Body Image: Your Questions Answered

Many of the respondents to the JHJ Body Image survey had very specific questions for us panellists (Donna, Grace and myself). Despite 90 minutes of conversation (to be released in 3 podcasts starting next week) we were, unfortunately, not able to address all of those issues. Donna and I would like to take a shot, over the next couple of weeks, at some of those we missed.

How do you get over feeling invisible when you are out and he's looking at other women?

Dawn: My first husband was always checking out young, voluptuous women when we were out (just the tip of the iceberg in terms of his SA). After awhile I decided he was an idiot and stopped caring about his opinion. Not surprisingly, I didn’t stay with him.

Older and wiser, I now have the courage to talk to my husband (T) about his struggles. Fortunately, he’s open to these conversations and is, now, usually the one who introduces them. From his earliest days in recovery (five years ago this August) T has used the techniques learned in Every Man’s Battle (Fred Stoeker and Steve Arteburn).

An excellent article a woman could use to start the conversation with her husband (about his lusting) is “Looking, Noticing and Seeing” by Jason Martinkus. As I discuss at length in my upcoming book, Beyond Betrayal, many addicts feel it’s “good enough” to drop the prostitutes, porn… but lusting they’re going to hang on to. That’s not really good enough for God. And it doesn’t have to be “good enough” for us.

In the meantime, let’s be aware that we are not at all invisible to the God who loves us. He sees our hurting heart and is deeply moved. As I said in last week’s post, we shouldn’t take our cues about who we are from our husband (when in addict mode). Yes, God’s plan was that our husband’s words, actions and fidelity would feed us emotionally. However, if he is unwilling to join in that glorious work of God’s – it’s his loss. The truth is that we and God are infinitely more worth knowing, than some young woman’s butt.

It seems easier to have a good body image when feeling detached from my husband. How do you maintain that image while trying to re-attach?

Donna: Regarding the idea that it is "easier to have good body image when feeling detached," many partners in the survey stated that they regained a "good" (i.e. healthy) body image following their divorce. Yet, I imagine that if we explored their stories we would discover it was still a long, often very painful journey — one step forward, two steps back. I’ve discovered that reality myself, through my close relationships with partners. Whether our marriage survives or ends, this experience we share shatters whatever healthy body image we might have brought into our relationships prior to discovery/disclosure.

As for "maintaining that healthy image while trying to re-attach," I can briefly share my journey regarding this. First, two books profoundly impacted my life – God’s ongoing transformative work – and helped prepare me for this season. I discovered the first as a fairly new believer. Telling Yourself the Truth by William Backus and Marie Chapian. The second came along decades later, Changes that Heal by Henry Cloud. Both helped me understand what emotional health looked like, and what was required on our part… that is, what God purposed and provided.

How did that apply? Hopefully, if we choose to stay in our marriages, it’s because we’ve seen/experienced a change of pattern in the way our husbands think, react and respond. This shows us that our core beliefs – the deepest part of who we are, how we see ourselves as partners – can change too. As they’ve had to do their part for those patterns to develop, we can do ours in the healing journey.

My discovery, and healing journey, began almost ten years ago. So, as difficult as it reads, I know this journey takes time. As partners we need to offer/extend grace to each other about time.

Prior to disclosure, as a post-menopausal woman I was already fully aware that my body was, according to almost any standard out there, "less than" ideal. In order to navigate the latter part of my life as a woman, I realized it was up to ME to grow toward a healthy self-image. Whether my husband prized another woman’s body over mine, whether society said sagging boobs ☺ should be altered to stay attractive, I needed to learn how to move toward health: experience a transformed mind about it.

For me it started with Scriptures like Psalm 139. Believing the One who does not lie … “
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body....”

Am I ever triggered? Yes. It’s a consequence of the loss of innocence we all experience. But I no longer see myself as less than other women. Whatever I do to improve my physical body now is for me…