OK, awkward question but here goes: how can I convince my wife to let me see her in all her glory? We have a decent sex life, we don’t have any real marriage problems, and I’m careful to not check out other women. But she still seems to feel like how she looks is not “enough” somehow. She worries about gaining weight since the kids arrived, her “small boobs,” or the fact that she doesn’t get to the gym anymore. I tell her that she’s beautiful and it just bounces off. So she hides behind a towel in the bathroom, and looks embarrassed when I walk into the room when she’s changing. She tries to quickly throw on clothes instead of taking me at my word that I think she’s beautiful and I want to see her body! How can I convince her?
Dear Stumped –
I think you’ve just articulated the question of many husbands! Just last night Jeff and I were speaking at a couple’s event, and at the book table afterward a man asked about my new book, Through A Man’s Eyes. When I explained it helps women understand how visual men are, what it is like for men to navigate all these sexualized images in public that were only supposed to be seen in private, and how to support men today, he started laughing. He said:
Oh, I’m so glad to have a way to explain this to my wife! It’s like I’m out there every day, and every few minutes I see an image and look away. See a magazine cover and look away. See that woman dressed provocatively and look away. See the billboard over there and look away. Over and over and over, I look away. And then I come home, and my wife wants to change clothes and she goes into the closet and shuts the door! And I’m like…. seriously!?
I couldn’t help but laugh, too. See, you men are experiencing a total catch-22. If your wife is like most women, she doesn’t understand just how much you are visually stimulated every day and that you want to come home and feast your eyes on her instead – and at the same time she is also insecure enough about her body that she thinks you’ll be turned off if you see what she really looks like!
God has a sense of humor, right?
How do you solve this? Honestly, you need to reassure her and you need to educate her. Reassure her that you think she is beautiful. Don’t pressure her to take off the towel, but tell her over and over just how much you love how she is made, how she is even more beautiful to you today than she was when you first married, how you love her individuality (small boobs and all!), and that you still get that feeling inside when you see her just walking down the stairs or washing dishes at the sink.
Seriously… that is what she needs to hear. Every day. Because according to our surveys of women, most doubt it every day.
To educate her, you might have to get out of your comfort zone. Explain that you want her to understand how you see the world, and ask if it is something she wants to know about you. Most women do, but, frankly, some women aren’t sure. Your visual nature is so foreign to women (since our wiring is so different) that it can sometimes be intimidating for a woman to hear. But that usually goes away as long as you make it clear that you want to talk about it because you want to increase the closeness between you; you want her to understand what it is like to be you every day.
If she says she wants to understand that, then tell her what it is like to be a visual guy today, and how often you see things that you don’t want to have to see. Tell her how much you delight in seeing her, rather than the other images out there. In fact, it might help to take a look at the chapter in Through A Man’s Eyes that explains how the male brain is actually physically wired differently from her brain as a woman.
Bottom line: if you explain that you turn away from those images because you love her, it will reassure her that you really do love her and find her beautiful. And once she is reassured that you mean it when you say you love how she looks in all her glory, she’ll be a lot more comfortable about letting you see her. Trust me, it may take some courage on her part, so keep telling her she’s beautiful. After all, that is a delight that she will never outgrow!
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Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.