10 Ways to Overcome Body Image Issues

Start taking steps today to overcome your body image issues. For your sake. For the sake of your marriage.

comfortable in your skin

In my previous post, 6 Things Wives Need to Know About Their Body Image Struggles, I explained how body image issues can do damage to your marriage.

Today, I want to give you some possible places to start on your journey toward a healthier self-image. Please read and consider these thoughtfully. Check out some of the many linked posts to dig a little deeper. This will be well worth the effort!

1) Work on Your Mindset

Accepting your appearance starts with realizing that you have been uniquely hand-crafted by God – fearfully and wonderfully made by him (Psalm 139:14). You are his beautiful creation because he says you are. It is also important to understand how negative self-image can damage your marriage (see my previous post). Set it in your heart to change your thinking about yourself. Pray for a heart change. Pray a blessing over each of your body parts, especially the ones you most dislike. Pray for and receive forgiveness for despising God’s creation.

2) Accept your husband’s compliments

When your husband pays you a compliment take it at face value. Thank him instead of refuting him or arguing back. Say thank you, even if you don’t mean it at the time. Hearing yourself say it out loud will help to change your mind. Trust that he delights in you and in the fact that you are his. He does.

(I realize that there are some husbands that claim to no longer be attracted to their wives, though I have found this to be a very small minority. For those suffering in that situation please read Shelia Gregory’s post “What If My Husband Doesn’t Find Me Attractive.”)

3) Practice being naked

The more often you are naked in front of your husband, or mostly so, the more you will learn to feel comfortable in your own skin. Let go of shame and appreciate the way he looks at you with love and genuine desire. Believe me when I say he is desiring YOU, not just a collection of your body parts. Appreciate your husband’s desire as God-given and not something dirty. For some of you, this will take baby steps, such as being naked in the dark and progressing to being naked under the covers, and then progress to having the lights on.

4) Flirt!

Work on intentionally being more flirtatious with your husband. Work your way up to flirting in a more explicitly sexual manner than you have before. It will delight your husband and build your confidence – and confidence is very attractive. Send your husband flirtatious text messages or put notes in his briefcase. Be bold! Even if you don’t follow through later, most husbands appreciate the gesture. There are also private messaging apps for couples, such as “Couple“.

5) Choose for him

Get your husband’s input on your clothing, lingerie and/or sleeping attire. I understand that this feels risky! But when you dress in ways you know he finds appealing and let him know when you choose especially for him – it will bless him enormously. Feeling brave? Ask your husband to choose what you sleep in. Feeling really brave?  Let your husband pick your entire outfit every day for a week like this woman did.

6) Take positive steps

Take small steps that make you feel good about yourself and your appearance, but don’t do it out of shame or in order to “fix” yourself. You aren’t “broken,” and shame is a terrible motivation for change.

You might consider working on your overall health. A healthy diet and regular exercise are always a good idea and will make you feel better in general. Pay more attention to how you dress. Choose attire that makes you feel pretty and accentuates your best features. Try out a new hairstyle or color. Have a manicure or pedicure. But remember, be you. Don’t try to be someone else.

7) Get the Facts

There is a great amount of falsehood in the world today when it comes to beauty. Remember, the women you see in magazines and movies don’t actually exist. The goal of all advertising is to make you feel inadequate and portray you as “less than” in order to get you buy their particular product. It’s all a lie.

One prime example of falsehood is breast size. Despite what you see everywhere, bigger is not better. Research has shown that a “C” cup is actually the size most preferred by men (and women). It’s notable that the average cup size in the US happens to be C. And the second most preferred size is “B.” Ignore what you see in media and advertising!

8) Stop Comparing

I know this is a big ask. But really, comparison is poison. You are uniquely you, and you don’t need to strive to be like someone else. I recently came across a blog by Heather Creekmore, Compared to Who,  whose entire mission is to help Christian women develop a healthy self-image. You will realize that you are not alone and discover some interesting facts in “ What Women Really Think of Their Bodies. ”

9) Develop your Inner Beauty

Most of the suggestions in this list focus on outward appearance because that’s where most women struggle most. But don’t forget to care for your inner self. Feed your spirit with time in worship and prayer and the Word. Spend time letting God love on you and feeling his delight in you. Chris, my blogging friend at The Forgiven Wive, recently wrote about this in her post “Experience God.” Feed your soul as well, with activities that make you come alive and feel more like your true self. See my post “10 Ways to Feed Your Soul.”

10) Choose to Believe By Faith

There are many times in our Christian walk where we have to rely on faith when we can’t comprehend the truth. Believing your husband finds you beautiful will often require faith, just like we choose to believe in the goodness and love of God, even when we don’t feel it.

 

For some the journey toward a healthy, positive self-image will be a long one, others may see a quick turnaround. As you see progress, enjoy the increased intimacy in your marriage that will likely result. Relish the freedom and joy that can grow to take the place of bondage and pain.

Do it for your own sake and for the sake of your marriage. Start today.


Some of my other posts on this topic:
Further encouragement from some of my female marriage blogging friends:

6 Things Wives Need to Know About Their Body Image Struggles

Your body image issues may be hurting you more than you realize.

A Wives Only Wednesday Post

Fearfully and wonderfully made

A few months ago, some fellow male marriage bloggers and I were interviewed for the podcast “Sex Chat for Christian Wives.” The question for the episode was, “We [wives] see all of our flaws, and then you tell us we are beautiful. How do you [husbands] see past our flaws?” In the episode (listen to it here) the husbands respond and the ladies unpack their responses.

Since listening to the podcast I’ve been wanting to circle back around to the important topic of body image because I believe the issue has a profound influence on almost every marriage. I know it has on mine. It’s taken years for us to more fully understand just how much.

Today I’m going to examine the impact for wives. In my next Men Only Monday post I’ll address husbands.

So let’s begin by looking at some potential problems caused by a wife’s negative body image.

Your Negative Body Image…

 

1 …Blocks Genuine Intimacy

If you do not believe your husband finds you beautiful, that he could not possibly be attracted to your body, then you may wrongly believe his desire for sex can only be caused by his physical urges and not by his love and desire for you.

This is a subtle but important way that your negative self-image can prevent you from being open and vulnerable, which is necessary for you to fully enjoy your husband’s affection. It makes you believe a lie that can steal your joy and surrender. It reduces sex to a physical act in your mind and prevents the genuine intimacy that God designed into the sexual union.

2 … Kills Your Sex Drive

Fellow marriage blogger Bonny Burns, in her libido survey results, found that the number one negative effect on sex drive for wives was “I don’t like the way my body looks.” While there are many causes of low libido, self-loathing is certainly not going to help put you in the mood or enable you to respond positively to your husband’s sexual advances.

3 … Falsely Accuses Your Husband

I believe many women who strongly dislike their bodies wrongly believe the lie that their husbands would rather have sex with a more attractive woman but is stuck with you. The effect of this accusation, even if it is never spoken, will keep you from receiving and enjoying your husband’s delight in you.

4 … Builds a Wall Between You

When you continually refute your husband’s claims of admiration and appreciation for your beauty, it not only a discourages him, but it actually builds a wall between you. Eventually, out of frustration, he may cease from trying to convince you of his true feelings about your appearance, and this will further feed the lies you are telling yourself. At times I have stopped complimenting my wife out of frustration but I’ve learned that she still wants to hear it, even if she doesn’t receive it well.

5 … Keeps You Trapped in Shame

It is almost impossible for intimacy and freedom to coexist with shame. When you feel shame about your appearance, you cannot truly enjoy freedom in your sexual relationship. You’ll be inhibited in initiating and won’t be able to be playful in intimacy. Hiding yourself from your husband, when he desires to have all of you, just as you are, means that neither of you can enjoy the freedom and delight of belonging totally to one another, without any hindrances.

6 … Is Self-Fulfilling

When you hate your body, it is virtually impossible for you to exude the kind of self-confidence that is so tremendously attractive to your husband. In truth, “sexiness,” if you’ll allow me to use that term, has much more to do with confidence and attitude than with physical attributes.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that your negative body image can harm your marriage. I say this not to shame you but to motivate you to take action to deal with this problem. So if you find yourself facing this issue (and most women do to more or less of an extent), what can you do about it? That’s for my next post.

Come back tomorrow for “10 Ways to Overcome Body Image Issues.” You can be sure not to miss it by signing up to get posts in your inbox .

 

When Living as One is One-Sided

Hope and help for those struggling in a one-sided marriage.

Let God be your hope

I sometimes receive comments from discouraged and frustrated readers whose spouses are not meeting their needs. In many cases the comments come in response to some advice I’ve offered, stating something like “I tried that, but it didn’t work,” or “I tried that, but my spouse didn’t respond.”

I received two such comments on my previous post about how to shift your mindset to think as one. I suggested that thinking as one means “we” thinking instead of “me” thinking, to put a higher priority on the relationship than on being right, and to focus on giving instead of getting. Ideally, both husband and wife will take this “oneness” mindset, but it won’t always be that way.

A good example is one struggling commenter that suggested, “If you really want to help people in this area you need to offer suggestions as to how people like me can get the attention of people like my wife to respond in kind.”

In addition to the response I gave in comments to the post, I decided to take him up on his suggestion. Truthfully, though, this post is not so much about how to change a reluctant spouse as it is how to keep your hope alive.

No Easy Answers

There are no easy answers; no quick fixes. But here are some things you can do to move your marriage in the right direction when it feels like it is off track:

  • You can’t change your spouse, you can only change you. Work on being the best spouse you can be. If your efforts are oriented toward getting your spouse to do something, or stop doing something, they will see it as manipulation and an attempt to control them.
  • While loving your spouse well and meeting their needs generously often results in them coming around to offer you the same, there are no magic formulas or guarantees. Choose to love well anyway.
  • Let sacrificial and unconditional love, Jesus’ kind of love, be your motivation for meeting your spouse’s needs. If your motivation is to get something from your spouse in return, disappointment will run you over, and you won’t be able to sustain it.
  • It’s perfectly okay to hope for improvements in your marriage, but don’t make change a precondition for continuing to love your spouse well.
  • Pray. Pray a lot. Pray mostly for God to change your heart. Pray for God to give you an intimate and lasting marriage. Pray for God to teach you how to love well. Don’t pray for God to change your spouse.
  • Seek God for a revelation of how he sees your spouse and your marriage. Having heaven’s perspective will help sustain you through the worst of times.

3 Rules of Happiness

In this post, I proposed the following three axioms, which may seem at first blush to conflict with each other:

  1. The primary purpose of your marriage isn’t to make you happy
  2. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness
  3. Love and serve your spouse as if their happiness depended on you

Happiness is not the right goal for any marriage. Having a great marriage will certainly produce happiness, but I see it more as a by-product than a goal.

No Doormats or Enablers

The other side of the coin is that loving well does not include being a doormat or an enabler of unloving or unkind behavior. If your spouse is consistently causing you pain with their words or actions and neglecting your needs, it’s important that you speak up. As lovingly as possible, make it clear that you want a strong, enduring and intimate relationship but that the path you are on isn’t going to get you there.

Don’t issue demands or ultimatums – those only backfire. Communicate your needs. Communicate your pain. Don’t accuse or blame. Don’t impute motives to your spouse. Talk about you, your needs and how you feel. This is hard, I know.

Seek outside counsel if your issues are serious or longstanding. Sometimes it takes a third party to get you unstuck from ingrained patterns of interaction. Seek help from your pastor, from friends whose marriage you admire, or from a professional counselor.

(Important note: in the case of physical or emotional abuse, seek outside help immediately.)

God is Our Hope

Ultimately, hope for a great marriage (or just for a better one) is not in your spouse, in your self, or in your circumstances.

Hope for your marriage must be found in God. Hoping in God is not just mindless optimism or denial of the reality of the situation. Rather, it is based on a belief that God is good, that he is for you, for our marriage and for your spouse.

Trusting God to heal your marriage and make it all it can be does not relieve you of the responsibility to continue to love your spouse well or to serve him or her with your whole heart. Hope and trust do not equate to resignation or passively waiting for things to get better. No, our faith in God’s ability to move in our marriage means we partner with the Holy Spirit, day-by-day, step-by-step.

We are all called to emulate Jesus and his relentless pursuit of us, his bride. Especially when you feel your hope fading, press into Jesus and spend more time than usual in prayer and worship. Your connection to him in times of struggle can sustain you and encourage you like little else can.

The fact that God is our ultimate hope is not simply an empty platitude. It is a foundational truth.

Patience for the Long Haul

If you and your spouse have spent a long time on The Path of Separation, it’s going to take time and consistent effort to get back on The Path of Intimacy. But it is also true that until one of you turns toward the other, you are going to continue to drift further apart.

I encourage you to be the one to turn first, to reach out and to make every effort to draw closer. It’s important that your spouse see your heart and understands your desire is for renewed intimacy, not control. If you don’t get an immediate response, hang in there, keep believing for the best and loving well.

I’ve heard more instances that I can count of troubled marriages being restored and made stronger than ever due to one spouse selflessly loving the other, though in some cases it took years. Find and read testimonies of restored marriages – it will encourage your heart.

I hope and pray this post has offered some help and hope for those struggling in a one-sided marriage. I truly believe no marriage is beyond God’s power to restore. Yours included.

3 Essential Ways to Think and Act As One

Three shifts in thinking to grow your understanding of what it means to be one with your spouse.

Think As One

It’s clear to me that oneness between husband and wife is a gift that God grants us when we wed. You and your spouse are one by virtue of the fact that you entered into the marriage covenant. (It’s a direct parallel of our oneness with Christ when we give our lives to him).

While oneness is yours, it takes of lifetime of growth in our understanding to fully enjoy the fruit of being one. (Just like in our spiritual walk.)

Thinking As One

Walking together as “one flesh” usually entails some pretty radical changes in our thinking. But getting our thinking right will usually bear fruit in our words and actions. As Graham Cooke says, “Every action is rooted in the thought that produced it.”

While many of our perspectives have to change in order for us to walk in the fullness of our one-flesh union, below are three changes in thinking I see as an essential place to start.

Get vs. Give

It’s natural to think primarily about what we get out of our marriage relationship and what we can get from our spouse, but that is not one-flesh thinking.

One-flesh thinking says that because we are one, when I give to my wife, I actually also get to enjoy the benefit and blessing the comes from my generosity toward her. I can’t bless my wife without also blessing myself.

Rights vs. Relationship

Another shift toward one-flesh thinking is to put your relationship ahead of your rights. When you lay down your right to be offended, your right to get your way, and even your right to be right, it brings grace into the equation. And grace is always an invitation to intimacy.

It is more important to be love than to be right.

Me vs. We

Me-centered thinking has no place in your one-flesh marriage. Self-centered thinking includes such things as self-protection, self-reliance, selfishness and self-importance. These thought patterns produce separation instead of intimacy.

Being one means we replace me-centered thinking with we-centered thinking. That means replacing self-protection with transparency and openness toward your spouse. It also means working to protect your relationship and your spouse more than your self. Allow self-reliance to morph gladly into mutual interdependence. We must learn to let go of selfishness, where our own needs are the focus of our attention and efforts, and joyfully focus more on our spouse’s needs.

There are many other implications that come from the fact that you and your spouse are actually one. Can you describe any other ways of thinking that are important for living as one flesh? Leave a comment with your ideas.