Does your man’s past affect how you feel about your body? Does your husband have a past that makes you feel insecure-especially when it comes tophysical intimacy?
Or do you have a boyfriend with a past and the thought of marriage and intimacy makes you feel inadequate? Here’s an email I recently received from a reader and my response as to how to deal if your man’s past affects your body image.
My husband loves Jesus but he has a past. He didn’t start following Christ until later in life and he’s accumulated lots of, shall I say, experience. I feel intimidated by the fact that he’s been with other women. I also know that he’s struggled with pornography. How can I ever feel like I’ll be good enough for him, physically, knowing he’s seen other (more beautiful) women? I know he’s a new man, but I feel hopeless sometimes–like there’s nothing I can do to stop these thoughts while we make love. I’m obsessing over who he’s seen and how I can improve my body to try to keep up. (Of course, I’m over 35 and have had babies. . .so keeping up seems like a lost cause!)
What should I do?
My husband became a Christian while in a tent stationed in the middle east during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was 27. He was a Marine Fighter pilot who lived the “Top Gun” life before coming to faith. I struggled with body image long before I met him. But since I was saving sex until marriage, I had doubts as to whether or not it was even a good thing for me to marry this man, now on fire for God, because he had so much in his past.
But, praise God I didn’t let that stop me.
So, to your question. How do you stop comparing? How can keep your husband’s past from impacting your intimacy now?
Here are the three things I recommend that you do.
First: Forgive Him.
You’ll find more freedom to stop comparing when you are able to forgive him for and let go of the sin in his past.
I’m sure he desperately wants to let go of it, and you holding onto it can ultimately hurt him in his attempt to really embrace restoration and newness in Jesus. Jesus’ blood was either good enough for those sins, or it wasn’t. So, if you and he believe it was (obviously I do too!), then, you need to close that door and not go there again–out loud or in your head.
One thing that helped me as I wrestled with these issues was the acknowledgement that my husband wasn’t a “bigger sinner” than I was because of his sexual sin. I carried a false pride into our marriage, believing I was the “pure” and more “righteous” one. As you may guess, that led to some marital conflict. Pride never brings unity. Counseling helped me sort out that we were both sinners and I was immature (and wrong) to believe his sins were worse than mine.
Let your man’s sins be thrown as far as the east is from the west too. Don’t dig them up for him and remember them, while he’s trying to forget them. He may still be haunted by those images from the past–but I assure you, if Jesus is working in his heart he wants to let them go. So, help him do that.
Second: Acknowledge Beauty’s Lying to You.
Now for the tough stuff. You know what some of these other women he’s seen look like. They’re hot and you are feeling like you’re not. What do you do?
You remind yourself that beauty (or “hotness”) doesn’t give what it promises. Stop believing the lie that because they were hotter, he’d be happier. (I write about this cultural myth in my book too.)
The truth is, there is no scientific evidence anywhere to prove that people with better bodies have better sex lives. It’s almost the opposite. Though I’m not sure a study exists that factors in the woman’s physical appearance, married couples in monogamous relationships enjoy the most fulfilling sex lives.
So, stop buying that lie that hotter women have better sex.
He loves you and therefore, you have everything he needs to be satisfied in that arena. Married sex is different than hedonistic hook-ups. It just is. Culture likes to tell us men are just visual animals who can only be pleased by the hot-bodies, but men are made in the image of God and have hearts, souls, and emotions, too. Lust is not the same as love.
Sex outside of marriage is often disconnected, unfeeling sex. It’s a mostly physical act. Inside of marriage, our intimacy can go much deeper. We are allowed to get closer to each other in every way when we physically connect through the act. There’s no comparison, really.
How do you keep yourself from thinking about what he’s thinking when he looks at you? Girl, I get this too. I had a melt down because my soon-to-be husband didn’t oogle me in a bikini before marriage (Not proud of that time in my life– I obviously had some issues.) I thought he wasn’t happy with what he saw, and decided he was just marrying me because he was trying to do a “Christian” thing and didn’t really love my body, etc . . .
Now, 14 years later, I see how it wasn’t HIM who was focused on the wrong things, it was me. I was more focused on my body and what he thought of my body and he wasn’t at all. Can I encourage you to stop making decisions for him about what he likes and doesn’t like? He loves you. He chose you. He hasn’t chosen ANY of those other women. He’s redeemed by Jesus’ blood and wants to do life with you. YOU are the woman of his dreams. And, that’s why he picked you. If he wanted someone who looked different or had a “hotter body” – he would have chosen them. But, that’s not what he did.
You’re his girl. Rest in God’s love and the truth of what your husband has done and said, not what you fear he’s thinking.
Third: Think of Matthew McConaughey or Justin Bieber or Ryan Reynolds . . .
(How’s that for an unconventional point three? Follow me here, though.)
It used to be universally accepted that Matthew McConaughey is hot. He may be aging out of the “prime” for that label now. Though, I’m pretty sure scores of women actively considered purchasing a Lincoln thanks to him.
But think of a man in the public eye whom you consider good looking. Now… follow me as I continue to speak of Matthew McConaughey.
I’ll admit, he’s attractive, at least in most of his films. But, I don’t want to marry him or even meet him. I’m able to hold the objective opinion that he’s an attractive man while still being absolutely in love with my husband.
Whenever I get concerned that my husband is going to find some woman hot and decide he doesn’t want me (and my body) any more, I think of my ability to hold the opinion that a man is hot and not have any desire to be with him.
Perhaps this perspective will help you re-train your brain to stop seeing other women as competition for your husband’s affection and, instead, appreciate that God has given different people different gifts, all to be used for his glory. For some, he did grant great beauty, but that doesn’t negate or detract from the beauty your man sees and appreciates in you. Don’t let the enemy lie to you and rob you of the opportunity to savor your man’s love and affection.
If you can apply these three steps, J., I know that God will do a mighty work in your marriage and your intimacy.
Thanks for your question! Prayers for your continued journey to body image health and wholeness.
(Names and facts changed to protect the innocent. Do you have a question you’d like to see answered on Compared to Who? Email it here.)
Are you listening to the podcast yet? Listen for great content to improve your body image.
Have you read Heather’s books? Learn more about Heather’s Christian body image books and workbooks here.
I love your post but there is one this I disagree with, the third point. The reason its hard for me to agree with you is because it’s the husbands behavior that typically causes women to lose confidence. Remembering that you’re attracted to someone while still being faithful can’t be reflected back onto the husband. He already acted upon his attraction to another woman, this is where that lack of confidence comes from.
Hey! I do believe that a husband’s behavior can impact a woman’s confidence, no doubt! In the context of this post though, we’re talking about a man’s past … what he did before he met you or what he did before he entered recovery from porn or something similar. I know so many women who are hung up on what their guy did in his past or saw in his past, who was he with, what did she look like–and my encouragement to them is that the past is the past. If he chose to marry you . . .there’s no sense in letting comparison steal the joy out of your relationship. We can drive ourselves and our husband’s crazy by staying stuck in the past and refusing to accept that their affection and attraction for us is for real because they used to date someone “hotter.” My point is that it’s certainly possible to be attracted to someone and not act on it. I do think we need to give our men grace for that. But, if a man is acting on his attraction to another woman – then, friend, that’s a whole different blog post. 😉
After reading your blog post “You Don’t Have To Struggle With Body Image Alone!” I’ll take the time to write a comment and let you know I liked the post.
I believe your blog post has the potential to help women who have experienced what you’re writing.
I love blog posts that include readers, as you do with the letter from the woman explaining her situation.
Your blog post is honest – and I believe this is a topic that few Christian bloggers manage to write about in the way you do.
My favourite takeaway: Stop comparing and what you write about forgiveness.
It’s such a good reminder!
I like your point about being or not being a “bigger sinner”.
There are so many assumptions about life that we get from movies etc. that are just not true, just as you say, it’s crucial that we stop believing these assumptions.
I was encouraged by your blog post, thanks!
I’ll give your blog post a share Monday, November 13 on my social media channels.
Thank you so much, Edna! 🙂
Such a great post Heather! I love your line “Can I encourage you to stop making decisions for him about what he likes and doesn’t like?” We let our own past stuff make false assumptions about what our husbands are thinking but it’s all based upon lies! Lies from our own hurts and wounds. Thank goodness we have the ability to change our thoughts with effort and practice and we have God who loves us just for being us, unconditionally!
Amen! Unconditional love . . .wow . . . we need it so badly but it sure is hard to give, isn’t it? 🙂 Thanks for chiming in!
Some great advice here. Getting over insecurity happens over time as trust develops. At least that is what I have found with my husband who has his own past.
Yes . . . though sometimes, if we don’t find healthy patterns of relating, it can also fester and then explode a decade later. We’ve seen that in couples too. Sigh. Hard stuff.