that doesn’t mean we’re blind to the beauty or muscles of some very nice-looking people around us, it means that we cherish the real person we have in our lives.

The world will not suddenly stop the madness of throwing unrealistic body types at us, but we can make a difference in our own home by letting our husband know that he is The One for us.

Q&A with J: Doesn’t She Really Want a Bigger Penis?

One of my most popular post continues to be Penis Size: From the Wife’s Point of View. So I’m not surprised that this issue continues to be on husband’s minds. Here are two related emails from readers:

I read your article on Penis size. There seems to be a lot of truth in it from my experience but some claims do not tally with my experience….My wife tells me she can feel my presence deep within her and she enjoys that feeling.

I stumbled across your webpage by googling “Does size matter?” and found your blog. I am the husband asking this because I wonder if my wife really deep inside wishes I was bigger.

Q&A with J: Doesn't She Really Want a Bigger Penis? with ruler

I have talked to a lot of women about this and done quite a bit of research. Thus, let me break down more fully what I know.

Penises are big.

For almost every woman, the first time she sees a penis and thinks about it fitting inside her, she’s like whoathat huge thing? We even talked about this in a recent Sex Chat for Christian Wives episode on male anatomy.

With the exception of a medical condition called micropenis (which is 2.5 standard deviations below average, and only 1.5 in 10,000 men have that), the penis is big enough to make her stretch, to provide friction, and to feel good.

Bigger penises might reach deeper.

Studies now show that yes, women who engage with longer penises may report some additional pleasure because there could be the potential to reach deeper erogenous zones.

But it’s not a given, and those zones can be reached in other ways. A guy with an average-sized penis can use sexual positioning and angles to hit “just that right spot,” if she’s so inclined. Moreover, you have your fingers too, which can curve and reach in ways your penis cannot.

Your penis isn’t the best way for her to orgasm.

Most women don’t reach orgasm through vaginal penetration anyway. The vast majority of orgasms for a woman are from direct clitoral stimulation, rather than the indirect stimulation intercourse provides.

If you really want to get her going, check out my recent post on the “golden trio”: These 3 Actions Could Bring You to Orgasm.

Committed wives value their husband’s penis.

When I receive a complaint from a woman about her man’s penis size, it’s always from a woman who isn’t in a committed marriage. I was about to type “almost always,” but then I realized the only exception I could think of was a guy who actually had that micropenis medical condition.

Every other time, it’s been from a promiscuous woman whose enjoyment of sex is more linked to some physical high than the deeper, and truly better, emotional, physical, and even spiritual connection that can happen in the marriage bed. From everything I’ve heard, wives in good marriages like their husband’s penis just fine.

From everything I've heard, wives in good marriages like their husband's penis just fine. Click To Tweet

It’s not the size of the tool, but its effectiveness.

Finally, women are more impressed with what you can do with your body parts than whether Mr. Happy can stand up an extra half-inch. If you want your wife to think you’re absolutely awesome, don’t sweat penis size so much; think about how to give her more pleasure.

For instance, link your penis being inside her with a clitoral orgasm that has her eyes rolling back in her head. You can do this by stroking her clitoris with your hand (make sure the area’s lubricated) during intercourse, or encourage her to use her own hand. Then when her muscles spasm, the presence (and thus size) of your penis will feel especially good.

That’s about it. I suspect your wife is content with your penis. But you can always explore more ways to make lovemaking more meaningful and pleasurable for both of you.

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Where to Shop for Lingerie

Sometimes, I get questions on where to shop for lingerie. People express concerns like:

  1. Finding sensual yet comfortable options
  2. Having a variety of sizes to choose from
  3. Not being exposed to scantily dressed women in ads or examples
  4. Not financing other problematic products

Admittedly, while Victoria’s Secret makes a quality bra, you cannot walk into that store without seeing models dressed and posed in provocative ways. And then there was the time I walked into a franchise lingerie and sex toy store, which had some nice options mixed in with who wears this? stuff…but the room in the back filled with porn movies made me back out of that place faster than a Fast & Furious race.

So what are some other places you can shop? Here are some ideas.

Blog post title + vintage-looking lingerie on a hanger stand

Boutique stores.

Sometimes a local boutique store has great options, as well as sales personnel who specialize in helping you find something that will flatter your form. Living in the Houston area, I certainly know that a few such alternatives can be found here.

Given the size of these shops, they’re unlikely to offer a lot of options. However, the quality of what they sell tends to be higher, meaning that the lingerie will probably be more comfortable and durable. As well as pricier, as I’m sure you figured.

Department stores.

Your local department store isn’t likely to have super-revealing ads or posters, even in the lingerie section. And they will have a wider variety than boutique stores, both in styles and sizes. Cost will depend on what level of department store you go to, but you can likely find something in your price bracket.

Also, for those nervous about shopping for lingerie, it can be a little less awkward to walk into a big department store and then go into that section. That way, if your Sunday school teacher spots you, you can just say, “Oh, I’m here to get socks, but I just wandered over to this department.” Albeit, if you’re holding up a sheer negligee with a big grin on your face, he ain’t gonna believe you. #CaughtRedHanded

Discount stores.

Stores like Target and Walmart are not considered department stores, but rather discount stores. Yet they have lingerie sections. Personally, I like the convenience of shopping for groceries, office supplies, toiletries, and lingerie all in the same shopping trip!

Indeed, you might be surprised what you can find on the lingerie racks of a discount store. And again, you won’t find a lot of revealing images displayed. Plus, it’s a pretty safe bet that your purchase won’t break your pocketbook.

Online Christian Retailers.

In the last several years, Christian-owned online stores have cropped up to provide marital aids, intimacy resources, and attractive lingerie. One wonderful feature is they display lingerie items on mannequins, rather than live models. I like that — both because you can easily turn the screen to your husband and say, “What do you think of this one?” without giving him an eyeful of flesh and because it keeps you from comparing your body to the woman wearing the negligee.

I’ve looked at quite a few online stores, and I finally found one I’m excited to endorse: Honoring Intimates. Honoring Intimates has a nice array of options, a good spread of sizes, reasonable prices, and good customer attention. In fact, they actually remove the manufacturer tag and add their own tag with a Song of Solomon theme. Yes, I purchased from them and had an excellent experience all the way around. I encourage y’all to check them out for yourselves.

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Honoring Intimates is also a great place to find something for that next bridal lingerie shower you attend. Not only would the recipient get a lovely item, they would have that reminder that God is a proponent of hot and holy sex in marriage.

And if you want to learn about how to shop for lingerie, I have a section on just that in my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design. Check it out!

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