How do I talk to my wife about how important it is to me that she put an effort into her appearance? By Jackie Coleman
Warning: you are about to embark into extremely dangerous waters! Proceed with caution.
Let’s face it…in this culture, looks matter. And although true worth and beauty come from places far deeper than surface-level appearance, society tells us otherwise. Scantily clad, size 0 models look up from the magazine page into your wife’s eyes and tell her she is not good enough. Her waist—too thick; her legs—to stout; her hair—too plain. Already hypersensitive and aware of her flaws, she is constantly reminded of the areas that are unacceptable, ugly, and under par according to society’s standards. So regardless of how you approach the issue of appearance, in her eyes, you will be joining the others in criticism. And your dissatisfaction will be the most painful because she longs to be beautiful to you.
But there is hope! Dr. Michael Sytsma, a licensed professional counselor and president of Building Intimate Marriages, Inc., suggests first determining the motive behind broaching the topic of appearance. Frankly, if the only reason is to melt five pounds off her hips, don’t even bother. But, as Dr. Sytsma states, if you feel as though her appearance indicates a deeper heart issue (such as not taking care of herself, lacking self-worth or confidence in who she is, avoiding discipline, etc.), then your loving concern is welcome.
Keep in mind, though, that even the best of intentions can nosedive. So, before anything is said or done, know your wife. Think about what would hurt her. Take into account how she will interpret your words. Understand what would build her up.
If your concerns are health-related, encourage her towards an improved lifestyle. The best way to do this is not simply by suggesting activities for her to do, but by joining her in them. Take a walk together. Go on a bike ride as the weather improves. Sign up for a couples’ tennis team. Commit to eating healthier foods—together.
However, be honest with yourself, and consider whether your “encouragement” revolves around her upkeep (or lack thereof). It is understandable that you want to be proud of the woman on your arm. Dr. Sytsma acknowledges that regardless of right or wrong, other people’s opinions do have some effect on us. Affirm any effort she puts into her appearance—find an area that you truly do admire, and compliment her. You can contribute to her interest in how she looks by surprising her with a new outfit or pair of earrings. Tell her when the color of her shirt makes her sparkle, or her hairstyle is flattering. In that way, you can, as they say, be part of the solution instead of part of the problem!
So, when you notice improvements, let her know! But when you don’t, realize that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Be patient, and expect setbacks. And remember, men are to love and cherish their wives, regardless of successes or failures—and above and beyond appearance. Be your wife’s cheerleader and spur her on! Sweep those magazines, with their lies and faulty standards, right off the table, and instead, YOU be the mirror that reflects her true beauty.
Jackie Feit earned her Master’s degree in Professional Counseling with a concentration in Christian sex therapy at Psychological Studies Institute and the Institute for Sexual Wholeness in Atlanta, GA.