“As long as my husband finds me attractive, that’s all I care about.”
This seems to be the mantra we wives repeat to make ourselves feel better about the state of our bodies as we age, carry children, and come to realize we just aren’t going to fit that Victoria’s Secret beauty ideal (even if we once did). It’s a way to take the pressure off me, but I think maybe what I’m actually doing is putting a whole lot of pressure on my husband.
It’s a lovely thought and I don’t want to discount the truth in it. I believe there are men who forever see their wives through Love Goggles and when she wakes up in the morning she catches him dreamily staring at her drool crusted face. Great. Congrats. But I am no longer the 18 year-old my husband fell in love with and I’m tired of pushing him to make me feel better about that. (And truth be known, I probably had the same amount of insecurities even when I WAS the 18 year-old he fell in love with.)
If I’ve gone through the time and work to pick an outfit I like, why do I then feel compelled to look at my husband and ask the fateful, “Does this make me look fat?” Why does that even matter? I mean, “Is my skirt tucked into my underthings?” might be an appropriate question, but other than that, why can’t I leave the guy alone?
This isn’t a defense of dressing in a way that is unflattering or giving up on your body, it’s just my encouragement to myself to be DONE asking someone else to validate me. Well, that’s not totally true. If I’m dressing for anyone, I might be dressing for my friends. They’ll notice how my shoes add a pop of color, how I tried something different with my hair, or how that top flatters my figure. This is what friends are for. My husband has the misfortune of believing when I ask, “Does this look okay?” that I actually want a critical, unbiased eye to give me feedback. Nope. My friends naturally understand that which eludes my husband.
Lest you think I am not a good Christian woman for not making it my life goal to be attractive to my husband (why is this communicated to us as though it is our sacred duty?), I am taking all my advice on this topic straight from the book of Proverbs, chapter 5:
Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD,
and he ponders all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray.
I know it’s not great hermeneutics to make an argument from silence, but I’m going to indulge and remind you of what this does NOT say. It does not say, “Enjoy your wife, for she doth keep it tight.” or “Do not ogle other women for thou hast wisely married a hottie.” or “Wives, if you are not attractive, it’s natural your husband will look elsewhere for this is how God hath created man.” Every bit of wisdom in that Proverb involves the husband’s obligation to find satisfaction in his wife and keep himself (thoughts, hands, eyes, texts, web searches) from wandering elsewhere. Chasing after a forbidden woman’s body is an act of folly, a lack of discipline, iniquity and God sees it. It isn’t something justifiable if your woman isn’t the goddess you remember marrying. “Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” At all times. Postpartum. Post mastectomy. Should we be blessed to reach age 80 together. Always.
I don’t care if my husband finds me attractive. There I said it. I’m just over it. I’m going to do my best to make the best of what I’m working with, but what he finds attractive on any given day is his own responsibility. It is his job to be satisfied with me, which doesn’t have to equate to pressure on me to attain some mythical beauty ideal and also doesn’t free me from my responsibilities to be a good steward of my body, my health, my finances and my time.
Does this mean I sit around in those adult footie pajamas and call it good? It doesn’t. It just means I’m freeing myself of the pressure to say my beauty and worth are measured by my husband’s (or anybody else’s) appreciation of it. He doesn’t need that kind of stress and I don’t need it either. Instead of asking him worthless questions to try and illicit a compliment (Do you like this dress? What do you think of my hair? Is this lipstick too bright?) I’m just going to give myself compliments he can easily agree with. I love how this dress looks on me! My hair turned out great today! This lipstick is such a happy shade! I’m not saying he isn’t allowed to have preferences or an opinion, but I’m done asking questions where there’s really only one acceptable answer.
Christian wives feel this intense pressure to be both domestic workhorse and beauty queen. We imagine we’re supposed to be modest and chaste for the rest of the world, but then flip some switch and be all Song of Solomon for our husbands. I want to stop dividing myself up into these compartments that just make me feel boxed in and double-minded. I’m one whole person and the more I can be content with the one person I was made to be, the less I’m going to be dependent on my husband to make me feel happy about myself. When it’s just the two of us I am not some other version of me, I’m just able to be fully, confidently, deeply myself. And I’m guessing he just might find that attractive.