As I stood in front of the mirror, I counted the number of scars displayed across my stomach, splattered across my belly like a toddler with a crayon. How could I ever feel beautiful again, let alone sexy? My thoughts were interrupted as my husband came up behind me and put his arms around my body. He whispered in my ear, “You, my Joy, are so beautiful.”
In the span of three months, I had three surgeries and many procedures, turning my stomach into a landmine of imperfections. Yet, through it all, my husband has loved me in ways that have helped me to confidently give my body, heart, and soul to him.
My value as God’s child is not dependent on how my stomach looks, or any other insecurity I may have. The same is true for you.
To begin to heal, I first had to discover the lies I believed about myself and begin to see myself how God sees me. Through counseling, I discovered that I believed the lie that my physical worth was dependent on what my body looked like, not my identity in Christ. Believing my worth was found in my appearance turned out to be my greatest source of insecurity—and it was hurting the intimacy in my marriage. But as I began to find my source of security in God, not in what I look like, I also grew in intimacy with my husband.
Intimacy grows through addressing the source of our insecurity.
After all of the medical trauma I had walked through, I knew I needed to go back to my counselor. My trauma brought up new insecurities that actually pointed to deeply rooted lies that I believed. My new scars led me to believe I was no longer beautiful or worthy of love, reinforcing the lie that appearance matters most. As I’m learning to address this lie, I’m discovering that intimacy grows as I name my insecurities and find scriptural truths to counter them.
For example, when I doubt my value, I meditate on Galatians 4:7, “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” My value as God’s child is not dependent on how my stomach looks, or any other insecurity I may have. The same is true for you.
Part of “feeling beautiful” includes giving myself a pep talk and believing this truth. Every day when I wake up and look in the bathroom mirror, I see a sticker that says, “This is a good body.” I need this reminder because I often feel like my body has betrayed me. Because of my health issues, my body can feel like my enemy. But I must remind myself: my body is good. God formed me and knit me together perfectly in my mother’s womb, and He says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).
As you begin to feel safe revealing your insecurities to God, then you might begin to feel safer sharing them with your spouse.
Intimacy grows through encouraging one another.
You don’t have to look perfect to have great intimacy with your spouse. In fact, as you age, your body begins to change and will never look like it did when you first fell in love with your partner. If you’ve experienced changes in your body, true intimacy can be nurtured through encouraging one another, working through your insecurities, and praying with your spouse.
For as long as I can remember, I struggled with confidence about my body. My stomach was too big, my leg hair grew too fast (I’m Italian), and my nose always felt just a little too big. Yet, since I met my hubby Zack, it was as if when he looked at me he saw a completely different person than the one I saw in the mirror.
We’ve been married for about 5 years, and I’ve grown in confidence about my body. Now, even with the imperfections and scars, I’ve become confident in who God created me to be through meditating on scripture and believing the words of my husband. My husband helps me see a glimpse of this truth in real life. The more he uplifts me with his words, the more beautiful I feel. I’m able to feel sexy because of his love and words that continue to lift me up.
My husband’s encouragement has grown my body confidence, which has deepened our intimacy. This reassurance takes place not just in the bedroom, but during regular day-to-day moments. He cheers me in the mornings while I’m still in my pj’s, hair up in a bun, and pouring my coffee. He encourages me as I’m in work clothes, right before an important Zoom call. The more we encourage one another during normal aspects of life, not just in intimate moments, the more we will believe it.
It’s not enough to simply hear our spouse’s encouraging words, we have to BELIEVE them. Sometimes, we want to deny our husband’s compliments. (I know I’ve done this.) We might respond with, “No, I’m not beautiful,” or “Really, you like this dress? I was thinking of getting rid of it.” Instead, we have to believe the encouraging words we receive and also encourage our spouses in the things they may feel insecure about. I try to encourage my husband, Zack, by praising him for a job well done at work, complimenting him on his physical appearance, or thanking him when he serves our family.
Intimacy grows through praying with your spouse.
Since we were first married, my husband and I shower together every night (that’s a different blog!) and pray together every night. No matter what happened that day, even if we ended the day in conflict, we hold hands across the bed and pray. We’ve discovered it is hard to stay mad at someone for too long if you know you’re going to pray together before going to sleep.
Forming healthy patterns and habits like praying together can grow your intimacy. If you struggle with body image issues that impact your intimacy in marriage, here are some things you can begin to pray for together:
- Pray for your sex life.
- Pray that you will be able to love and value your body.
- Pray for God to reveal the deeper lies that could be the source of your insecurities.
- Pray and thank God for the body He has given you.
As I grow in intimacy with my spouse, I also learn to trust him more. I believe him when he compliments and encourages me. The same is true with God. Building intimacy in spite of bodily imperfections boils down to this question, “Do I really trust God with all that He allows to happen in my life and to my body?” Even though I don’t understand why things happen, I can trust God that His plans are perfect, and I can have confidence in this verse:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
If you struggle with loving your body because of imperfections, be encouraged! You can grow and deepen intimacy with your spouse by addressing the root of insecurity, encouraging one another, and with prayer. You can get to the point where you are thankful for your body, even with its imperfections. I don’t think I will ever look at my scar-covered stomach and think, “Wow! That is attractive,” but I do look at it and believe, “This is a good body!”
After sharing this article wtih my husband, Zack, I invited him to share his perspective on this topic. You can read his response here: “3 Ways To Help Your Wife Feel Fully Known and Fully Loved.”
Here are some additional resources about a healthy body image that you can check out:
- Java with Juli #402: If God Made My Body “Good,” Why Does It Cause So Much Pain?
- Being Sexy Has Nothing to Do With Your Body (Juli’s blog)
- Java with Juli #381: “Show It Off” or “Cover It Up”: Messages That Shape Our Body Image