Last weekend I caused a bit of a hullabaloo by posting a Reader Question that said, “I’ve gained 25 pounds since we had kids, and now my husband doesn’t find me attractive. He wants me to be skinnier. He apologized for hurting me, but he frequently turns me down when I proposition sex. What should I do?”
There were some not very helpful comments left on that post, and I thought it was an important enough subject to revisit and post some of my thoughts! So here goes, in no particular order:
1. Don’t Mess Around with Your Spouse’s Confidence
Being attractive to your husband is HUGE. If your spouse tells you you’re not attractive, that’s devastating, and it’s hard to recover from. We’re supposed to delight in our spouses, not tear them down. So this is something that is likely best to keep to yourself.
That being said, sometimes we do need to be honest. Let’s say your husband has gained a tremendous amount of weight and sex is now just plain uncomfortable (I like to be able to breathe, for instance). Or perhaps you have gained 150 pounds and he does find it difficult to become aroused just seeing you now.
How do you handle that?
Address the health issues. Be part of the solution–like cooking better meals, initiating walks after dinner, and finding active habits to enjoy. If your spouse is severely overweight, talk to him/her about how you don’t want him/her to die early, and you think that part of loving your spouse is taking care of yourself so you’re actually here to help raise the kids and see the grandkids and share old age with. But don’t make it into a “I don’t find you attractive” issue–or “you need to be skinnier” issue. In general, that’s not helpful.
2. The Onus is on the Husband to Delight in the Wife; not on the Wife To Make Herself Delectable
Proverbs 5:19 says,
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
It does not say, “Make sure YOUR breasts delight HIM”; it says to him, “delight in your wife.” Biblically, the onus is on the spouse to stay enthralled.
And that verse was directed at an older, married couple, too, where likely gravity had taken its toll!
3. That Being Said, We Are To Try To Delight Our Husbands
I believe that part of loving your man and helping your man is being as attractive as you can be. After all, you’re the only woman he’s allowed to look at and take delight in! So make sure you’re attractive to look at!
That does mean keeping in shape as much as is realistic. Watch what you eat. Incorporate as many active things into your life as possible. Eating well does not take any more time than eating poorly, and so it’s a blessing we can give our family and our husbands. Choosing to walk places or choosing to take up biking as a family are all good things that can help us keep our weight manageable.
But even if you’re not a size 2 (and very, very few of us are), you can still be attractive! Fight the frump everyday. Get dressed. Wear clothes that flatter (and you can do that even if you’re plus-sized!). So much of being sexy is about attitude, not just what we look like. If you’re passionate with your husband, and you present yourself well, you’re choosing to love him.
4. Let’s Not Forget the Main Thing
At the same time, let’s not forget the point of this life.
1 Timothy 4:8 says:
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
So there’s nothing wrong with exercise; but let’s remember that our lives should not be about creating the perfect body at the expense of other things. I weigh about 22 pounds more today than I did when I was married. I walk a lot. I eat well. I exercise moderately. For me to get back to the weight I was when I was married would require a tremendous amount of effort. I’d have to be at the gym likely for about an hour and a half a day.
Is it worth it?
I don’t think so. I’m not saying exercising is bad; for many people, it’s their stress relief and their hobby, and that’s wonderful. But I have other hobbies. If I were to exercise for an hour and a half a day, that time would have to come from somewhere. Should I write this blog less? Should I stop writing my next book (or take about 3 times as long to write it?) Should I speak less? Should I homeschool my daughter less?
In other words, there are opportunity costs. And right now I think speaking and writing and spending time with my kids takes precedence over trying to look like I did when I was 20.
Now, if I were 250 pounds and this were a serious heath issue, then I’d feel differently. But we must weigh the costs, and not see the whole weight issue in a vacuum. When people tell someone, “just lose the weight”, you have to look at how difficult that would be, and whether it’s actually worth it. Much depends on the weight you’re starting at, and how realistic that target weight is.
So if you’re really hurting because your husband wants you to lose weight, think about it logically like this. Is it a health issue or not? Would it require a tremendous amount of effort? Is he only attracted to skinny women because he watches porn? Don’t immediately take on the guilt of gaining weight until you’ve put it in perspective.
5. Our Bodies Aren’t Supposed to Stay the Same
For someone to tell their spouse “I don’t find you attractive anymore because you don’t look like you did when we married” is a little harsh, because our bodies are not designed to stay the same. They are designed to slowly fall apart. That’s what aging is. After you have babies, you sag. You have stretch marks. You are bigger. You just ARE.
And as you age, you get moles. You get more hair growing on your upper lip and chin (where did THAT come from?!?!) Your veins start to stick out.
Your metabolism slows, and while you could eat a ton at 20 and stay 120 pounds, now you eat less and you’re 145. That’s what our bodies do.
Maturity means recognizing this and delighting in having a spouse to grow older with, not in expecting that person to stay 20.
6. We Put Way Too Much Emphasis on the Perfect Body
Sex is supposed to unite us in multiple ways–spiritually, physically, emotionally. The physical is only one. And when we put so much emphasis on needing the perfect body in order to make love we’ve lost the point. We’ve cheapened sex.
Yes, the body is important, and yes, we need to do what we can to keep ourselves attractive to our husbands. But that does not mean looking like you’re 20 when you’re 35 and you’ve had 4 kids.
By the time you’re 35 and you’ve had 4 kids, sex should be about celebrating who you are together. It should be a way to relax. It should be a way to cement your relationship as you parent together. It should be about saying, “I’m still crazy about you.” It should be ALL of those things.
Unfortunately, in our pornographic society it’s all too easy to think that “sexy” means a certain body type. And when we constantly feed our minds with what those bodies look like, through consuming media or even porn, then it’s hard for our spouses to measure up.
We MUST fight against this.
If your spouse is telling you that you aren’t attractive and that they don’t find you sexy, then perhaps it’s time to sit down and have a big talk about what intimacy really is.
You can make a commitment to get healthy and to keep yourself attractive, but that’s only half the story. It’s also about recognizing that godly intimacy is a meeting of bodies AND souls, not just bodies. And if you say, “your body isn’t attractive, so I don’t want to make love”, you’re also basically rejecting the soul. God designed sex to help us feel like one SPIRITUALLY, not just PHYSICALLY. So if you say, “I physically don’t want to have sex with you,” you’re also saying, “I don’t want to feel like one with you.” That’s harsh. And it’s wrong. And it means that you’ve bought into a shallow version of sex.
My 31 Days to Great Sex book can help you work through this, because it shows us how sex can unite us spiritually and not just physically. And there are exercises to reclaim that part of your sex life. I also walk through several days where we talk about what to do when each other’s bodies aren’t as attractive as they once were. So if this is a struggle in your marriage, pick it up!
Weight is a really complex issue. I do think our marriages are worth the effort to look good, and to stay within a reasonable weight (definitely NOT what you were at 20, mind you!). Your spouse SHOULD matter to you, and making love is a huge part of marriage. Continuing to try to entice your spouse is a huge way of saying, “I care about you.”
Nevertheless, sex is best and most meaningful when it is not just about the body. Put too much emphasis there, and you buy into the world’s idea of sex. And that just cheapens it.
And that’s it–all my thoughts on the subject on what to do if your husband thinks you’re not attractive! I think I’ll keep putting up Reader Questions once a week, but I’ll answer them instead and set the tone. A number of you have said you appreciated the feature, so I’ll keep it up there. I think if I set the tone, the chance of the comments becoming too outrageous is a lot lower.
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