Updated: Sep 25, 2019
Intimacy and sex in relationships requires that we expose our bodies, this can be extremely difficult and cause a lot of strain on intimacy in a relationship.
How do you feel about your body?
Do you turn off the lights during sex so that your partner won’t see your body?
Do you find yourself thinking that you would enjoy sex more if you lose some weight?
Does it seem like you can’t enjoy sex because you are worried that your body is not good enough for your partner?
Do you avoid sex with your partner due to feeling self-conscious?
Does the way you feel about your body affect your sexual relationship with your partner?
In our marriages, sex is one of the major things that separates our relationships from any other relationships. And sex is so diverse: It has the ability to bring fun and adventure into a marriage; it brings you in contact with your and your partner’s naughty, sexy and edgy side; it has the ability to make you and your partner feel closer than what words can ever do; sex can make you feel safe; it can make you feel loved. Sex is an integral part of our marriages. But in order to have sex, we need our bodies, our exposed bodies. And sometimes, that is really hard…One of the biggest struggles in true sexual enjoyment and fulfillment is the way we see and perceive our bodies. Statistics show that 52% of women have avoided or postponed sex, while they are aroused, due to bodily insecurities and feeling self-conscious. I believe this might be the case for both men and women. It is really hard to enjoy sex, to completely let go and enjoy the moment when you are constantly fixating over your bodily flaws and feeling embarrassed, ashamed and utterly unattractive. Elle Chase said: “Generally, sex is best when you can be in the moment, focusing on your pleasure and that of your partner. If we are under the impression that our bodies make or break someone’s sexual attraction to us, this false premise takes us out of the moment. Feeling uncomfortable about your body has a massive impact on your sex life and ultimately on your relationship.
I think this is one of the hardest issues that couples have to face in their relationships. And I believe that, due to the sensitivity of the subject, many couples avoid it or never dig deeper to get to the essence of what lies behind the avoidance and reluctance to engage in sex and that creates distance, isolation and pain. This is a massive reality in many relationships, whether it is something that has been there from the very beginning, or a sudden new reality. Our bodies change, women bare children, our hormones change, mens masculinity fades with time and we age – all those factors have a massive impact on how we view and perceive ourselves and how confident we feel in living out our sexual desires. The true issue is when we avoid and find excuses not to have sex with our partners due to being uncomfortable about your body, because this causes separation, isolation and distance between partners.
It is crucial for couples to face these realities together although it may be very hard. It is important to know that there are two of you in this situation and both are affected by this. I believe that it takes time to really heal and form a new way of seeing yourself, it isn’t something that happens overnight and there is no quick fix. But deciding to start, deciding to do something, is a step in the right direction. And having a partner to support you, motivate you and love you, is a true blessing in itself.
Make the choice
First off it is important to make the choice, to decide to face the reality. One of the most freeing things in life is admitting you have a problem, seeing how it affects your life and your relationship and then deciding to do something about it. As a partner of someone who really struggles with loving and being comfortable with their body, you also have to make the choice to support during this journey to self-love. It is hard and you might feel rejected from time to time, but it is the choice to be there, to love and to care even when it is really difficult. The art is also in reminding yourself about your decision when it is really tough– for the both of you.
Recognize the voices
The struggle is real. The reality is that it is so hard to look at yourself in the mirror and not like what you see. It is even harder to have your partner look at you completely naked, when you have these feelings toward yourself. Enjoying sex is basically impossible as you are constantly in your head thinking and wondering what you partner is thinking about your body, is he disgusted, does he wish he was with someone else, does he deserve better… When you see yourself in the mirror, when you put on or take off your clothes – what are the voices saying? “Look at you, you’re so fat”; “Who can ever love someone that looks like you”; “You’re so ugly”. It is important to recognize these voices in your head, to become aware of the thoughts you have and the way you speak to yourself, that worsens the way you see yourself but also completely steals away desire and passion. When you recognize these voices, it might be wise to share them with your partner.
The worst thing you can do is to react and deny what your partner is feeling. It feels natural to say something like: “I will never be disgusted by you”; “You are perfect in every way, I don’t want someone else”; “I don’t think you’re ugly, I think you’re the most beautiful/handsome person I have ever seen”. There is definitely space for that and you should ensure your partner about your feelings towards them and how you see them. But you can really help your partner in asking curious and inviting questions so that they can have the freedom to honestly share what lies behind these feelings. For example: “Why do you think I will be disgusted”; “When was the first time you felt ugly/fat/not masculine enough/too thin…”; “Why do you feel that the way you look determines how much I will love you”. The key is to really listen and pay attention to your partners words and body language and to ask deeper questions but with love and care within a safe environment.
Speaking in a new way
It is one thing to become aware of the negative thoughts you have about yourself, but it is another thing to actually do something about it. Those thoughts and voices won’t go away by themselves, you have to replace them with positive, refreshing and uplifting thoughts. It might be a good idea to sit and think about the things people usually say about you and compliment you on. It is good to ask your partner as well. Partner, this is where you can really help your lover in order to see the things you see in him/her. Begin small in making a habit of speaking positively about yourself during the day. It is important to note that you might not believe yourself at first, but just keep on and the belief will follow – eventually. Two tips that is crucial:
1. Give a compliment
2. Take the compliment
Taking on the bedroom
When your bodily issues have been affecting your sex life, it might be a good idea to rekindle this lost pleasure little by little. These tips and suggestions might be helpful:
1. Turn on the music – study has shown that music has the ability to create an atmosphere and to help us relax
2. Dim the lights – it may be more comfortable (and romantic) to dim the lights
3. Get out of your mind – our minds have the power to kill desire and passion. Challenge yourself to shift your focus from the racing thoughts (which usually are negative) to thinking about what is happening in the moment. For instance: “His hands feels so good on my body”; “I love the way she kisses me like this”, etc. This will help you to get into the moment, to stay in the moment and to move your attention from your own flaws to intimate connection between the two of you.
4. Partner, help your lover feel comfortable and adored. You know he/she has been struggling – so be patient, sensitive and honest. You can maybe start by telling your partner what you really like about them (eg. Telling your partner that you love their legs while kissing it gently). It can be helpful to focus on being intimate and not just the sexual excitement that you might feel.
5. Do not stop – I think the most important thing is to keep on and not to stop trying. There will be days that is harder than other days, where you will be tempted to use your old excuses (headache, tired, etc.) to avoid sex. Don’t do it! Rather communicate your feelings to your partner and help each other in finding a mutual arrangement that is good for the both of you (perhaps a massage, a long bath together with bubbles or just lying in bed in each other’s arms can be just as intimate and exciting as sex).