marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Saturday, April 27, 2013

LDS Doctrine or Cultural Myth? Only Skinny Bodies And Perfect Skin Are Sexy To Men



Answer: Cultural Myth

A reader writes:

“…My husband and I… have never really had issues in bed other than my insecurities about my post-baby body. 

He is so kind and genuine and has always told me that I am the most beautiful woman in the world and I try so hard to believe him, but I still can't see how he cannot be totally turned off by the extra weight I've put on.

Because I feel this way, I've been reluctant to be with him more than once a week, but I decided to put my faith in what he was saying and I made an effort to initiate sex more often. It was great until about a week ago when I surprised him when he came home...  

Without being too graphic, we had sex, but he never really got fully hard and I was left feeling humiliated like he wasn't able to get as hard as usual because he was turned off by seeing me during the day… 

I can't believe how many horrible thoughts have run through my head because of this, like maybe he has to trick himself and picture someone else in his mind in order to be turned on…Or I just disgust him and he wasn't able to fake his way through it.

These thoughts are conflicting with the thoughts I have that I know Satan is trying to destroy something sacred and beautiful, but then I keep coming back to the fact that my husband just did not seem attracted to me because he didn't seem physically turned on.

I would love it if you would be so kind as to walk me through the process of what goes on in a man's head when it comes to sex.  And I realize that you can't speak for all men, but with men being such visual creatures, is it really possible to see a woman with a stretched and saggy stomach as beautiful?”

~ Post-pregnant and unsure


Dear Unsure,

Thanks for reading…

A trip through a man’s head will be a journey to a foreign land, as you’ve no doubt already discovered. The same is true from a man’s perspective. It’s my belief that one of the reasons the Lord commands us to marry is to learn to live and love someone who is so different than us. It’s very challenging, and when you face and accept that challenge, also very rewarding.[i]

We may speak the same language, but the two sexes’ thought processes are not even close. Even after twenty years of marriage, I still shake my head at my wife’s perspective, and she doesn’t claim to understand me fully either…but we are getting better at walking in each other’s shoes as we learn to understand the other gender’s point of view and gender-specific language and meaning.

I haven’t spoken to your husband, of course, but I feel fairly confident that you can believe him when he says he still finds you attractive, even after the baby’s born. There are several reasons for this.

When a woman looks at her body, it’s with a microscope and a critical eye, enlarging every flaw and feeling terrible about it.[ii]  If you do this yourself, I would recommend that, in the words of Dieter F. Uchtdorf, you should ‘stop it’[iii]!

The media in our society feeds into this female mindset. If you pick up a magazine at the store, you see a parade of skinny, airbrushed women that often don’t even look like themselves anymore[iv]. This then is held up as the standard that women try to compare themselves to. It’s an unfair and unrealistic comparison, and it’s hard not to feel bad about the stretch marks, bruises, freckles and wrinkles that you can’t Photoshop away.

Our culture at large is tempting women to become more masculine – to work outside the home, to go to the gym and get rock-hard bodies because (they’re told) that’s what turns men on. If that’s not what the woman truly wants, they’re then subtly shamed into feeling bad about themselves.

Years and years ago, things were precisely the opposite in many societies, including the one ours was born from. Thinness was a sign of poverty, not plenty. The beautiful women were the ones that were soft and round and at least a little bit on the heavy side. May I suggest that you be aware of this current cultural mind-set, and examine your own beliefs? There are healthier and more realistic ways of relating to the sexes.[v]

The reality of the matter is, your body is amazing. It’s a gift from God that works for you and most of the time you don’t even have to think about it. You can abuse it with impunity for years, and yet often it continues to work for you. If you make even small token efforts to take care of it, you receive rich rewards in return.

Think about all the good it does – all the nurturing of children, friends and family. Weren’t you amazed at the process of the baby developing and of birth? It’s such a miracle. Your body can make other bodies for spirits in heaven that are eagerly waiting for them.

If you are a temple-going member (as I hope you are), think about all those spirits who are able to progress because you give service with your body where they have none. Your husband is probably extremely grateful for the sex you give him, and also probably doesn’t mind a little extra cushion. Men enjoy their comfort, and when they’re tired after a long day, a sweet, receptive and nurturing soft body to hold themselves against can be the most desirable thing a man can imagine.

How can you re-frame your current beliefs to help you feel sexy again? Think about this…

Astrophysicists tell us that our bodies are made of the same materials that the stars in the universe are made of.[vi]

Have you ever looked at your arms or legs – at all the scars and freckles and moles, and noticed how it looks a little like the night sky? Each mark and freckle looks like a star that makes up constellations in the cosmos that your body is made from.

Would you rather look at an empty night sky, or one that’s full of stars? There is beauty that a husband can see that is beyond the superficial standard that the media portrays or want you to believe that a husband can see. I find that most men are not that shallow. Give him a little more credit than that.

If you have stretch marks, have you noticed how much they resemble the beautiful stripes of a tiger? Or, maybe a laurel wreath, like the kinds that were given to Olympic champions in ancient times?

My wife bore me four beautiful children, and she wears those stretch marks like a laurel wreath of honor. To me they look so beautiful, because I know I helped give them to her and it’s something no other man can claim. To me they are a symbolic mark of the bond we share, the fulfillment of our temple covenant, and the children we bore and raised together. She is my queen and priestess, and she wears a laurel crown no one can take from her.

It’s very natural for a married woman to put on a few pounds after marriage – it’s part of psychologically relaxing into the relationship. Putting on a moderate amount of weight during childbearing can be protective for the baby’s development. As long as your health is good and you feel good, it’s nothing to be concerned about at all.[vii]

Women of a not-so-petite size are also models; they can be outright gorgeous. Would you say the singer Adele is not sexy, or Queen Latifah? I think many men would disagree with you if you don’t. How about Kate Winslet? She’s not super-skinny, and (post-baby) is still considered by many as one of the world’s most beautiful women.

How do you feel when you look at your body? Have you ever looked in a mirror naked, and considered all the things your body can do? How it can hug, and tickle, and arouse? How its different parts can comfort a baby, or a friend, or a husband? May I suggest thinking of what you like about your body, and focusing on that? Ask your husband what he likes about your body – he’ll probably find several things if you can’t. Write down 10 of these and, like a mantra, recite them to yourself each morning.

Every morning when you get dressed, think about those parts of your body that you like – not just what they look like, but what they can do. Make friends with your body. Talk to it. Thank it for all the good things it’s done, and continues to do for you. Ask it what it needs from you. You are an eternal team, not adversaries. Learn to work together with your body, and you may find yourself starting to feel more sexy over time.

Are you familiar with Laura Brotherson? I would recommend her book to you if you haven’t read it yet. It’s called “And They Were Not Ashamed”. She’s LDS, and her book is a great resource for women who struggle with issues of married sexuality.

She quotes a Dr. Michael Farnsworth, who is a professor at BYU-Idaho: 
  “Your sexuality is the relationship that you have with your own body. How you feel about it. Your femininity…Your affection. Your acceptance. It is not about the other person…it is about you.”

The simplest way I can walk you through what is going on in a man’s mind when it comes to sex is this: a man tends to look at his wife like a woman looks at a slice of cheesecake. He sees comfort, pleasure, happiness, joy, stress relief, and feels his senses get excited. It doesn’t matter what the cheesecake looks like, only what it represents to the primal, sexual part of his brain.

When his cognitive and spiritual part of his brain sees you, he sees a woman that he loves very, very much - and his deepest way of expressing that love is through sex. In his mind, he’s thinking you feel the same. 

I also believe the negative thoughts you were feeling about yourself were from the Adversary…no doubt about it. He’s found a way into your emotions through the sub-cultural beliefs you are carrying…beliefs that say your body has to be perfectly toned and taut in order to be attractive to a man.

May I suggest re-examining those beliefs? Where do they come from? What would be a more supportive belief you could develop? I hope some of what I’ve said here might help you do that.

In closing, let me offer this recent remark from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

“A woman not of our faith once wrote something to the effect that in her years of working with beautiful women she had seen several things they all had in common, and not one of them had anything to do with sizes and shapes.

She said the loveliest women she had known had a glow of health, a warm personality, a love of learning, stability of character, and integrity.

If we may add the sweet and gentle Spirit of the Lord carried by such a woman, then this describes the loveliness of women in any age or time, every element of which is emphasized in and attainable through the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[viii]
All of that sounds pretty sexy to me. I don’t see why your husband wouldn’t see that as well.

I recommend patience with yourself. Take care of yourself, mentally, spiritually and physically the best you can; don’t overdo it. Do your best to enjoy your young family and your husband, and work on building and growing your relationship with them.

It sounds to me like you’re doing great. Once your children have all come and had a chance to get a little more independent, you’ll find that (if you wish) you’ll have time to get your body into the shape that makes you and your body feel good. No need to be in a hurry. Life is so very short and your time with your husband and children is fleeting and precious.





[i] “The unique combination of spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional capacities of both males and females was needed to enact the plan of happiness. “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11). The man and the woman are intended to learn from, strengthen, bless, and complete each other.” – David Bednar, “We Believe in Being Chaste”, April 2013 General Conference. Also see Mark Gungor’s blog, “The Divorce Myth Part II”, http://www.laughyourway.com/blog/the-divorce-myth-part-2/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+laughyourway+%28Laugh+Your+Way+to+a+Better+Marriage%29

[ii] “Dear sisters, many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Please remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself.” – Dieter Uchtdorf, “Forget Me Not”, October 2011 Conference. Also see Laura Brotherson’s comments on body image acceptance, pg. 237-238, in her book,  “And They Were Not Ashamed”
[iii][iii] Uchtdorf, Dieter. “The Merciful Obtain Mercy”, April 2012 General Conference, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng

[iv] Bonari, Alexis, “Even I Don’t Wake Up Looking Like Cindy Crawford”, Imperfect Woman, 30 Mar 2011, http://imperfectwomen.com/%E2%80%9Ceven-i-don%E2%80%99t-wake-up-looking-like-cindy-crawford%E2%80%9D/

[v] Rabbi Shumley Boteach, Kosher Sex, 2005, Fisher Brothers Media
[vi] Tyson, Neil deGrasse, as quoted in AwakenedAmerican.com, http://www.awakenedamerican.com/content/we-are-all-made-star-dust-we-are-all-one

[vii] Sifferlin, Alexandra, “Can You be Fat and Fit, or Thin and Unhealthy?”, Time.com, 5 Sep 2012, http://healthland.time.com/2012/09/05/can-you-be-fat-and-fit-or-thin-and-unhealthy/

“Gaining Weight Safely During Pregnancy”, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/healthy-weight-gain

[viii] Holland, Jeffrey R. “To Young Women”, October 2005 General Conference, http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2005/10/to-young-women?lang=eng

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a husband and father of 12 years and 3 children, I am and always attracted to my wife. Even when she doesn't feel that way herself.

The first thing that popped into my head when I read her story was if he was coming home from work and he's anything like me, he probably wasn't really in the mood since he just got home. My wife did this to me once or twice and I had the same problem your husband did. The reality is, it likely has nothing to do with the negative self talk you are projecting into the experience and if you tell him what went through your mind, he will probably tell you just that.

Sexiness that is portrayed in society has very little to do with what real sexiness is. There are plenty of alluring and sexy women out there happily married to husbands who haven't worn a size 2 since high school. Heck, Marilyn Monroe was a size 12.

Anonymous said...

Dear Unsure,

This has happened to me too, and my wife is a sleek 140 lbs. The best foreplay for a man is anticipation; sometimes a surprise catches the libido off guard.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could be a third witness to the other 2 brothers who have already commented. Unfortunately, this is an issue that I continue to struggle with. My wife is my best friend, my partner, a wonderful mother, etc. But since essentially doubling in size since our newlywed days, I struggle to find her attractive and to have much in the way of physical desire. I know it's because I've been essentially programmed by our media/culture to view shapes lacking in symmetry as unattractive. I continue to pray for the ability to see her more with my spiritual eyes than with my physical. But it appears to be the trial of my life. I don't expect or even want her to be a size 4. I would just like to see some difference to the topography between her upper and lower torso. She has made some nominal attempts at diet and exercise, and during those times, I do find myself feeling more inclined towards her. But those are the exception, rather than the rule. I am determined to never break my covenants over something I recognize as being eternally insignificant. But for my days on earth, it's a hard row to hoe. Maybe someday a surgical procedure could be an option. I wish it mattered less to me than it does. Any more advice on how I might re-program my brain? There's only so many scriptures about seeing others not as man sees them.

Strong Man said...

To be honest, the male brain and body is wired to be attracted to female symbols of fertility: youth, healthy curves, and a nice waist-hip ratio. A very overweight wife would not be attractive to me, but there is a lot of room for variety.

Also--in a long-term marriage, a lot of attraction has to do with factors other than pure physical appearance.

Especially showing off, being willing and eager to please him can make LOTS of flaws seem to absolutely vanish. It's pretty easy to maintain attraction to a woman who makes a reasonable effort to stay attractive AND is excellent in bed.

To anon with a fat wife: I think it's important to be honest with your feelings, and to help her see how she can meet your needs--both short-term and long-term.

To anon with an overweight wife: I think it's important to be honest with her about your feelings and needs, even if that is uncomfortable. If you had no job and were unwilling to go to work, which resulted in a huge turn-off for her, wouldn't you expect her to explain that to you?

Strong Man said...

Sorry about the weird duplication of the last two paragraphs above. Didn't notice that until after posted.

Anonymous said...

A fit, well-proportioned body is very attractive, but honestly I'd be so happy to have frequent sexual encounters with my overweight wife if she would only be more open to my advances. I care more about her wanting tobe intimate more often. She would majorly turn me on if she simply was more into sex in general. Her low interest existed even when we were newlyweds and her body was more fit. We've been married 19 years now and I'm very unhappy with our level of intimacy. I've told her this, but it does no good. There's always an excuse. It's interesting that I could be dead tired (even have a migraine) and I would wholeheartedly welcome sexual advances from her. I'm sad about the whole situation. I feel cheated. I never had sex prior to marriage. I saved myself for her. I'm frustrated because I have sexual needs and powerful unfulfilled desires which can only be satiated in our marriage. She rejects my advances and be fine withno sex. If I go outside our marriage I commit deplorable sin. She holds the power of "no." I'm left with "tough it out" and be unhappy sexually Or leave and destroy my family. 2nd choice isn't going to happen. Hence, I'm left with the hope that maybe things will improve and until then tough it out. I've already tried helping out more, being more romantic, etc, etc. I've already considered hormone issues, etc. I'm just venting here because I have nobody to vent to. If I bring it up with her it just creates more friction. ..and not the kind I'm looking for.

CoachSam said...

Dear Anon Aug. 10, 2013, 11:55pm,

That sounds very frustrating. I'm so sorry you have found yourself in such a challenging situation. I agree that no man gets married to be celibate. It sounds to me as though there is more going on in your relationship than her rejecting your sexual advances.

I'd be interested in hearing how she feels about your relationship. Would you both be willing to have a discussion with me? You can even email me privately at samzaragoza@sbcglobal.net. I may have some tools that could help your marriage.

Let me know, I'm glad to help.

Anonymous said...

I could have written the same thing as Anon back in May. My wife was 10 - 15 lbs overweight when we dated, got engaged and married, held to that for about 2 years, then with birth of first child picked up an additional 20 lbs. Then, over the births of our next three children picked up 20 - 25 lbs each, so that now, she's roughly 100 lbs overweight. She has only made token attempts to lose weight over the years, and it's almost as if she excuses herself by claiming "we're sealed -- you're stuck with me no matter what I look like." That, or she just doesn't think I've ever been worth the effort it would take to lose the excess weight and maintain a healthy weight. I've tried to be supportive and did my best to overlook her weight for almost 24 years because at least she was available sexually. Now that she's post menopause and we're in a sexless marriage, that extra 100 lbs no longer identifies as "baby fat." It's just plain old morbid obesity and is unattractive. Some softness and some weight gain? Great. An extra 100 lbs on a 5 foot 2 inch frame? Disaster. And yet, I get the feeling if I were to die tomorrow, she would suddenly bust her tail to lose all that weight and her libido would magically reappear as she made an effort to land another husband. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

By the way, as a follow up to my comment, and more directed to the post and the wife's concerns. Coach Sam threw you some softballs and was nice and encouraging, as he should be. But I'll be more practical. Take your wedding day weight, which for most of us, saw us at our best. If you can maintain no more than a 15% - 20% weight gain (excluding preganancy and immediate post-pregnancy weight), then most husbands would be thrilled to death. I don't use the BMI standards because I think they're a bit to stringent. It's when you start getting to 25% and beyond that plump turns to fat turns to obese. And, I know it is hard work and not easy to maintain a healthy weight. Few of us can eat anything they want and not gain weight. But, absent a clear medical reason, most of us can exercise and eat right and keep a healthy weight. Women, being a tad less visual overall, tolerate a lot more weight gain in their husbands than I think they should. I hold husbands to the same standard. If you're going to "fill out" beyond those early to mid-20's and pick up extra weight, you better make sure it's muscle and not a pot belly.

Strong Man said...

Anon 9-13-13
I don't know anything about "most husbands." Haven't taken a survey.

I do know about me. After 18 years of marriage, I work hard, maintain my fitness, and weigh the same as I did my senior year of high school.

If my wife were 15% or especially, 20% overweight, I would be far less attracted to her than I am now. Mostly because it indicates a lack of self-control and a lack of interest in me and our intimacy.

Pregnancy is an exception--she's totally hot when she's carrying my child--even when 8 months pregnant.

Thankfully, she exercises regularly and is in decent shape. Still has no clue how important visual appearance is to men, but she's learning slowly.

Anonymous said...

My only disagreement with Coach Sam is his cheesecake analogy:
"He sees comfort, pleasure, happiness, joy, stress relief, and feels his senses get excited. It doesn’t matter what the cheesecake looks like, only what it represents to the primal, sexual part of his brain." At some point, if the cheesecake looks like manure, it will not represent cheese cake. Similarly, at some point, extra weight is not attractive. Every man and woman has a different threshhold, but we should ask ourselves: "Is this the way I would want to look if I were trying to get my spouse to date me?" My wife thinks once our temple sealing was done, she no longer has to worry about what she looks like, and the extra 80 lbs she's packing around are proof. She has verbally said that when you love someone, what they look like shouldn't matter. I obviously disagree, to the extent we're talking about marital love. If she wants to be "just friends," then yes, it doesn't matter what she looks like. But if she wants me to be physically attracted to her, something has to change. She certainly didn't feel that way when she was in her dating years, and I don't think she would think that way if she were suddenly placed back on the market looking for another husband.

Anonymous said...

I think that the situation of the original poster was not uncommon for most men. One poster had it about right, the issue was that he was caught off guard and not ready for the surprise. The way to get the most out of that situation would have been to prep him all day long and tease him, leading up to the surprise. Then he would have been all hyped up and ready to go.

I do think that it would be good for you to work on getting back to the pre-pregnancy weight if possible. Otherwise, as mentioned by other posters, the weight becomes easier and easier to put on, and before you know it, you could find yourself in the situation to where your husband might not be attracted to you sexually any longer.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but men need to understand where women come from on this matter too.

As a woman myself, I know that obesity can sometimes become a way to 'test' a man's love and acceptance of his wife...at least in her mind.

If the man accepts her as she is, even if he doesn't feel attracted to her anymore...if he can still appreciate the other qualities his wife brings to the relationship and works on his own attitude instead of pointing fingers at her weight, she'll eventually be forced to face her own hypocrisy and work on finding health and strength again for herself, and not for him.

Ladies, it's hypocrisy to make a man prove his love to you in this way, just as Anon Sept 26 said. If your husband can look past the physical, you've got an extraordinary man, and you should be thankful.

Husbands, she'll never fully understand how important the visual is to you, but try to encourage her to be healthy and fit in whatever way you can, while accepting her for who she is. See not what she is, but what she can become, like President Monson said.