Body Image: The War Between Feeling Shame and Finding Freedom

I am beyond honored that Joy McMillan of Simply Bloom is guest-posting for me today. Joy is the author of XES: Why Church Girls Tend to Get it Backwards…And How to Get It Right.  I’ll be reviewing the book soon, but didn’t want to delay in sharing today’s post.

If you struggle with body image and trying to feel sexy and comfortable in your own skin, you’re going to want to read this. Thank you Joy…

body image strugglesI stood at the door feeling quite lovely in my summer dress, giddy at the thought of dancing the night away with an older boy.

As his car rolled up, every googly-eyed, toe-popping kiss scene I’d ever watched scrolled dreamily through my mind.

Surely this would be the most perfect night.

But somewhere between the gate and the front door he stopped, glanced up and, without missing a beat, declared, “Seriously?!? You’re wearing…that?”.

He needn’t have said anything, though. His face clearly communicated his disgust.

Illusion shattered, my shoulders sank as a hot flush flooded my cheeks. Apparently I had missed the “formal wear” memo and was ridiculously underdressed for the event. Or else this guy was just a total jerk. The jury is still out.

While this confidence-shattering event may have been just a small smudge on the big picture of my life, the shame I felt in that moment embedded itself deeply in my soul. It further cemented what I had already suspected; that something about me was unacceptable.

Repulsive, even.

On occasion this shame beast comes out to play. And you should know, it doesn’t play well with others.

The unkind and critical things others have said – even in complete ignorance – have a way of bleeding over onto the lens through which we see ourselves. We can hear 10 positive things spoken over us, and yet one single negative comment will seed itself so securely in our memories that it overshadows every positive.

We can go through the motions and flesh out our lives, but when our self-image is broken or buried under the weight of how society says we should look, everything in our world feels the ache.

This is especially true in our bedrooms, when our clothes come off.

Never has our confidence been so under attack. And nowhere is that deficit felt more than in the tender underbelly of our sexuality.

A few years ago, as I slipped into bed after a quick shower, my hubby confronted me. “So, umm…why can’t I see you naked? I’ve got a license, you know. Why not show me a little skin?” His observance caught me off guard.

I pulled the duvet closer in, feeling exposed by his acknowledgment of my routine. You know how it goes…woman slips out of clothes while simultaneously slipping behind the shower curtain. It’s seamless. Shower on, shower off. Hand slips out, grabs towel, curtain opens to woman tightly encased.

From there I’d slip into the closet where I’d get dressed in private. Like a secret agent, I had it down pat.

My husband, on the other hand, would walk around completely uninhibited in his birthday suit for entire minutes before the shower was even turned on, and would linger afterwards, sans fig leaf, while shaving, brushing his teeth, and faffing.

It would seem he actually liked being naked.

And it would seem, I did not.

No, his body isn’t perfect, but he’s comfortable, and that’s sexy. No, my body isn’t perfect, but he finds me ravishing. Shouldn’t that be enough?

He loves me – all of me, including the parts that have grown and stretched. But as long as my critical eye shreds my confidence by lingering on every stretch-mark, or zeroing in on anything that sags, I deny him the gift of myself.

It’s a gift I long to offer, but never feel adequate enough to extend to him.

I buy into the lie that perfection is the only gift worth giving, and so I withhold the beauty that is mine to give. And nobody wins.

When we feel uncomfortable in our bodies, remodeled compliments of our children, or ashamed of the stretchier skin we’re in…we run for cover. We bundle up, we push away, and we hide.

But the good news is that the opposite is also true.

As women we were created to appreciate beautiful things, and when we feel beautiful ourselves, we’re more apt to offer our beauty to others. More specifically, to our husbands.

We have a choice, sweet friend.

We can choose to hold onto shame, and allow it to destroy our confidence – and our sex lives along with it – or we can step into grace and the freedom it gives birth to.

Shame says, “You’ll never be enough. Don’t waste your time trying.”

Grace says, “God gave that – all of that – to you…now enjoy it while you bless him with it.”

Even sexier than our girly figure in the bedroom, is our Godly confidence in the bedroom. The gray matter that sits between our ears is our most powerful sex organ.   The way we see ourselves and then present ourselves hugely affects our ability to intimately engage at all.

It also gives us the power to choose.

May we choose well, wisely and often.

 

Joy McMillanJoy is a speaker, writer and coach.  She’s passionate about empowering women to embrace their stories, live out their passion with purpose, and leave a legacy of love.  The author of XES: Why Church Girls Tend To Get It Backwards…and How To Get It Right, Joy was raised in Southern Africa and now finds her home in Michigan with her handsome hubby and their two lovely loin-fruit. Find her online at www.simplybloom.org.

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38 thoughts on “Body Image: The War Between Feeling Shame and Finding Freedom

  1. e2 says:

    Between this and J’s blog, there has been much written of late about women feeling and owning their own beauty. As a husband, I pray that the wives take these posts to heart. I love my wife, and like most healthy husbands, deeply enjoy seeing her beauty in all its naked fullness, imperfections and all. And, like Joy, she became very adept at avoiding that very pleasure. And, from what I read on the blogs, her feelings are not at all unusual. So, my confusion is this. Why is it that, as I type these words on the Internet, just several mouse clicks away are literally thousands of women parading their altogether in front of cameras and webcams for all the world to see. No, I’m not tempted to make those mouse clicks… that’s not my point. Rather, I don’t understand why the one woman that I’m allowed to see naked doesn’t enjoy me looking while thousands of other women I don’t even know seem to want me to look at them.

  2. DC says:

    I LOVE the line about us believing that perfection is the only gift worth giving! That really resonated with me. I had a baby just over a year ago and I actually lost some weight, but now I’ve gained it back due to lack of exercise. I feel disgusting in general, so of course that means I don’t think I’m worth looking at! It’s tough to imagine being attractive to my husband with clothes on (much less naked) but he shouldn’t be punished because I’m 4 sizes bigger than when I got pregnant. That’s my fault. Anyway, thanks for the reminder!

  3. Charlie O says:

    This comment is for both genders: If you want to fail in your marriage, think that your spouse thinks like your gender. Ladies, the female body provides a fascination for the male that is beyond anything that you can image times ten. My wife is away with the grand kids for a few days (we’re in our sixties), and I have before me on an iPad a photo that she sent (on my request) of her naked genitalia. I have a second of her breasts. I’ve been taking peeks of them all day. We shower together almost every day. I never get tired of seeing her body. And, I promise you, ladies, that I am quite normal in this department. Love for you makes your husband want to see you naked, and that same love causes him either to not see your flaws or minimizes them. Parade with confidence; pose with aplomb. Let him see you in what he considers all of your female glory. Begin with sheer lingerie. Ask him to undress you for bed, and let his eyes linger on your feminine charms. Ask him to lather you up in the shower. Wear no panties under a skirt, and when the opportunity arises, bend over, flip up your skirt, and give him a glorious show. Act confident until you feel it. You seriously risk having a very happy husband.

  4. Reba says:

    @e2 I wonder if you have answered your own question: the women who want you to look don’t know you. Therefore, they’ve nothing to lose if you don’t like what you see.

  5. Reba says:

    “that same love causes him either to not see your flaws or minimizes them.” As long as we use phrases that imply our flaws need to be minimized or overlooked, we will continue to have body image issues.

  6. robin says:

    charlieo,
    I am so happy that you and your DW are so so close an open with each other. Unfortunately not all of us can ever have that, maybe because no matter what we do we just can get that comfort level with each other which could be for many different reasons. Me, being a survivor of child abuse I could ever cross that line of self protection. When I read lot of these blogs as much I envy marriages like yours, I also end up feeling like broken goods. Am I fixable, I really think it is too late for me, if I had a dollar for every therapist that told me that I should put my abuse experience behind me I would be rich. Just reading you post started negative triggers for me. All I am saying is we all view sexuality differently based on our upbringing and experiences.

  7. e2 says:

    @Reba wrote, “‘that same love causes him either to not see your flaws or minimizes them.’ As long as we use phrases that imply our flaws need to be minimized or overlooked, we will continue to have body image issues.”

    I thought the same thing when I read Charlie’s comment; it just didn’t ring right, but I think I understand his heart. To my wife, her smaller breasts and fuller butt are “flaws.” To me, they are wonderful assets. It’s not that my love “minimizes” them or that I overlook them. It’s that I *prefer* them exactly the way they are, and I wouldn’t want them changed. As Prince Charming sang in Cinderella, “Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?” I think Charlie would lean toward the latter while you ladies may prefer to believe the former. For me, I don’t try to answer the question. It doesn’t matter. I just know my wife’s naked body excites me, and I would love to see it far more often than I do.

    As to the Internet women who want me to look having nothing to lose, I understand what you mean. But they also have nothing to gain. My wife can gain a closer and more intimate marriage, but because she is more focused on what she might lose, we both miss out on the gain of intimacy. But, I complain too much. As I wrote earlier, things are improving as we are talking more and even working through a sex challenge book together. I was just lamenting the fact that, despite how much I tell my wife how hot I think her body is, she remains very insecure about it. I sense she thinks I’m “just saying” those things to make her feel good when, in truth, I don’t really feel that way. But, I do! I really, really do!

    Thank you for your feminine perspective. It is always helpful.

  8. Charlie O says:

    I am trying to help the ladies understand that their husbands don’t see what they see. Several years ago I read a book by a Christian therapist that had two cartoons about what each gender sees in the mirror. The fairly trim woman saw all manner of physical “flaws” that really weren’t there. Perfection is a matter of opinion. Decades ago I read an interview with a beautiful movie star. She complained about some physical thing about herself that she didn’t like. What I wanted to explain is that even those who consider their bodies to be less than perfect are still “wonderful to behold.” My wife had stretch marks, she’s in her sixties–she doesn’t look like a teenager; but none of that matters. The sight of her naked body still excites me immensely I began my first comment with this statement: If you want to fail in your marriage, think that your spouse thinks like your gender. Women can not understand this characteristic of men. Never! If you will believe, ladies, that your husband finds the sight of your unclothed body wonderful, you will bless yourself, and it will enable you to bless him. Don’t try to understand it, just accept it.

  9. Charlie O says:

    This comment is for Robin. You can be made whole. I am a pastor, and every few years I deliver a series of lessons on “Healing Your Past.” I, too, am an abuse survivor. When I was about 8 my alcoholic dad beat my back bloody with a switch. On several occasions he held my mother, pointing a pistol at her head, threatening to use it. We were poor because he spent all his money on himself. Do I have a platform from which to speak? Through renewing my mind, I have overcome the negative emotions that damaged my life. I can’t tell you everything you need to know in a minute, but I can tell you where to begin. In Romans 8:28 God says that He can bring good out of anything. BY FAITH begin this way: Thank God that He is able to take your awful experience and bring something good from it. Then every time your experience comes to mind repeat this. You don’t even need to believe this yet, just do it. In time you will believe it, and then you can go on from there. May the Lord help you.

  10. B says:

    I agree 2000% with Reba. In fact, e2 – I had those same thoughts that she wrote “you just answered your own question.” Besides, most wives know those Internet women are out there, and they are perfection. We cannot compete with that, nor do we want to try. It’s a losing battle. I will never be a country music star, a movie star, a stripper, a lingerie model. They are perfect, flawless, and I will never even come close. Why try to compete? It’s far better to just accept the loss, accept what I am, and not burden him with having to try to pretend he likes me.
    And you mentioned that you were lamenting the fact that no matter how times you tell your wife she’s hot, she’s still insecure. Me too! It’s perfectly normal. Expected, even. And I think most husbands would laugh and think “what a delusional woman” if their wives started walking around acting like they were all that and super hot. It’s tough being a real woman. Tougher than men could ever imagine. I think men actually like the insecurity of their wives. And women are smarter than you give us credit for, we know when you’re “just saying” things because you’re “supposed to.” It would be better to say nothing at all.
    Don’t misunderstand me, your wife may be very beautiful and deserve to feel amazing. And that’s great! But all I’m saying is her feelings and reactions do not seem weird to me at all. I don’t know why men act like they have such a hard time understanding this.

  11. charlie o says:

    I can’t answer every specific, and I don’t know what you may be dealing with in your marriage. So I just want to close with this. The body of a woman loved is a wonderful thing to the husband who loves her. She is warm and can be touched. She is his and no one else’s. She’s not air-brushed and therefore phony: She’s real. That women should bask in his love and learn to be confident. Perfect love casts out fear. If your husband loves you exclusively, your body is wonderful to him. No, I have no idea how traumatic it is to be a woman, but I am fully conversant with what it is to be a man, and I have given you the Christian male viewpoint.

  12. e2 says:

    B,

    Love isn’t a competition. And, even if it were, you’ve already won. Your husband chose you. He married you. He loves you. You’ve won. He wants you to enjoy the victory instead of thinking you have to compete with country music stars, movie stars and strippers. It’s no competition. Period.

    I understand my wife’s insecurities are normal. I do get it, and, no, I don’t think they’re weird. I just don’t like it. Even if she views her features as “flaws” I do not and I have told her that many, many times. The fact that she won’t believe me is very, very hurtful to me. Every marriage writer says the same thing. Confidence is sexy; insecurity is not. My wife’s body is hot and I have told her that innumerable times. If only she would believe me.

    We know it’s hard to be a woman, but you ladies make it so much harder than you need to by worrying about physical features that simply aren’t important to your husbands. You worry about your height, your hair color, your breast and butt size and shape, your cellulite and varicose veins. None of this matters to us. We love you and you’re beautiful, or you’re beautiful and we love you. I don’t know which comes first, but it doesn’t matter. So we try to relieve your insecurities by telling you “you’re beautiful,” and you brush us off telling us that we’re “just saying” it. So, yes we get frustrated. We may even stop complimenting you rather than keep getting shot down. Then, in your insecurity, you offer to dye your hair, or get breast or butt implants. Now, we’re downright mad, not because you don’t deserve to be what we want, but because you already are what we want, and you just won’t believe it. It’s maddening.

  13. NGal says:

    charlie o, I’m sure you are aware not all men (even if sincere Christian) are that accepting – some demand perfection more than others.
    As a woman, no, I don’t expect perfection, but I would appreciate that a spouse takes care of himself and wants to stay fit & healthy – firts of all for the Lord and His service, then for his wife’s sake. I’m ready to do the same.
    None of us can change our genetics, but we can do the best we can to take care of ourselves.

  14. Reba says:

    I’m in my mid/late 50’s and my body is awesome. I awake in the morning with all parts working and no pain. I can walk several miles. I can play kick ball and fly kites with my grandchildren. I can shovel snow. I can do 100+ abdominal crunches in one setting. I can buy and deliver food to the food bank. I can sing (really well!) I can play the piano and the organ. I can smile and laugh. I can make others smile and laugh. I can organize. I can pray. I can listen. I can touch, smell, taste. My body is a gift to care for and share.

  15. e2 says:

    NGal, both you and B have referred to “perfection.” What is perfection and who decides? I married late in life and had dated several girls before I settled down. My girlfriends were tall and short, larger breasted and smaller, thin and not-so-thin, red-haired, brown haired and brunette. I *never* considered any of them more “perfect” physically than the others. They were different, and I liked each of their own unique beauty. I think that’s what Reba and Charlie were trying to say in their own ways. When we think of physical appearance in terms of “perfection” and “flaws” that need to be “minimized” or “overlooked,” we’re already starting behind the 8-ball and just setting you ladies up for even more insecurities.

  16. e2 says:

    @Reba,

    Yes! What a refreshing outlook. My wife is also in her mid-50s and hotter than ever.

    I recall reading a story in a marriage book (I don’t remember which one.) In it a 60 something lady was on a lunch/shopping outing with several of her much younger friends. They were genuinely surprised when she walked into a lingerie shop and bought a sweet little something. They asked why she was buying it at her age, and she replied, “When you’re the only naked woman in the room, you look like a million bucks.” In that one comment of confidence, she destroyed the myth that younger/firmer = more beautiful.

    (100 crunches; that’s really impressive.)

  17. Reba says:

    @e2 Thanks for the kudos. I guess my point was we should be more impressed with what we can do and contribute than with how we look. Some of us take this obsession to a point of worshiping a false god. It consumes our thoughts, guides our decisions, stokes our fears. We place more trust in what the media tell us than in what God tells us. Sad.

  18. Reba says:

    I should add that it is a daily battle for women to deny the media’s messages. Perhaps not unlike a man’s battle against visual temptation. Those messages bombard our senses relentlessly. They are powerful and it is not an easy thing to break free from the prisons they construct around us.

  19. Ruth says:

    Not all of us are lucky enough to have a husband who doesn’t notice our flaws. Just last night, while giving me a back rub my husband commented that I have a lot of backfat.
    Combine that with his constant complaining about me and lack of being a good house cleaner, or not adventureous in bed, etc, etc…complaining about our life, that it’s not awesome enough.
    His mentioning a woman is hot, or commenting on her boobs while we watch tv. Him wanting to watch movies with sex scenes. Him commenting on how gross my sisters weight gain is(when I’ve gained the same amount).
    ….well you put it altogether and I don’t believe him when I do get a compliment on how beautiful I am. He does notice my flaws. There’s a reason I don’t want to have sex anymore, and on the rare time when I give in and have sex, I want it in a dark room. There’s a reason I change when he’s not in the room. I wish he could overlook the 5lbs I’ve kept on after birthing 5 kids.

  20. e2 says:

    @Reba,

    I can fully understand the battle you have when most women’s media publications, print, online, TV, movie, etc. focus on “beauty,” *and* define it solely in physical terms (to sell clothing, makeup and breast implants) *and* follow some arbitrary standard of physical perfection. It’s gotta be a horrible struggle.

    If it helps at all, I am over six decades old. I’ve known many, many married men in my life. I’ve heard their complaints about their wives. Their complaints are typically about things their wives can control or influence. I’ve heard husbands complain that their wives are controlling, nagging, disrespectful, spend too much money, and have weak libidos. I have *never* heard a man complain to me that his wife’s breasts were too small, or that her butt was too big, or that she was too tall, too short, too blond, not blond enough, etc. I’ve never heard a man complain about his wife’s clothing or makeup, except that they buy too much of both. Now, I won’t say there aren’t any men who think those things, but none have ever been so bothered by it that they were compelled to share their concerns with me, whereas many have shared their concerns with the way their wives treat them.

    It just may be that we men are not nearly as concerned with your physical appearance as you are, or that you think we are.

  21. B says:

    Sometimes husbands send mixed messages. For example, tonight we were at a Christmas concert in a church. In the pew in front of us was a very young woman (20 yrs old) who was wearing a very short skirt and kept crossing and uncrossing her legs. Did my husband notice? You bet he did! And when I move away from him, he gets upset. He keeps asking me what’s wrong. Duh! First of all, my long legs have always been one of his favorite parts of me. I guess they’re getting too old for him. If he’s that interested in another woman’s legs, I cannot be beautiful to him. If he’s sitting there noticing her while I’m right next to him, I am obviously not who he wants to be with. When he says I’m beautiful it’s a big fat lie. Why would I want to believe him when he says he loves me, when I am obviously not attractive to him anymore? And what’s more infuriating, when he asks me what’s wrong I say “nothing” because if I tell him the truth, that I’m upset that he’d rather I disappear so he can pursue the woman he was noticing, he’ll be like, “what do you mean? What woman? I love YOU.” Bologna. He’s either got the worlds shortest memory or he’s lying. But please, do NOT tell me you love me, and do NOT tell me I’m beautiful when we both know you’d obviously rather be with miss short skirt in the row in front of us. Just be honest and tell me I’m no longer appealing to you. The truth would hurt less than this.

  22. Reba says:

    @e2 Good points. I remember when I told my husband I could make an effort with my appearance but I would never look like Vanna White (he’d made it very clear to me how much she aroused him), and he replied, “I don’t want that. I want you!” That was news to me and seemingly incongruous with his behavior.

    My point is it is difficult to resist the media’s message when a husband is supportive and nearly impossible when he says and does the things Ruth (above) describes.

  23. Ruth says:

    I wouldn’t be nearly so depressed about my appearance if my husband wasn’t checking out other woman. So all you husbands who find a woman’s insecurity frustrating, you brought it on yourself.

  24. e2 says:

    @B,

    Your story reminds me of a recent incident at my own church involving a pretty young thang and my own eyes. One of the ladies in our college and career group is particularly attractive and dresses quite stylishly, so much so that the older married women of the church are often telling her how pretty she is. Well, one Sunday, I was walking down the hall and she came out of her classroom and began to walk ahead of me by about 5 paces. As I followed her, I couldn’t help seeing her bright red dress, made of a fabric that clung to her skin and flattered her anatomy. Without being too graphic, the combination of fabric and her anatomical jiggle evidenced that she was either wearing a thong or going commando. Also, the way the back of her dress was cut out, the back of her pink bra was prominently displayed. Since she was right in front of me, I couldn’t help seeing her, and since I am a visually oriented man, I couldn’t help noticing that she was sexually attractive. That said, it never occurred to me that I preferred this young beauty to my much older wife. Yes, I noticed she was pretty, even sexy, but that does *not* mean I wanted sex with her or that I think my wife is ugly. I love my wife dearly and *only* want sex with her, even while I acknowledge that there are other attractive women in this world.

    I appreciate that this state of affairs (visually oriented men and attractive women) makes wives feel insecure. I often feel insecure myself when my wife expresses appreciation or admiration for the virtues of another man. “He’s so cute,” “He’s a great father,” “He’s such a man of God,” “He’s so easy going,” are all phrases I’ve heard from my wife about other men. When I hear her say these things, my natural reaction is that she doesn’t think those things about me (in part because she rarely, if ever, says such things about me). Yet, I know she feels comfortable saying these things precisely because she loves only me and has no desire for these other men, just as I have no desire for pretty young thangs who happen to walk down the hall in front of me in revealing red dresses. I shake off my insecurities when I realize that every night, she comes to bed next to me. I accept that I’m not the most attractive man in the world, but I also accept that my wife loves me just as I am while she acknowledges the attractiveness of other men, just as I want only her in a world full of young girls wearing revealing clothing. I’ve just learned that, when we’re walking past Victoria’s Secret at the mall to turn my eyes away from the store window posters and onto my wife.

    Best wishes to you and your husband as you continue to work on all of this.

  25. B says:

    @e2, thank you for your comment. Your insights are very helpful. My husband’s goal for us this year is to communicate better. However, he gets frustrated with me and shuts down before he ever makes a point. I fill in the blanks with my own ideas and that usually leads to more issues. I figure if he won’t say what he’s thinking then it must be too bad to say.

    I have body image issues that may sound weird, but are probably pretty common. What I don’t understand is my husbands reaction to my reaction. I realize I’m not 20 anymore. I realize men like to look at attractive women. What I don’t understand is why it bothers him that it bothers me, or why it bothers him when I pull away. As long as I keep my mouth shut and don’t complain verbally, why does he care? For example, if we had been walking down the hallway holding hands, behind the young lady you describe, I would immediately remove my hand and move to the other side of the hallway. If he’s going to enjoy the view, who am I to ruin his good time? Why would he want to be touching me, when someone far better has come into view? Why would I want to hold his hand, knowing that he deserves much better? So I let go, move away, and try to leave him alone. What I don’t get is why this makes him mad. He acts clueless as to why I’d be upset, and then I get upset that he’s not appreciating that I’m accepting my flaws and trying to stay out of his way. Yes, I’ve got issues.

    Your wife is a very blessed woman. I have a very hard time believing that my husband prefers and even desires me over sexier women that are everywhere. Perhaps if he noticed me once, even once, I’d believe him. He claims he looks at me and checks me out all the time, but I have never, ever seen it. And as attuned as I am to him noticing other women, I’m sure I’d notice if he so much as glanced at me. Believe it or not, it hurts me that it hurts him that I don’t believe him. But no, I don’t think I’m beautiful or even mildly attractive, so I don’t have any idea how he can possibly see anything positive in me. Therefore I pull away, walk away, and let him enjoy the beauty walking down the hallway – since he deserves to enjoy beauty once in a while. And yes, it hurts me, but it feels like the right thing to do. You would think he’d appreciate it, and that’s why his frustration confuses me.

  26. Reba says:

    @B When we put ourselves down, we put our husbands down. We imply they settle for us, and that insults them. We imply they didn’t have enough self respect to marry a woman they truly loved and admired. We disrespect ourselves in the same way, implying we settled for husbands we knew did not truly love and admire us.

  27. e2 says:

    B,

    I understand your pain and issues. I shared my story in an attempt to help alleviate them somewhat.

    You wonder why your husband wants to touch you when “someone far better has come into view.” That’s precisely my point. That “someone” is *not* far better. Yes, she’s pretty, yes she’s sexy, but your husband still loves you.

    His love for you doesn’t blind him to the beauty of other women, and the beauty of other women doesn’t diminish his love for your. I’ve had to learn this myself as my wife’s love for me doesn’t blind her to the fact that there are other men out there that she deeply admires.

    I may be wrong, but I think that when you pull away, your husband feels judged, as if you think he’s a lustful pervert simply for seeing what is right in front of him. You noticed the girl in the pew with the short skirt shifting and crossing her legs. Your husband noticed the same thing. You noticed she was sexually attractive and so did he, yet he feels you are condemning him for simply noticing the same thing you did. That’s why he gets upset when you pull away. He feels like he can’t help seeing what’s in front of him and that you are punishing him for doing so.

    I also agree with Reba that when you put yourself down, he feels as if you’re putting him down. If you’re as ugly as you think you are, what does that say about his taste in women? After all, he chose you.

    I wonder if you and your husband are on what Emerson Eggerichs (Love and Respect) calls a “crazy cycle.” Your husband notices another woman. In your (very understandable) pain you pull away, making him feel judged, which makes him angry and in his anger, he may even justify noticing another woman (after all, if my wife is going to pull away and reject my verbal expressions of love, I might as well enjoy the view elsewhere). In the crazy cycle, our tendency is to wait until the other spouse makes it stop. You want him to stop noticing pretty young things; he wants to hold your hand and have you believe that he loves you even in the unavoidable presence of pretty young things. Eggerichs points out that it doesn’t matter who gets off the crazy cycle first; somebody just has to do it.

    I’ll continue to pray for you and your husband.

  28. e2 says:

    B,

    It occurs to me that, if it seems that I’m hard on you, it is only because I see so much of me in you. Like you, I see how my wife’s words don’t match up to her actions. Like you, I believe her actions speak louder than her words, and I often find myself not believing her words. Like your husband, she gets upset with me because it seems to her as if I’m often misreading her feelings. But, I have been certain that my reading is right and that she is only trying to cover up her negative feelings by saying what she knows I want to hear. I trust my own instincts more than her words, and it is hard to shake the feeling that she is not attracted to me when she claims that she is.

    After many years of this, I’m finding I have to make a conscious decision to believe her words, even when my instincts are screaming to me that she’s not being fully open with me. My wife is often telling me that I believe the worst in her, and if I’m honest with myself, she’s right. And, yet, 1 Cor. 13 says “… love always trusts …” If I love my wife as much as I claim I do, then I have to choose to trust her love for me and set aside my own suspicions, even suspicions supported by the strongest evidence of her actions.

  29. B says:

    @e2, thank you for your comment. I guess you have a point. I don’t think my husband is a lustful pervert for noticing attractive women, but I understand that you’re saying I might be coming across that way. I don’t pull away to condemn him, rather I pull away because sometimes I feel like I’m IN the way. Its my issue. It’s just hurtful that I’m not pretty enough for him. He doesn’t think that, but I do. Again, my issue. I need to try not to pull away, although the feeling that I’m not good enough for him and should remove myself from the situation is incredibly strong at times. It’s an issue I need to work on.

    I’m sorry you can see yourself in me, it’s a painful place to be. I, too, need to make a decision to believe his words. I struggle with words, a lot.

    Thanks again for the reply.

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  31. B says:

    This is one of my favorite posts, and I just reread it again and remembered something I had wanted to say before… From the post…
    “It’s a gift I long to offer, but never feel adequate enough to extend to him.
    I buy into the lie that perfection is the only gift worth giving, and so I withhold the beauty that is mine to give. And nobody wins.”
    This, this, this, yes! This!!! This is exactly it! My husband is a good man who deserves wonderful, beautiful things. I am nowhere near perfect, not even close, and therefore the gift of myself is nowhere near good enough to present to him. Thanks to all of the stunning, youthful, perfect, beautiful images around us, me giving myself to him would be like presenting him with a bouquet of broken, wilted, trampled on, week-old flowers. Nobody would want such a gift, and I think it would be insulting of me to give him such a gift.
    So yes, the author hits the nail on the head with this one. In reality, I am so far from perfection, (or even slightly acceptable), that I know better than to even hope my husband would be happy with the gift of me. It’s a sad situation, but it is what it is.

  32. NGal says:

    Oh B, you are a beautiful soul and body, both redeemed and bought by our precious Savior…
    I cannot imagine the pain you feel, but I can identify with the desire to give only The Best to someone you love.
    You are enough in Him who created and redeemed you… His grace is sufficient.
    Preaching to myself as well – I am worthy to be loved, because I am accepted in The Beloved…

  33. Wife says:

    e2,

    What you wrote really caught my eye:

    ‘You wonder why your husband wants to touch you when “someone far better has come into view.” That’s precisely my point. That “someone” is *not* far better. Yes, she’s pretty, yes she’s sexy, but your husband still loves you.’

    This is the issue for so many of us. For so long Christian wives have been told of the importance of sexual fulfilment for husbands as a primary need in marriage and the pain they suffer without it. We are also told that visual stimulation is the primary source of joy for them in this area. We are reminded again and again what is visually sexually appealing through media, Christian books warning against lust and men’s wandering eyes. Usually the target of interest looks very different to their wife and just like she’s learned is what REALLY arouses interest just like the pastor described the college girl at church (young age), her looks (pretty) and her figure (sexually attractive form). He was able to describe intricate details about her form hugging clothing and what he imagined would be (or not!) underneath, a memory etched in beacause…..she is IT. She is what wives wish they were for their husbands because she hits men on a level that doesn’t have to rely solely on their ‘love’ or connection (the fear of the wife being “what if his wife goggles fell off for a moment and he sees me in all my shame, or worse…next to someone like that?”) which is not really meeting the deep ‘need’.

    Wives are given the privilege of meeting their husband’s needs in this way but it is a BURDEN if she does not have the tools for it. Men generally are clueless about how horrendous this is for women to have to carry, such a horrible relationship with the form they have no control over with such visual ‘wiring’ of their husband as Shaunti Feldhahn describes. Men need to stop saying
    ‘But I love my wife”
    Women know about love, it’s great, we feel it too BUT it is not Eros, that which a man craves and which was the drive behind the pastor’s etched imprint of the girl in the red dress clinging to her sexually appealing form which was donning a pink bra and possibly a thong or not…

    I wish husbands understood and stopped adding to their wife’s burden by expecting her to interact with him as though this reality did not exist. Very unrealistic to expect someone to thrive within shame.

    Sorry to be negative but I really believe men generally do not have an understanding of the depth of failure women feel at being compartmentalised into the ‘love’ box while feeling inadequate to meet one of his deepest needs while she is confronted by a plethora of young women who could do so, or do so visually without any effort at all, just by existing. The shame may feel a little like a man would feel if his wife consistently disrespected him publicly and corrected him in front of his peers whenever he spoke. Men fear being inadequate for a task and this is exactly what wive’s who no matter if she hits the spot now will ALL face at some point. It can lead to despair, understandably. Hopefully this gives men some insight into why the phrase ‘but I love YOU” does not bring the results of comfort, security and freedom they hoped it would.

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  36. m says:

    I personally get idigent and ANGRY when people tear apart someone’s bodily confidence. Not only dose it damage that person, but ALSO dose GREAT harm to the person’s perspective spouse or spouse. My wife is a larger BEAUTIFUL LADY. When someone hurts her heart, I have to channel that anger into appropriate action and address the situation correctly,first to lower the damage to her, secondly to TEACH why this use of words is morally WRONG. …. PLEASE ladies,NEVER swallow the lies of this cruel TEMPORAL world we live in.

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