You don’t need toned arms and a flat tummy to be loved or bring your lover joy in the bedroom.
When I first saw Kamila, I immediately thought of the famous chef Nigella Lawson. But it wasn’t because of her cooking skills or any facial similarity–it was what she was wearing. Kamila’s dress long, baggy dress reminded me of a paparazzi photo of Nigella I had seen, showing her standing on an Australian beach in a neck-to-ankle nylon suit. The tabloids had a field day with it, mocking her appearance and questioning what was underneath that giant suit, but Nigella declared she was simply afraid of sunlight. Personally, I happen to think that Nigella, as befits a culinary goddess, has a divine figure, but even I admit that the odd choice of bathing suit attracted more attention to her body in that scenario by hiding it so completely.
Kamila’s dress was no different. It attempted to hide everything that could have had a shape. Kamila had a pretty face, an animated voice, and almost sensual hand gestures as she spoke—but her figure was buried in rolls of fabric. And after just a few minutes of conversation with her, I realized that Kamila would likely happily keep it on even in the bedroom.
|When I want to cuddle, I light candles.”|
“My husband always admired my filigree shapes, but after the birth of our daughters, I gained over forty pounds. I lost some weight, but I never got my former figure back,” admits Kamila, who at 35 years old is a manager of a pharmaceutical company and a mother of two preschool-aged daughters. “I know that pudgy women can be attractive, but my stomach is terrible; I have stretch marks, blemishes. When we want to be close or even cuddle in bed, I light candles. Not to increase the romance, but to be less visible (which, for me, increases the romance). I used to like to take baths together with Mathew; now I make excuses about lack of time or the fact that the girls could wake up and see us.”
“Do you have sex often?” I asked
“Enough not to forget how to do it completely, but just barely enough remember,” she answered jokingly. But I could see she wasn’t laughing.
To be insecure is to be human. Our insecurities are not always easy to get rid of, but the first step to living free of them is to think about them differently.
One mistake I see frequently is women who cover their entire bodies to hide just one part they are unhappy with. Kamila does not like her new stomach. The one that just a few years ago was firm, flat, and seducing: a young woman’s stomach. Now Kamila has the body of a woman who became a mother. She looks at her changed, rounder stomach as a defect. But why do we see it as a blight, rather than a happy memory of her experiences during the two pregnancies? Tummies like Kamila’s do not have to be beautiful to be valid. A woman’s body changes, as it records a personal, intimate story. It is a map of births, nursing children, sleepless nights, physical and mental effort of childrearing. A map of this kind is a source of pride. A belly like Kamila’s is a souvenir to be proud of.
Sex as emotional glue
But the problem is that Kamila doesn’t feel attractive. She may be desired by her husband, but, caught up in her own insecurities, she is not open to Mathew’s admiration. He probably does not look at her with a plastic surgeon’s eye, but she cannot accept the idea that he might find her sexy still. So she hides behind her insecurity, behind her belly. She lets her sensitivity about her body control her and limit her, so she doesn’t use it in the way that she wants to. And then she complains that she is not sexy, even though she tries so hard to be.
It doesn’t matter whether her dissatisfaction with her stomach is understandable or exaggerated. What is important is that this stomach has become a wall separating her from her sexual needs and fantasies. It doesn’t allow her to get close to her husband in a way that is spontaneous, free and joyful; it blocks the nurturing of true intimacy. And that’s how an insecurity can take over the bedroom.
But it isn’t always just our physical insecurities. Sometimes, it’s an emotional one: perhaps a woman who is embarrassed by the idea of sex. A woman of faith, who might be embarrassed and shy can take the courage to change from reading Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope’s exhortation which appeared last year, the Year of Charity.
Pope Francis points out that marriage is a friendship. A union seeking tenderness, intimacy, reciprocity and passion always focused on that union being ever stronger and ever more intensive. It is important that the mutual love of the spouses be shown in the right order, that it grow and develop and mature, teaches Pope Francis. It is impossible to build a marital union by isolating oneself in a cage of insecurities. So working to accept your body and love it for what it is, is not a narcissistic and selfish effort, but an essential step in strengthening your sexual expression and your marriage.
|As families grow and lives get busy, it can be hard to remember that coming together as man and woman is just as important as being together as mom and dad.”|
MORE TO READ: Don’t hurry love: The joy of having slow sex
Couples who remain in deep, loving relationships for more than a decade feel that frequent physical displays of affection are very important, according to research done by psychologists under the direction of Professor Daniel O’Leary, and published in the psychological journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. In this sense, sex is an emotional glue that binds a marriage together.
As families grow and lives get busy, it can be hard to remember that coming together as man and woman is just as important as being together as mom and dad. Which is why slowing down once in a while, having a date night, and nurturing mindfulness and self-observation are necessary to a better relationship in the bedroom.
Seduction is a state of mind, not a body size
An imperfect body shouldn’t hamper your freedom. You don’t have to look like a celebrity, who has a perfectly flat tummy two months after giving birth. Maintaining that image is part of a celebrity’s job, but your income probably isn’t tied to the numbers you see on a scale. You live differently, so why the self-flagellation? Open yourself up to pleasure. Act like you have the body of a goddess, not an old crone. That said, getting rid of deeply rooted insecurities is a long process, often requiring the help of a psychotherapist. But there are small things you can do on your own, too:
1. Ask yourself to play the role of a courageous, confident woman who knows what she wants. This therapeutic exercise helps free your erotic imagination. Reach for pretty lingerie, and don’t let your eyes linger on your stretch marks.
2. Consider buying your underwear with your husband. He may not know what he likes (and maybe you don’t know what you like either) so experiment. Maybe all you need is a pretty teddy you both think is sexy.
3. Do some character study to get out of your own head. Look up the classic repertoire of screen goddesses in the movies, especially the old black-and-white ones. Gestures, looks, a whispering voice, or tossing hair in a flirtatious way. It is better to laugh together at your over-the-top fun, than to be silent, or cry into the pillow alone.
4. Try not to fall prey to erotic nostalgia: the idea that you were once pretty and desirable, but now you are too old to play your role. Seduction is enjoyable regardless of age, but you need to accept your body as it is to let that enjoyment flourish. When you’re feeling fat or otherwise less desirable, try tell yourself you are beautiful, and loved.
Those insecurities may not go away completely—you’ll probably still feel them pulling at you as you do any of these things. But the hope is that they will no longer block you in the bedroom. That these will help you side-step them for now, and maybe even forget about them later. When in doubt, keep this mantra in mind: Your body does not have to be perfect to make it delightful. Loving yourself is similar to loving another person. You love in spite of, not because of.
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