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Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Despite the title, this is not really a post for my women readers. (Oh, OK. I guess you ladies can read it too.)

Listen up, men! I’m talking directly to you, husbands.

Your wife is in a major battle. It’s an important and difficult battle. In this battle you must choose sides. You can choose to fight for her or against her. There is no middle ground, because if you are not fighting for her, in her mind you are fighting against her. 

What is this battle of which I speak? It’s the battle of her self-image. Specifically I’m speaking of her body image. My family is vacationing at the beach this week. As my lovely wife and I strolled hand in hand along the shoreline this afternoon and beheld the vast array of body shapes and sizes, I was reminded of the battle so many women face.

Who is the “enemy” in this battle? Almost every influence around her. Advertising, movies, magazines, television, and books all tell her that her appearance is unacceptable, that her body is unattractive and inadequate. They tell her that in order to be sexy she must be a certain dress size or body shape. They tell her that her breasts are too small or her hips too curvy, her backside too large and her thighs too flabby. They tell her that her hair is too thin or too thick or the wrong color or the wrong length. The barrage of negative messages is nonstop.

As her husband, you are more than likely one of her few allies in this battle, perhaps the only one. At least you should be her ally. But are you really? Or have you bought into the lies of the ever-present enemies as well? And remember, if you are simply silent on this important topic, thinking that withholding criticism is enough, you are as much an enemy of her body image as anything else, and maybe more so.

Regardless of her age or how things may have shifted through time and babies, more than likely your wife has many features to which you are attracted. These are the things you found alluring when you met, the things that struck your heart. The way her eyes crinkle when she smiles, the shape and taste of her lips when you kiss, certain places that you’ve always liked to caress…

I could get more explicit, but there is no point. Only you know the things that you find alluring about your wife. If need be, remind yourself again. If need be, find new things about her body to take delight in, regardless of how long you’ve been married.

You see, your job as her husband is to look through the imperfection into the genuine beauty of your bride. You have to get past petty preferences and unrealistic expectations and let your heart come alive to the truly incredible, amazing, gorgeous woman you are bound to for life. “Why should I?” you ask. Because you are called to be like Jesus to your bride. When God looks at you through the work that Jesus did for you on the cross, he sees you as the spotless, beautiful bride of Christ. Really! He sees you in perfection. Yes, it’s amazing, but Jesus is just that good.

Jesus beautifies his bride, and so must you.

How do you beautify your bride? Quite simply, it is up to you to convince her that she is beautiful just how she is. It is up to you to “make” her beautiful. It’s a daunting task, because the enemies are many and the allies so few. Even if you do as I have, and resolve to tell your wife every day something you find attractive about her, the counter-messages are still at least ten to one against you (and against her). No matter how dedicated and relentless you are to the task, it’s a battle that never ends. Ever. Don’t’ think to yourself, “Oh, she already knows I’m attracted to her.” She doesn’t know. Even if you told her an hour ago, she doesn’t. Trust me on this. It’s one area in which it is difficult to be too vigilant.

What do you do to beautify your bride? What did you do today?

Here are some recent posts and subsequent discussions on other blogs that lend some great perspective on this important topic.

From Lori Lowe at Life Gems:

From Julie Sibert at Intimacy in Marriage:


Anonymous said...

What should a man do when he is met by hostility when he compliments his bride?

I encounter a great deal of frustration in this area. I tell my wife how much I think she is beautiful. I compliment very specific areas of her body. Sometimes I am met with, "Well you have to say that because you are my husband. You don't mean it." Other times she says, "Oh we all know that's not true." The hardest is when she says a very forced and quiet, "Thank you." Then she gets very quiet and won't interact with me.

I wish I could help her in her body image battle, but it seems like she won't let me in.

Scott said...

I too have encountered resistance and reluctance to accept my compliments, but certainly never hostility. I do my best not to let her get away with rejecting my admiration, though sometimes it isn't easy. If she demeans herself, I tell her that she isn't allowed to talk that way about my wife. If she says that I have to say those things, I tell her that I am a man of integrity and don't say things I don't mean. A quiet thank you could be met with, "I can see you don't believe me" and a subsequent conversation.

Breaking through the thick wall of shame that has built up in her mind takes a relentless pursuit your part. Don't give up the fight for her, even if it seems like she isn't receiving what you say.

the domestic fringe said...

What a great post! Have you ever been to the site, Adding Zest to Your Nest? They accept guest submissions sometimes and I think this would be great. They rarely get anything from a man's perspective for other men. I bet they'd love this. Just a thought!

Anonymous said...

Just my personal reasons for feeling hostile or sad when my husband tries to compliment me...
1. I notice what his eyes are drawn to. I notice when he stares for too long at the pretty 20-something blonde across the room. I notice when his gaze lingers over the Cosmopolitan or Maxxim magazine covers. And I notice when he has been clicking around at American Curves magazine's website. I notice his eyes are not drawn to my body in the same way. And when I look in the mirror, I can see why.
2. I can remember every single critical off-handed thing he has said about my body, even if he forgets it an hour after he has said it. I can remember every time that I have stepped out of the shower or been getting dressed and seen a look, not of appreciation, but of criticism on his face.

Later, maybe when I'm dressed up a bit more than usual or for some other unknown reason he decides to hand out a compliment, it touches the raw areas that these two things leave behind.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous and other Men, Don't quit telling her those nice things! She WANTS to believe you. She really does. But like it says above, EVERYTHING else screams that you're wrong. Do you act in a way that shows her you truly think that? (Not accusing you, just asking.) As the Anonymous woman said, the way her husband looks at other women it's hard to believe anything nice he says about you when you're not 19 years old, size zero, or big chested and that's all he's looking at and is drawn to. It's a vicious cycle, but the more you show her that she (and she only) is what you want, the more beautiful and confident she'll feel. I know it goes both ways and can be difficult. As a woman, I want to be all my husband wants. Call it stupid or a dream or naive, but it's what I'd like more than anything. I want him to act like it and I want it to be truth. No matter who else is in the room or what they're wearing.

I'll tell you this: This is a constant battle (previous porn use, his wandering eye and my low body image) and pretty much the only thing my husband and I fight about. The other night we went to a wedding. I dressed up-really went out of my way to be attractive to him-and he acted the entire night as if he only had eyes for me. I don't think of myself as a hottie and hate going out where I know he'll have more temptations than you can shake a stick at, but I'll tell you this: because of the way he acted I felt like I was truly all he wanted, I felt beautiful, and I had no concern for any of the younger, chesty, short-skirt wearin' girls because I was his focus, his desire, his girl! I wish it were always that way. We're both working toward more of it. I know the devil would love for this to tear us, our family, and our local ministry apart. It's hard for me to remember sometimes, but I know my battle isn't against my husband but against the devil.

I love this story I read in an email from Family Life.

by Janel Breitenstein

An old story told from the island of Kiniwata relates the account of a man known as Johnny Lingo. The youngest and strongest man from the island, Johnny shocked the islanders by paying the father of his bride not the traditional two to three cows for his wife, or even the four to five cows for an exceptional wife. For Sarita, he paid eight. No one could understand: “It would be kindness to call her plain. She was skinny. She walked with her shoulders hunched and her head ducked. She was scared of her own shadow." Eight cows!? The entire island laughed at the audacity.

Curious about the story, writer Patricia McGerr visited Johnny's home. She was fascinated by what she describes as the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen. She wrote about this in a Woman's Day article, “Johnny Lingo and the Eight Cow Wife”: “The lift of her shoulders, the tilt of her chin, the sparkle of her eyes all spelled a pride to which no one could deny her the right.”

When McGerr later pressed Johnny Lingo for his reasoning, he explains, “Many things can change a woman. Things that happen inside, things that happen outside. But the thing that matters most is what she thinks about herself. In Kiniwata, Sarita believed she was worth nothing. Now she knows she is worth more than any other woman in the islands ... I wanted an eight-cow wife.”

Now, for obvious reasons, please do not immediately tell your beloved, “Hon, you’re an eight-cow wife.” But remember that, at least in part, a man’s impact may be measured in the joy and character of the people closest to him.

The way that a man sees his wife, the way he cherishes her, has a lasting effect on her beauty within and without. How does your wife feel about you and your relationship to her? How do you want your children to remember your acts of love for their mother?

Losing Hope said...

As I read through this post I become even more saddened about the lack of trust and doubt my wife expresses to me.
I have never give her reason to believe I am attracted to anyone other than her.
I tell her every day how beautiful she is and what I think is beautiful about her. All the words I speak to build her up is met by her tearing me down.
I can not go any were with her without being accused of looking at other women or looking at billboards or magazines.
I get comments like you don't need to be looking at that A## or you need to learn to keep your eyes above the neck line when talking to a woman.
She sees other women and what they are wearing when I do not see that at all.
She will say, you don't need to look at the blonde with the big t##@.
And I have no clue what she is seeing because I am not or did not see such a woman.
My eyes do not wander and if I go to turn down an isle in the store and there is a female in that isle I go to another isle and am always looking away from where other women are in the store.
I confront her on this and ask her if it is wrong for me to be looking at another woman's body why is she, because she is the one noticing the t's, or a@# and what they are wearing, not me.
If it is wrong for me she has no right looking at other women herself.
I tell her to stop doing this to me and I get quiet.
Shortly after she will say she is sorry and then say please don't be mad at me.
I tell her I am not mad but disappointed
She admitted to me early in our relationship that she once had an attraction to women's breast and expressed it started when she came across dirty magazines her step dad had in the house when she was growing up.
She has an issue with the size of her chest and accuses me of comparing her to other women.
Never once have I sized her up and compared her to another woman.
She hides her body from me almost all the time, and when she doesn't hide she is very much on edge.
I complement her all the time. I tell her how hot she is and she is my hot flash when I do get to see her naked.
I am at a loss...... What can I do?
Besides this she always tears me down with negative statements toward me, such as I will never this or always that, you don't even try to understand me, etc.

I wish there was a way to remove these painful darts she has plunged into me every day.

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