My wife and I haven’t been physically intimate for over a year. I can’t blame her for not wanting me as I have been putting on more and more weight over the years; I wouldn’t fancy me if I were her! When we used to make love, I would feel fat and ugly. I just want to bury my head and not think about what we have lost, but I miss her touch dreadfully. Does God have any answers or is He only interested in more serious things?
"God is deeply interested in the very personal and intimate aspects of you. He numbers every hair on your head as they diminish; He created you with the longing to love and be loved, because that longing is deep within His own chemistry. Your love life with your wife is highly important, as so much else emanates from it.
A poor body image can be a major barrier to sexual intimacy, which requires the confidence to abandon yourself and focus on good feelings, not on the negative. This is often stereotyped as more of a female problem and certainly there are all sorts of body image pressures on women with the average model weighing 23% less than the average woman and shop mannequins that if they were real women, would be too thin to menstruate! But the reality is that there are equal pressures on men, wonderfully explored in the very British movie ‘The Full Monty’, a 90-minute riff on the crisis of the male self-image. The Full Monty revealed more than just flesh. “You’d better pray that women are more understanding about us,” one of the film’s characters says as he wraps cling film round his midriff in the hope of losing weight. “Anti-wrinkle cream there is, anti-fat cream there is not.”
The stats reckon that 70% of us are cranky about some bit or other of how we look. So will we allow this to ruin the beauty of the sexual gift God has given to bless us, or can we sail against the wind?
I think a fundamental answer God gives us is in Philippians 4:8, ‘Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, think about such things.’ What you focus on in your mind is more powerful than how you look. Focus on admiring your wife inside and out. Think about how you can give her pleasure and make her feel loved; take the primary focus off what you look like, which can be over narcissistic. Think too about past good times of making love together when you did feel good about your body and from this place chose to love and accept your current body with its symbols of the life you have experienced.
I also want to encourage you to build a positive self-concept of what you are giving to your wife and to develop this as a strong image in your mind. This may include your emotional strength, your encouragement of her physically and metaphysically and all sorts of other things that you know she needs from you and you have to give to her. Let this be your self-image in your head. Don’t reduce your self-image just to flesh: you are so much more than this. You are her lover and she needs you.
On a practical front it will take some courage to get started again having not made love for so long. Can I suggest you talk together about what you used to relish about making love. Then agree how you would both feel comfortable to rebuild this area of your love. It might be good to start with the basics as if you were dating, with an agreement that until these are back in place you won’t have intercourse. Build up gradually, enjoying and strengthening each stage. It will be important that you both give each other permission and encouragement to initiate physical intimacy again. Be realistic as to how you will break out of the stalemate you have got stuck in. While you do this, it would also be great to put the effort into losing some weight and doing some exercise. But keep the mental focus on what I’ve described above so that it stays positive.
Whatever our body shape and weight, I believe God would have us take the primary focus off this, allowing it to merge into a much more three dimensional experience. To do this we have to push to one side the subliminal messages our media-led society bombards us with and actively focus on God’s values. Beautiful sex is not about two twigs entwining, but more like two aged oak trees knotted together with all the strength and character the years have brought to their oneness."