Our body image affects us tremendously and, although we shouldn’t, we do constantly compare ourselves to other women. Of course, we don’t really have a fair chance when we are up against the unreasonable message the media uses to sell their work. Take, for example, what we get on the cover of pretty much every magazine out there: a gorgeous woman, typically an airbrushed size 2, half-naked, wearing black lace, and always available and extremely willing to satisfy her man.
Unfortunately, we interpret these ever-present posts as a representation of the ideal woman in terms of looks, health, and sexuality. Because it is impossible for most women to meet this ideal standard, these unhealthy messages lead to frustration, self-doubt, thoughts of inadequacy, and lower self-esteem.
At the same time, we also have to get a reality check. I will say something that may send shock waves, so brace yourself for it. Your appearance, as well as your spouse’s appearance, will affect the way you feel about each other sexually.
If, when you met, you were fifty pounds lighter, those fifty pounds will surely affect your relationship and the sexual dynamic today. Yes, it sounds shallow to blame weight or a change in appearance for the change in our sex drive, but if you are trying to awaken that animalistic passion and desire, sometimes fewer cheeseburgers will do the trick.
The same works for your man. Although we may not like to admit it, women have ‘shallow’ thoughts, just as men do; we are attracted to a six-pack a whole lot more than to a beer belly. That’s why all the romance novels have a man with hard rock abs on the cover.
Vampires or not, these guys always seem to hit the gym a lot. And of course, we are attracted to that. But overall, I don’t believe there is anything wrong to want to stay in shape and remain attracted to your spouse.
I am not a proponent of starving yourself down to 100lb, but I don’t think that 300lb is a goal worth pursuing either. We can all find excuses to why we are out of shape, but my point is that excuses have no long-term value. What are you going to do about it?
So what can we do to change that? I have learned that in a marriage, the best way to get healthy is to do it together as a family.
Here are some important steps to take into account when your body image and sex affect your married life:
- Commit to a new plan for the family. Talk about it. Tell your friends about it. The more people know about it, the more people watch you and hold you accountable.
- Write down your individual goals. One’s goal can be losing 5lb; the other one can be running for 10 minutes on the treadmill.
- Change your food, your drinks, and your recipes. Start fresh! Do a makeover of your fridge and pantry.
- Exercise together. Exercise will make you feel sexier. Physically fit men and women rate themselves as more sexually desirable, have more energy, and feel more confident and more attractive.
- Support each other. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The journey has highs and lows, with lots of relapses. Help each other get back on track.
Finally, don’t hesitate to seek support from mental health professionals – whether as individuals or as a couple. If one of you exhibits poor body image complications, such as disordered eating or depression, these should not be taken for granted. The health of your relationship is the most important aspect in your lives and well worth every effort.
Ruxandra LeMay is a licensed psychologist with an interest in couples’ therapy, parenting, addiction, anxiety, and mood disorder issues.