Tag 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!

Is He (Secretly) Unhappy with Your Body?

My blog schedule has been thrown off this week, but I’m thrilled to share with you today a post I wrote for The Forgiven Wife. Chris Taylor has been doing a series on healing from sexual brokenness, and I tackled body image.

I’ve talked about this topic quite a bit here! However, this time I got really personal. I talk about how I believed at one time that my husband couldn’t possibly be happy with my body. Maybe you’ve felt the same.

Following is a teaser, and I pray you’ll click Read More to finish the article on The Forgiven Wife site.

I remember lying naked in bed with my husband above me, and all I could think was how small my breasts were — how desperately I wished I had more to share with him.

But this wasn’t the only time when poor body image stole my healthy view of sexual intimacy.

I’ve spent most of my life as a small woman, size 4 or below. Wait! Don’t stop reading. Whatever your size, I promise there’s a message for you here.

Deep down, I knew I wasn’t pretty. I lacked the curves that seemed to distinguish a girl from woman and instead felt trapped in a pubescent 13-year-old body. People “complimented” me with statements like: “You’re so thin, one of these days a big wind might just up and blow you away” and “You’re so skinny, I can see your bones.” But seriously, what man wants to be with tumbleweed or a skeleton?

In fact, this is one of the reasons I fell into promiscuity before marriage. Believing I couldn’t measure up to the beauty of the bodies around me, I figured I could at least snag a guy by giving him the sex he wanted….

Click Here to Read More

Are You His Type?

I’m too short for my husband. Our nine-inch different in height means I must stand on tiptoes and he must lean down for us to kiss one another’s lips. When we dance, our bodies don’t quite line up, which I try to compensate for with higher-heels (or higher-heeled cowboy boots). When I ask him to reach stuff on the top shelf, he sometimes looks at me like, “How short are you?” Answer? Not tall. And quite possibly shorter than any of the girls he dated before me.

It would be more convenient if I were a few inches taller. And I think he’d like not bending his neck down so far. But, despite repeated prayers to God when I was a teenager, I stopped growing at some point and that was that.

Am I his type? Not when it comes to height.

Are You His Type?

I’ve heard from wives who believe that their husbands dating women previously with different appearances or noticing other women now who differ greatly from how they look…means hubby doesn’t really like their body or beauty type.

From talking to men, reading their comments and emails, and studying research and information about their “species,” I have some thoughts on that.

He wouldn’t have asked you out, dated you all that time, and married you if he wasn’t attracted to you. By and large, this is truth. A guy might have a brief encounter with a woman he doesn’t find all that physically appealing, but he wouldn’t invest all that time and effort with his eventual wife if he didn’t think she was worth eyeballing, touching, and becoming intimate with. As visual as many men are (and yes, I know not all, and women can be visual too), they are motivated to find a woman who is visually pleasing.

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. What appeals to one person won’t necessarily appeal to another. If your body type is not the typical definition of gorgeous in our (twisted) society, that doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful. You, my dear, have your own physical, and even sexual, appeal. What matters most is you believing the truth that God created you as a beautiful woman and that you are beautiful in your husband’s eye.

Your attractiveness is strongly affected by your inner beauty. When men are surveyed on which character is more appealing from the TV series Gilligan’s Island, the sexy bombshell Ginger typically loses to the sweet, bubbly, and personable Mary Ann. Sure, the actress who played Mary Ann was pretty, but if you’d switched those actresses’ roles, I think the Mary Ann character would still win out. Because who she is makes her more attractive. Likewise, I remember a conversation with several girls in college about a guy who wasn’t objectively good-looking, but he was so nice, funny, and engaging that every one of us agreed he was highly attractive. Who you are impacts how you appear to those around you, especially your husband. If you’re a happy wife who fights the frump and makes him feel loved, odds are you’re hot in his heart.

Confidence is appealing. Let me be frank, ladies: Wives who constantly complain about their appearance, demand heaps of reassurance, and argue with their husband’s opinion can wear a guy out. Wives who own their beauty, present themselves with confidence, and yes, ask for reassurance when they need it are more appealing. Of course, you won’t immediately flip a switch and have a shot of confidence wash over you. You must intentionally work toward dealing with your self-consciousness, self-doubt, self-flagellation to become more comfortable with your body and your beauty.

Back to my height-challenged existence…

I used to think that my husband got cheated by not getting the tall woman he, I assumed, wanted. I wished God would grant me a belated wish, a medical miracle, and make me grow a few more inches.

But honestly, I’ve learned that my husband doesn’t see it that way. And I no longer view myself negatively either. For him, it’s just a little bending to kiss the woman he loves, a slight adjustment for us to dance in tandem, and appreciation of a physical characteristic that defines me. Even as my body changes – spreading a bit in the middle – he’s in love with the woman he sees, knows, touches, chose.

And why wouldn’t he feel that way? I feel that about him. My husband is not objectively as physically attractive as he was twenty years ago, but to me, he’s absolutely the best looking guy in every room I enter. He’s my type and I’m his type, because our love for each other means: “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Songs 4:7).

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What I Thought About Swimsuits in 1993

I’m a magnet for clutter. Paperwork seeks me out like a missile locating its target. On any given day, I feel that I must apologize for the state of my desk. And let’s not even discuss how badly I need to go through my files.

But as I was (finally) attacking some of the clutter, I came upon a couple of notebook pages of a journal-like entry dated May 1993. I was shocked to find I’d written almost 300 words about body image, modesty, and swimsuits. I decided to share it [with minor editing] here.

What I Thought About Swimsuits in 1993

I struggle with the fashion industry’s view of what clothes are to do. I thought clothes were to cover and enhance. Try shopping for a swimsuit with that in mind. Most swimsuits either look like they should be worn by your grandmother or a Sports Illustrated model.

So forget the grandma thing.

Everything else unveils rather than covers. I’d be afraid to jump into the water for fear that I’ll lose my modesty to the nearest wave.

Modesty is not big in the fashion industry. Suppose I wear an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny bikini. Does this actually enhance? I will now have to shave my “bikini area,” which always brings on a painful red rash hanging past my immodest bikini bottoms for all to see. I guess I could opt for electrolysis…yeah, right! Who said beauty was worth that kind of pain?! Who said a naked bikini area equals beauty?

Let’s go back to the modesty thing. Even if I solve the bikini area dilemma, I’m stuck with the constant game of tug and pull. I take a couple of laps in the pool, and as I’m leaving I’m pulling down the back of those bottoms, the bottom of my top, and up on the top of my bottoms. Makes you not even want to enter the pool.

If some other woman wishes to inflict self-torture, fine. But I quarrel with the fashion industry for not offering options.

I want swim shorts, like men. Speedos have been on the market for years, but most men opt for trunks. They won’t fall for that skimpy look thing. They demand comfort. Women demand tug and pull.

Well, they have swim shorts now. And swim skirts. Maybe someone in the fashion industry actually paid attention to what some of us wanted.

However, I still see the majority of women’s swimsuit departments inundated with swimsuits that neither cover nor enhance. Thankfully, I’ve learned a thing or two about shopping for swimsuits. Since it’s mid-June — and absolutely beach weather where I live — I wanted to once again share what I’ve written about modesty and swimsuit shopping:

What Does Modesty Look Like?

6 Questions to Ask about Your Swimsuit

Swimsuit Shopping (without Weeping and Wailing)

What about you? How do you approach modesty and swimsuits? Have you found a good solution? And has your opinion changed since 1993?