Body Image Purgatory

April 25, 2014

in Uncategorized

I have posted a couple of times about husband’s frustration at getting an argument when they say, “You are beautiful.”

I have also heard your complaints about how he looks at other women. I understand why these two seem related, but they are not – not for men. Honestly, I think this is more about body image.

I cannot tell you how much I hate what the world has done to women’s body image. I hate how it has hurt my wife and my daughter. I hate how it hurts other women, and how that causes harm to their marriages and their husbands. It is gross, evil, and downright demonic! The “standard” is twisted and perverted. Looking the way the world says a woman should look would cost a huge amount of time and money, and at best, it is a losing battle against age.

Applying Lipstick © Stuart Miles |freedigitalphotos.net

Maybe a bit of Bible will help.

Your adornment must not be merely external -braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses ; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” [1 Pe 3:3-4 NASB]

Odds are your Bible says something a bit different from the above. The passage contains an ellipsis – a part of the sentence is left out. This is a not..but ellipsis, and it was a common idiomatic speech pattern of the time. It is used to compare two things, and show one is more important than the other. First Pe 3:3 tells us there is nothing wrong with a woman making an effort to look nice, but true beauty and value comes from within. If a woman fails to develop inner beauty, no amount of make-up, weight loss, or plastic surgery can help her. If she works on her inner self, a wise person will see her beauty. Your husband says you look beautiful because he is wise enough to see true beauty.

Yet his eyes are drawn to women who “look great”, and you should feel insulted, right? Can you honestly tell me your eyes have never been drawn to a man because he had a handsome face of a fine butt? If so, you are unusual. We are all drawn to things based on how they look. Most of us learn looks are an unreliable predictor of real value, but we are still drawn to certain looks. I am not justifying lust here – but short of blindness, most men and women will be drawn to look at certain people.

My advice is to put a reasonable amount of effort into looking nice outwardly, and far more time and energy into your more important inner self. And, when you husband compliments your beauty, thank him and feel good about yourself.

BTW: A great related article from Gaye of  Calm.Healthy.Sexy. When Your Body Feels Like Your Enemy… 

~ Paul – I’m XY, and my wife is soooo beautiful! 

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Hiswifeagain April 25, 2014 at 4:08 am

Check your link. It goes the The Telegraph. If that has a link to Calm.Healthy.Sexy, I missed it. :)

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Paul Byerly April 25, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Fixed – thanks.
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Daniel Robertson April 25, 2014 at 10:15 am

I’ve never used bit.ly, but I heard it can be problematic.
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Paul Byerly April 25, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Copy and paste error – I left off the last letter.
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Bonnie @ Love, Marriage and Sex April 25, 2014 at 11:02 am

“Can you honestly tell me your eyes have never been drawn to a man because he had a handsome face of a fine butt? If so, you are unusual.”

I LOL’d at work, by myself at this. We women (especially Christian women) can be so uptight sometimes. Sure, we all look at people other than our spouses sometimes (my first thought is of Channing Tatum, by the way) but that doesn’t mean that we don’t still find our spouses extremely sexy and it doesn’t mean we want to be with any one else. We can appreciate God’s beautiful creations and not want to have sex with them all. Geez!
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Paul Byerly April 25, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Maybe men can do the same?
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libl April 26, 2014 at 11:44 am

I heard for the most part men can’t. I can stare at a good looking man all day long and never once want to have sex with him. Can an average man do that?

I do believe my husband can.see other women and not compare or automatically goto I wanna have sex with her….however there is the problem with deliberately looking. I can say that when he was deliberately looking around and not guarding his eyes in real life and the media, he stopped finding me attractive. Since he quit that, I have grown in attractiveness to him. He used to complain about how I looked (and I am attractive, fit, shapely and dress well and wear my hair well and light make up). Now he can’t get enough of me!

So, while I agree that seeing or noticing or can be innocent, I personally,doubt deliberately looking is innocent.for most men. Consider me burned and burn scars never heal.

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Paul Byerly April 27, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Can the average man do that? I doubt it. Can he learn to? Certainly. Probably not if he looks all day, but he can learn to turn both his eyes and his mind.

I wrote about how looking at others hurts a man’s ability to enjoy his wife years ago. Porn Limits Sex http://bit.ly/NncL2Q
Not looking at others means I desire and enjoy my wife more, which is good for both of us.
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Mr. Dev April 28, 2014 at 8:56 am

+1
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IntimacySeeker April 25, 2014 at 11:42 am

I think for some of us, we aren’t so much troubled that our husbands notice other women, but that they must make considerable effort to avoid becoming aroused and/or revisiting images of other women in their minds. It is much more difficult for men to “appreciate God’s beautiful creations and not want to have sex with them all.”
I recently experienced a very painful struggle with this and it had nothing to do with me being uptight, but rather, with unresolved trauma buttons that were pushed when faced with the reality of the temptations my husband encounters on a daily basis.
For those husbands who are just beginning to tell their wives they are beautiful, understand it may take some perseverance on your part. It’s a cruel world out there!

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Paul Byerly April 25, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Bottom line is it is a choice we make. If we make it wrongly too often we lose the power to not do it, but even then we can recover.

I’ve been mulling over a post for The Generous Husband on just this issue.
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Anon April 25, 2014 at 10:37 pm

I agree that it has nothing to do with being uptight and the issue for most women is the possibility of her husband’s arousal, then that easily leading to lusting for another, and revisiting images in his mind.

I understand both men and women notice the beauty of God’s creation. The pain comes from the question God put in a woman’s heart–“Am I beautiful, captivating, desirable?” The answer is a resounding “No.” when a husband is “admiring God’s creation” rather than noticing.

I don’t think it is a fair comparison to ask a woman if her husband would be hurt to know or see that her eyes have been drawn to look at another’s handsome face or fine butt. A man is not designed to question in the depths of his being “Am I handsome, captivating, desirable?” That thought is laughable to us and I think most men wouldn’t be hurt or maybe even care if their wife “noticed” other men. But that question is real and true and deep to women. And a woman isn’t going to be aroused or think ab these things later. A woman can truly just look and not be aroused or lust (that doesn’t mean women don’t or will not lust). But it truly is a place of pain for women when a husband admires another’s beauty. I would guess where a wife can wound her husband as deeply is by letting him know he is not a good enough provider, protector, or maybe not “man enough” for her in the bedroom or in general. A husband wounds his wife by enjoying or admiring or lusting for the beauty of other women and therefore letting her know she is “not woman enough” to captivate him with her beauty.

Another question of women-“What is the meaning (or maybe worth? Value?) of my beauty if my husband notices all beautiful women?

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Paul Byerly April 26, 2014 at 11:17 am

Great thoughts. I agree women are more concerned than men with their spouse looking.

Logically it seems odd that a man looking at another women makes his wife feel she is not “beautiful or desirable.” I can order one dessert and really enjoy it and still see another go by and think “that would be good.” My thinking the other would be good does not mean I am not enjoying the one I have, nor does it mean I wish I had the other instead. That said, I understand it is not the same thing.

Perhaps the issue is the captivating part. If a woman is captivating, her husband should have no interest in looking at others. For women does captivating mean no other woman even registers? If so, we are back to the difference between being aware and lusting. The awareness is hard wired, we cannot rid ourselves of it. However, when a man finds his wife captivating, that awareness is no big deal. Neither his eyes nor his mind follow the woman. Not because he forces himself to avoid it, but because he has no interest. Plenty of men are like this, myself included.

When a man is not like this, that has more to do with him than his wife. Many men have so messed themselves up with lust and/or porn that they are unable to be captivated by any woman. They are in a sexual feeding frenzy, and there is nothing their wife can do to change that. Only the man can change it.

Bottom line, being captivating and been seen as captivating by one’s husband are two different things. I pray women who have messed up husbands can learn this and feel better about themselves. I also hope women can understand being captivating does not keep a man from being aware of other women, but it does mean he does not care and does not stare.
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libl April 26, 2014 at 11:55 am

Couple more thoughts….yeah, I could check.out guys all day and hubby wouldn’t be bothered much (not that I do), but have a man flirt with or pay attention to me…being captivated by me…and his radar goes up. His physical. Is attached to his emotional. My emotional is attached to my physical. So when his physical is aroused by another it can be dangerous. When my emotional is aroused by another, it can be dangerous.

At the height of his disinterest in me, I felt ugly as sin. I went into the bathroom and passing by the mirror God stopped me and showed me how lovely I really am. It wasn’t about me. I was offering all of me to hubby to be captivated by, aroused by, ravished by and he was the one losing out and turning me down for lies and sin and counterfeit. It helped me cope with the wrongfulness going on and not being crushed under the lie of my lack of worth.

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Lisa April 25, 2014 at 2:23 pm

I agree that we are all drawn to look at beauty. However, I don’t think as married Christian women we have any business checking out a guy’s backside, unless he is our husband. There is a big difference between noticing that someone is attractive and taking inventory of their body parts, especially those that are sexually arousing–buttocks and breasts. Also, there is a huge difference between seeing, noticing that person, and moving on and seeing, noticing, commenting on, and continuing to stare at or repeatedly returning to look at that person. I’m thankful to be blessed with a husband that does the former and not the latter. Also, there is no excuse for a married person, husband or wife, to be busily scoping out the room instead of paying attention to their spouse.

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Paul Byerly April 26, 2014 at 11:17 am

Bingo!
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Jen April 25, 2014 at 10:52 pm

“I cannot tell you how much I hate what the world has done to women’s body image. I hate how it has hurt my wife and my daughter. I hate how it hurts other women, and how that causes harm to their marriages and their husbands.” This is completely off subject and I am sorry but this statement is exactly how I feel about certain aspects of the “feminist movement” the constant jokes about masculinity, and put downs of men, and how women are better, the list goes on and on..Beyonces “Its a women’s world” comes to mind. I hate how I can now see the effects of this on my husband and my son, I was blind to it for a long time then we had a bible study at church that talked a little about the feminist movement and it really opened my eyes (sometimes I wish it hadn’t) but I hate it, it frustrates me to no end. End rant sorry for going way off subject, as usual awesome post!

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Paul Byerly April 26, 2014 at 11:18 am

You are completely right. Both sexes do it, and no one wins.
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Gaye @CalmHealthySexy April 26, 2014 at 6:47 am

This is a very difficult issue for women, and I appreciate you continuing to hammer away at it. Thanks also for sharing my post.

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Paul Byerly April 26, 2014 at 10:40 am

Sadly there is a huge force making women feel bad about their bodies. Trying to be a voice for something better – and more biblical.
Sorry about the bad link!
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Lisa April 26, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Just read another excellent post on the “looking” issue at Fierce Marriage titled “6 Reasons Men Should Watch Where They Look.” I don’t think married women have any business looking either.

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IntimacySeeker April 26, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I find it interesting, and not surprising, how the objectification of women seems to have grown alongside the feminist movement. That is not to say there are no issues that have not been positively addressed by the feminist movement, but the disrespect toward men is out of line, and we see the disrespect of women growing alongside. Hmmm…..

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Paul Byerly April 27, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Men use to respect women. Losing that has not been good for women in any way. Not good for men either.
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IntimacySeeker April 27, 2014 at 2:59 am

More thoughts. Yes, my husband can notice other women and still find me beautiful. For me, and perhaps others, this is not about body image. I feel confident about my appearance, even when naked. And even if there was such a thing as the perfect body, face, hair, etc., and I had it, he would still notice other women.
With our understanding of the male sex drive and visual stimulation, when I see my husband “light up” when he notices another woman, it is as if he is inviting her into our special territory meant to be exclusively for us.
It helps to know that I am set apart from other women. As Chris at The Forgiven Wife points out, our bodies are the ones with which our husbands associate pleasure and intimacy.
We long, however, to be the only ones for whom our husbands “light up” (become aroused). Sharing this part of our sexual intimacy with others puts us on the defensive and makes it difficult to be fully present in the bedroom.
Jesus communed with Peter and Judas even though he knew they would deny and betray him. Perhaps in marriage we are called to love one another fully even though we know we cannot be loved fully in return?

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Paul Byerly April 27, 2014 at 1:39 pm

“We long, however, to be the only ones for whom our husbands “light up” (become aroused).”
And you should. As a man grows in his walk with the Lord this should become reality. Sadly most men have a very long path on this.
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IntimacySeeker April 28, 2014 at 7:30 am

The culture in which we live makes this very difficult, if not impossible (?) to achieve. As you state in your post “Arousal versus Desire”–“If your husband is normal and healthy, odds are he is somewhat sexually aroused many times a week by something other than the thought or sight of you. Even if he hates this, he is powerless to prevent it.”

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Paul Byerly April 28, 2014 at 9:56 am

The issue is the difference between arousal and desire. Arousal is not lighting up.

Truth be told, women are no different. But their anatomy makes it easier to be unaware of minor passing arousal. If you wired a woman up to record all the things that cause her passing arousal it would be very similar to what you would find for a man.
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IntimacySeeker April 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I understand the difference between arousal and desire as you have explained it. Arousal is a physiological response to stimuli. A man can appreciate the beauty of butterflies, flowers, etc. and not be sexually aroused. However, when he appreciates the beauty of a woman, or sees a naked woman or scantily clad woman, he will probably be sexually aroused. Women ARE different as we don’t have the same physiological response to visual stimuli.

When my husband sees a beautiful woman and gets the glazed over, deer-in-headlights expression, I assume he is aroused, or about to be. This is what I mean by “lighting up.” Even though that does not mean he desires her, it still affects me.

Arousal is part of our sexual intimacy and I don’t want to share any part of our sexual intimacy with other women. The fact that it may happen to my husband against his will and involuntarily is irrelevant. Even if he turns his thoughts away, that experience is part of his subconscious, and the experience comes with him into the bedroom.

I not only want to be the only woman my husband DESIRES sexually, I want to be the only woman by whom he is AROUSED (light ups and/or gets the glazed over, deer-in-headlights expression).

Since men are designed to notice women and to be aroused by visual stimuli and we live in a culture that is saturated with visual stimuli, I must accept that I am one of countless women by whom my husband has been / is / will be sexually aroused.

Back to the original subject in this post, this may be one of the reasons women feel so uncomfortable with their husbands appreciating other women’s beauty. Less to do with body image and who is or is not beautiful, and much more to do with a man’s physiological response to visual stimuli: sexual arousal. Less to do with feeling insulted and more about feeling something very precious to us (sexual intimacy with our husbands) is being violated.

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