I recently heard from a man who was feeling frustrated because his wife is so shy about letting him see her body. He’s happy in their marriage and satisfied with their sex life, and he’s careful not to eye other women. But his wife still seems to feel like she’s not “enough” somehow. She says that her body has changed since she’s had kids, that she’s gained weight, and that she doesn’t get to the gym as much as she’d like. She wraps up in a towel when she’s getting ready in the morning, quickly slips into her PJs at the end of the day, and tries to change her clothes when he’s out of the room. He thinks she’s just too hard on herself and can’t figure out why she’s so self-conscious. He wants to see her body because it’s beautiful to him!
This is an issue on the minds of many husbands! When Jeff and I were speaking at a couple’s event one time, at the book table a man asked about my book, Through A Man’s Eyes. When I explained that it helps women understand how visual men are, what it’s like for men to navigate the many sexualized images they see 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 when my wife changes her clothes she goes into the closet and shuts the door! And I’m like…. seriously!?”
I couldn’t help but laugh too. Because it’s true—men are experiencing a total catch-22 in this area! Let me explain what I mean.
Most women have insecurities about their bodies.
Men are really caught in the middle here. Most women don’t understand just how much their husband is visually stimulated every day and that he wants to come home and feast his eyes on her instead of all the sexualized images he’s been trying to avoid all day. At the same time, most women are insecure enough about their body that they think their husband will be disappointed and turned off if he sees what she really looks like! Especially in comparison to the airbrushed, perfect model images that are constantly in his view.
So, speaking to the husbands now (we’ll be posting an article for you uncomfortable wives soon!): How can you convince your wife to let her guard down and let you see her body? The two most important things you need to do are to reassure her and educate her.
Reassure your wife—frequently—that you think she’s beautiful.
Reassure your wife that you think she’s beautiful. Don’t pressure her to take off the towel, but tell her over and over just how much you love the way she is made, how she is even more beautiful to you today than she was when you were newlyweds, how you love her unique beauty and are crazy about her just as she is (stretch marks 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’s what she needs to hear. Every day. Because according to our surveys of women, most doubt it every day.
Educate your wife about what it’s like to be a visually-wired man in a visually tempting world.
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’s 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 and 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’s 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—together—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.
Be patient with your wife, encourage her, and delight in her always!
So guys, here’s the bottom line: if you explain to your wife that you turn away from those public images because you adore her, it will reassure her that you really do love her and find her beautiful. And once she’s 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 time and some courage on her part (wives, we’ll be sharing with you soon about building that courage!)—so just keep telling her she’s beautiful. As she begins to understand just how much you delight in seeing her body, she may come to delight more and more in sharing her beautiful self with you.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Peace: A 40-day Devotional Journey For Moms, focuses on discovering biblical direction to become a woman of serenity and delight in all seasons – and have impact for generations to come.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.