Being a plus-size woman brings challenges in many areas of life—including the area of sexual intimacy.
I know first-hand how painful this subject can be. I was a thin and active child, but when I was a young adult I began to put on weight. I am now quite overweight. Fortunately, Big Guy adores my curves and always has. Yes, I want to be healthier. I would like to be thinner. For the most part, though, I’ve come to terms with my weight. This is who I am and how I look. This is the body I have right now, and it’s the one with which I live my life.
Still, writing this post is a struggle. I’ve never had any problem sharing about the sexual intimacy in my marriage here. This feels different. Harder. More vulnerable. Nakeder. (I totally made that word up. It works.) I was not prepared how difficult this post would be to write.
I’m not going to lecture anyone about health here. We all know we need to be healthier.
I’d like to be honest about the unique sexual challenges we plus-size women face. In this post I’m going to talk specifically about body image and our feelings about our weight. I have a follow-up post that will address some physical realities of plus-size intimacy.
Some overweight women are married to men who are critical of the weight. If your husband’s attitude has added more weight to your burden, I’d like to encourage you to do what you can to make sexual intimacy easier and more enjoyable for your own sake—but not to carry the burden of your husband’s attitude. Your husband’s attitude may have far more to do with him than with you.
As much as we may struggle with our weight and getting healthier, sometimes the bigger struggle is how to live our lives to the fullest in the bodies we have right this moment.
I’ve seen lots of advice for my “extra-beautiful” sisters and me about what we should do. Some advice focuses on getting healthier and learning about all the horrible things that will happen if we don’t lose this weight. Other advice is all about embracing—and even flaunting—the glories of a large size, accompanied by a dismissal of any challenges we face. Christian writers often remind me that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and that in being heavy, I’m dishonoring God.
Should I make changes so I have a healthier body? Absolutely! But that doesn’t mean that I put my life on hold until that happens. My marriage needs tending even when I’m in the middle of trying to make those changes. I like the idea of embracing who and what I am, but that seems partly inauthentic. I don’t think I should pretend that being overweight has no effect on my sex life. Advice that tells me I’m dishonoring God by being heavy is just a guilt trip with no grace.
The fact is that even while we are working to make changes, we need help in dealing with the realities of the life we have today.
My Body, My Self? (Sigh)
The most significant way that being overweight can affect sexual intimacy is in how it makes us feel about ourselves. Many women struggle to feel beautiful or sexy even when they aren’t overweight. With extra weight, it is an even heavier burden.
We hear so much about men being visual. It’s hard to understand that our husbands enjoy the way we look—even when they tell us so.
Sometimes, we may feel sexy and believe our husbands, only to be distracted by our own jiggling and drooping parts while we’re in the middle of sex. It is easy to lose confidence when we’re confronted with the evidence of our inadequacy when we’re at our most vulnerable.
Overweight women may find it particularly difficult to be naked in front of their husbands. Unfortunately, it isn’t so easy to find sexy or pretty lingerie or underthings to help us feel attractive or cover up our problem spots. As the clothing sizes increase, the options for us decrease. Larger women have more difficulty finding things in their own sizes, with fewer styles and colors from which to choose. Plus, these items cost more in large sizes than in smaller ones, which can be difficult in a tight budget. Something that could be fun—shopping for sexy stuff—becomes yet another painful experience.
Many overweight women feel embarrassment or shame about their weight. We may struggle with this out in our daily lives. Hearing smaller women complain about being bloated or getting fat is difficult and embarrassing. Then we walk into the bedroom, which should be a sanctuary away from the difficulties of the world—only sometimes it’s hard to leave the embarrassment behind. We then bring feelings of shame into the marriage bed—where we should be naked and unashamed.
Dealing with Body Image Issues
It is possible to enjoy a thriving marriage bed, even as a plus-size woman.
Remember that the goal is intimacy. Being sexual with your husband can strengthen the connection and oneness in your marriage.
The best way to tackle body image issues is to work on your own feelings about your body. Although it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about the things that don’t work so well, it’s much better to think about the joy of being able to be sexually intimate with your husband.
One of the women who responded to my survey said something I love:
“My husband and I still have great sex, actually better now than the first time 16 years ago. Weight is just weight. It doesn’t change how we feel for each other or our desire for one another. He still chases me and I still let him catch me.”
If you are being sexual with your husband, you are pursuing sexual intimacy—and that is a good thing!
Wear things that help you feel pretty and sexy.
- Wear a nightgown that has a sensual feel to it. Something that slides across your skin taps into your sense of touch in some sexy-feeling ways.
- Decorate your body with temporary tattoos or body paint.
- Wear veils and scarves and feather boas.
- Wear the sexiest, most dangly earrings you can find.
- Invest in at least one nice piece of lingerie that allows some skin to show through. Lace can provide a sense of coverage while showing some skin.
Focus on what your body can do and feel.
When we’re overweight, our sexual confidence is easily punctured—but when we reclaim that confidence, we can feel powerful and erotic.
Imagine how you would act if you were a sexier woman—and then do that. Enjoy the fact that your heart, body, and words can inflame your husband’s passion. Savor the ways you affect him sexually.
When your husband is touching you, focus on the physical sensations. Allow yourself to think about the ways he shows you he loves you. Fill your mind with the physical and emotional expressions of love to help push away thoughts about being unattractive.
Let your husband see you.
I know how very hard this can be. I spent years insisting on sex in the dark or with minimal lighting. My husband told me he loved my body, but I didn’t believe it could possibly be true.
Seeing each other sexually contributes to intimacy and feelings of closeness. It is good for your husband to see your sexual enjoyment, and it is good for you to see his.
This was a difficult thing for me—but I paid attention to my husband’s eyes. When he would see any part of me naked, his eyes would light up. I hadn’t believed his words that he found me physically appealing, but his eyes did not lie.
You Deserve Sexual Intimacy
Our size shapes how we see ourselves as women. We often equate too much girth with too little worth. We may find it hard to feel sexy.
Whether we’ve always been extra-beautiful or it is something that has happened only after a particular season in life, being heavy can put us in conflict with our bodies. The thought of sharing those bodies with our husbands can be intimidating and overwhelming.
It is tempting to absorb the world’s messages about our size. We’re told that we’re unlovable, unattractive, and unworthy of a man’s interest.
Dear sweet ones, I know how powerful these messages can be. I know what it is to have those messages wash through me during private moments: unexpectedly catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror, trying to brave a full-frontal look in the mirror, or having to change how I do something I did for years because my size makes it difficult.
I know—but I also know that as powerful as the world’s messages are, God’s truth is even more powerful:
God loves you, no matter your size and shape. He knew you when He knit you in your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
All of God’s gifts are for you, no less than for any other woman—from His Son’s sacrifice on the cross to the beautiful gift of sexual intimacy and oneness with your husband.
An abundance of body does not disqualify you from an abundance of God’s blessings—and that includes sexual intimacy.
Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net