My husband always tells me how beautiful I am and speaks kindly about my body. Why can’t I receive it?
Sixteen years ago, my husband and I had a fight I will never forget. I rarely remember why we were fighting, but this memory is one that left a mark on my heart.
I was six months pregnant with our first child when this great fight occurred.
My husband, Matt, and I were married young and got pregnant within months of marriage. I was attending summer school to finish college before our newborn arrived. As the desks got harder to squeeze into as my belly grew, a fellow classmate turned and exclaimed, “You’re pregnant? I thought you were just getting fat!” The class erupted in laughter, but I went home and cried.
What that classmate didn’t know was that I was dealing with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, and this pregnancy put me in a position where I could no longer control this struggle on my own.
As I cried to my husband, he lovingly said, “Sweetheart, you are beautiful no matter your size. I love you with all of my heart, forever and always, no matter what.”
Sounds sweet, right?
It was sweet. But at that moment, it made me angry. I yelled at my poor husband, accusing him of lying to my face. I couldn’t understand how that unconditional love could be true because I was living with a deeply embedded core belief that my husband would leave me if I got fat.
I wish I could tell you a few days later, I came to my senses. But it took years to start receiving love and words of affirmation about my body from my husband.
In counseling women, I’ve listened to countless stories of how they have a hard time receiving love and words of affirmation from their husbands – even when he tells her how beautiful she is on a daily basis.
To receive love, we must replace rejection with God’s revelation.
Let’s break that down into practical steps.
- Identify rejection.
While reasons for rejection may vary, a negative core belief almost always drives this behavior. We are not born with core beliefs; rather, we learn them from our family of origin and culture. Core beliefs are an individual’s central ideas about herself, others, and the world. These beliefs act like a lens through which every situation is seen, shaping how a person sees the world. Harmful core beliefs lead to negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, whereas rational core beliefs lead to positive reactions.
I responded angrily to my husband’s kind words about my body because he was challenging my core belief about my worth. This harmful core belief began in high school when a relative said, “Rachael, when you get married, if you don’t want your husband to cheat on or leave you, make sure to keep your weight off.” This unsolicited advice shaped my view of myself and marriage. My core belief was that my worth to my husband and the world was in my weight. I was gripped with fear as my growing pregnant body gained more weight because I was sure my husband would leave me.
Pause to reflect:
God, what core belief about my body needs to be challenged?
- Ask for Revelation.
While I am grateful to have a supportive husband who loves me no matter my size, I know this is not the case for every woman. My heart breaks over the number of women I have counseled whose husbands criticize their bodies daily. Whether your husband is critical or supportive, nothing will penetrate our heart wounds like a revelation from God.
Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man proves to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” A revelation from our Father, our true source of hope and strength, has the power to shift our posture from rejection to acceptance.
Pause to reflect:
God, how do You see my body? Give me the truth from your Word to stand on when I feel uncertain.
- Learn to receive.
As women, we often tend to feel more comfortable giving. We give everyone else compliments, time, and energy all day. In fact, many of us feel more comfortable scrubbing toilets than receiving a blessing from a loved one. There is nothing wrong with this desire to give and serve others. It becomes problematic when we only give and never receive. Pouring from an empty cup leaves us burned out and depressed, both of which affect many areas of our lives, including our body image.
Receiving the revelation begins by meditating on truth. Here are a few to get started:
- TRUTH: You are a child of God. This inheritance of unconditional love is yours to receive! John 1:12: Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
- TRUTH: God receives you, no matter who might reject you. Psalm 27:10: Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
- TRUTH: His fullness in you empowers you to receive love and pour it into others. John 1:16: Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.
My friend, if it matters to you, it matters to God. Is your body image affecting you individually and in your marriage? Give it to God. Invite Him to help. He wants to bring freedom and restoration.
For further reflection:
If you identified a harmful core belief, I invite you to begin identifying thoughts that arise from that belief. Use this exercise, the 3 C’s of a Thought, to take the thought captive, challenge it, and change it:
Harmful core belief:
I am not worthy of love
I have to earn love by . . . (being a certain size, etc.)
- Captive: Identify the thought by writing it down or saying it aloud.
- Challenge: Is this thought true, noble, or worthy of praise? Where did this thought come from? Any thought that disempowers you is not from the Lord.
- Change: Use truth from God’s word to shift the thought to truth. Consider using a Bible app to look up a scripture that speaks life and truth over your body.
Article adapted from Image Restored: Tear Down Shame and Insecurity to Experience a Body Image Renovation by Rachael Gilbert (copyright 2022, Esther Press, an imprint of David C Cook)
Rachael Gilbert, MMFT, is a trauma-informed therapist, the author of Image Restored: Tear Down Shame and Insecurity to Experience a Body Image Renovation, and the podcast host of Real Talk with Rachael. Rachael combines her clinical expertise and personal experience to help women overcome fear and insecurity to walk confidently in their God-given dreams. Rachael and her husband, Matt, are the owners of BBC Health. They live near Dallas, TX, with their three children.