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15June2019

Intimacy4us

Yes, how you look does matter to him

Although the difference between Truworths and Jenni Button escapes most men (unless they’re gay or have impeccable taste), your appearance really does matter to the Adams out there...

There are people who openly admit that appearance matters, and then there is the ‘I-would-love-you-even-if-you-were-wearing-a-burlap-sack’ brigade. Naturally, people become prettier as the years go by because, even though more love handles appear and wrinkles deepen, those things don't matter as much any more. But don't fool yourself into believing that people always fall in love with each other's personalities, and that grooming in the later years doesn't serve any purpose. As long as your husband has eyes to see, how you look is important to him. Actually, you would be surprised to hear how much it matters …when men are honest.

“I love you just the way you are…” are probably the words hubby uses to comfort you when a huge red carbuncle appears on your chin the night before an important function, or when the cellulite cream you’re busy rubbing on your wobbly bits starts to burn, while the orange peel effect remains. If you've been married for long time, your husband has probably mastered the art of ‘saying the right thing’ (even if you don't believe him).

Controversial personalities may declare that ‘personality is the most important thing’ and what is on the outside doesn’t matter as much as what is on the inside. In a perfect world, this would probably be true. Sports Illustrated would work hard on finding models with fantastic personalities, and it would be an absolute bonus, not a necessity, if they were blessed with doe eyes, shiny locks, flat stomachs and D-cup breasts. Hollywood film makers would look for actresses with the very best personalities, and then base their characters on these women’s traits. Actors in advertisements would have pimples, and braces (or not, because a skew set of teeth would not be something that was necessary to fix) and we would all walk around in Crocs and tracksuit tops. Shampoo and make-up would be superfluous, and ‘personality’ schools instead of beauty salons and gyms would be the order of the day!

Does everyone feel this way?  
Renae Bottom writes on the website Christianity Today that most people would agree that physical attraction is a necessary ingredient in a healthy marriage. But that is precisely what it is – an ingredient. It wasn't ever supposed to be the whole meal. In the same article, Beverly Burch, psychological and marriage therapist, says that many of us are classically beautiful, and most of us will never appear on the cover of a magazine. What provides deep satisfaction in a relationship is your partner’s personality. She also believes that the most important thing to uncover is why appearance is such an important issue, and – if there is a problem around this – who has the problem. Unhappiness with your mate’s appearance, or with your own appearance, could be a symptom of a deeper issue. Usually, the answer to this is found on a relationship level, and not amongst the numbers on the bathroom scale. Renae writes: “When I frantically try on 12 different outfits before I leave the house, and still think to myself ‘does this make me look fat?’, I may actually be seeking comfort in the relationship. I may want to know my husband loves me and accepts me for who I really am, despite what’s wrong with my body.” If you or your mate is struggling with weight loss, remember that the easiest way to solve this is within the framework of unconditional love and acceptance, she cautions.
But this is just one side of the coin…

From the outside, in
Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world and countless women spend a small fortune each month on potions and creams which promise to make them either prettier or thinner, or both! We do these things for ourselves, because our husbands love us unconditionally, not true? In “For Women Only”, Shaunti Feldhahn writes that one of the truths a man will seldom tell his woman is that what happens on the outside matters to him on the inside.  

A ‘vital’ issue
Although he doesn't necessarily want you to be a size 10, he does want you to make an effort to look after yourself. Shaunti warns that every woman who reads that chapter of the book needs to pray for protection against hurt as there are a few very sensitive things that men want us to know, but are not prepared to say to us, which may be hard to accept. “It is important to him that you make an effort with your appearance,” declared Shaunti. “Call me naïve, but I didn't realise at first how important appearance was – or what a vital issue it was – for my husband. Important, yes. Vital, no. Of course, this realisation came to me after I discovered exactly how visual men are.” She says that she used to believe that if she didn't look after herself, she was the only one who suffered. She spoke to one man who told her that it wasn’t important how much his wife weighed, but that if she didn't look after herself, always dressed untidily when she was with him, didn't exercise and didn't have energy to go out with him and do things together with him, he would feel she was choosing not to do something which she knows is important to him. He added: “You probably don't know this, but it's not about wanting the woman in our lives to prance around wearing designer dresses, although this would be wonderful. I mean, who are we trying to kid? I just want to see that my wife cares enough about me to make an effort with her appearance.”

Shaunti explains that the day she decided to write a chapter on this subject in her book, the reaction was overwhelming. This is a sensitive issue, and many men feel that they're not supposed to care about appearance…but they do.

“We agree,” say many Eves…
There are many women that are well aware of the fact that appearances matter to men, and go to great lengths to keep their husbands happy in this regard. Jenny Brians (51) admits that she is very aware of the fact that men are influenced by what they see. She believes that it is important to look as good as you possibly can. “I would never allow myself to look scruffy, out of respect for myself and my husband,” she admits. Although her husband often says to her, ‘I would love you even if you were the fattest person in the world’, he always compliments her on her good figure and tells her how wonderful she’s looking. She goes on to say that she wears less make-up when she’s at home over the weekend, and old clothes when she helps her husband paint but, except for this, she always looks as neat as a pin. Betsie Summerfield, also a 50-something- year-old, well-groomed woman from Pretoria, believes that it is important for her to look her best for her husband because she says, “ Keeping your husband happy and making sure that he stays happy, as well as having a healthy sexual relationship, is easier if you look good. I also do this for myself because it boosts my own self-image. A woman who looks good and feels good makes for a happy husband.” Betsie says the Bible taught her this principle. “God instructs us to be good stewards of our bodies. My mother was a good example of this. Being a homemaker doesn't necessarily mean that you should ‘let yourself go’. I always wear makeup, and my hair is always styled. It doesn't matter if I'm baking or exercising – this is a basic principle for me.” Betsie often goes for face treatments, and uses quality face cream daily which keeps the skin looking young. “I wear perfume and pretty clothes as an act of love towards my husband. I stay healthy, exercise regularly and eat properly so that I don't become a burden on my husband or family one day.” She adds that it isn't always easy, but that this is a decision which every woman should make, every day. She also believes that this will give husbands less reason to look around.

Men are visual beings…
In his book Sex Begins in the Kitchen, Dr Kevin Leman writes that one of the differences between men and women is that men are more stimulated by that which they see than women are. This is why pornographic magazines flourish, and why similar magazines for women (showing pictures of naked men) wouldn’t last very long at all! Women are less inclined to become sexually aroused when a good-looking man, or even a naked man, walks past. The day that Playboy announced they wouldn’t be publishing any more pictures of naked men, not much changed – but just imagine if they announced that no more pictures of naked women would be published! “My wife has always said that I’m a lot better-looking with clothes on than without. I have never tried it before, but one day I think I might slip under the covers in my best three-piece suite and see what effect my mating call would have then!” he jokes. “It would be naïve to think that appearance doesn’t matter to men,” writes Elmari Craig, a sexologist and marriage counsellor from Pretoria. “Men are visually stimulated, and it remains important to look after yourself. A man wants a wife he can be proud of. She also believes that women are sometimes very hard on themselves, and that men look at women differently to the way women see themselves. “In terms of sexuality, having a minute body isn’t really what matters, but rather the fact that a man can see that the women he loves wants to have sex with him, and enjoys it.” Elmari says that she sees many men in her practice whose wives don’t look after themselves any more. “This creates a big problem as she isn’t the same person who he married.”

Shaunti conducted a study amongst men which saw her ask a group of them to imagine that their wives or partners were overweight, wore baggy sweatpants when at home and only did their hair and makeup when going out. They were told: Pretend your mate is overweight, does little to change this and eats more and sweets lately. She asked them: “What would go through your thoughts?” The results were clear: seven out of ten men confessed that that they would feel emotionally disturbed if their wives didn’t want to make any effort towards doing something about their appearance, and only 12% of these men said that this kind of situation wouldn’t bother them.

If you’ve read this far, and are feeling discouraged, you may be asking questions such as, ‘What do they expect of us? Do we all need to look like underwear models?’ Most of us resign ourselves to passivity at the mere thought that we need to look like the unrealistic ideal of the waif-thin twenty-year-old as seen on TV, but Shaunti writes that she has heard men say repeatedly that they don’t want their wives to shrink back to the size they were when they wore their honeymoon bikini. They want a woman to be willing to spend time and effort on herself and to groom herself for her husband.

Why all the fuss?

According to Shaunti, men give the following reasons:

1.  When you look after yourself, I experience that you love me.
Yes, this species can also get emotional (about a physical issue!). Because men are visually tuned in, they experience love when we make an effort with our appearance. One very honest man told Shaunti that his wife is currently trying to lose weight, and that it makes him feel like a millionaire. “I know she’s doing it for herself, but the fact that she cares about how she looks is unbelievably sexy, if you want to know the truth. I tell her all the time how much I appreciate her effort.” This also means that when you do go on a diet one day, and then gorge on sweets the next, he interprets it as you not caring. And if you’re struggling to believe that it is just as much about the effort as it is about the results, listen to the parallel that Shaunti uses to illustrate her point: If your husband went to great lengths to plan a romantic occasion, would you really care if it wasn’t perfect? If you come home after work to find your husband has asked someone to look after the kids, cleaned the house, and somehow managed to dish a meal up, would you really care if the meat was a little tough? Of course not! You’d feel as though he loves you and cares for you. It works the same for him, she says. “If you make an effort to go walking three times a week, put make-up on even if you’re just with him, and cut down on the junk food you love so much so that you can lose your pregnancy weight, he won’t care how many months it takes you to reach your goal. He will appreciate the effort you’re making for him, and will feel as though you love him and care for him.”

2.  When you don’t look after yourself, I don’t feel valued and I become unhappy.
Now we come to the harsh reality that your roots are growing out, your thighs are a good few centimetres wider and you wear only your stretched, stained t-shirts at home. This, in contrast to the days when he met you as a leggy blonde in designer dresses with manicured nails. In truth – you don’t look like the woman he married. A 27-year-old man wrote to Shaunti and told her he knows many men whose wives have picked up weight since their wedding day: “Shaunti, those women need to realise that the fact that they have picked up so much weight is the same as when a man falls from the top of the corporate ladder to being a loafer who earns minimum wages. It is unrealistic to expect that this has no effect on his family. A woman’s appearance is an important part of happiness in a marriage. A whole lot of my friends are in love with their partners, but are not happy, mainly as a result of this.” Being overweight also means that many women don’t have the energy to do things together with their mate, explains Shaunti.

3.  When you look after yourself, your expectation that ‘I should only have eyes for you’ is more reasonable (and easier to attain).
A man explained it like this: “We need to see that you are making an effort in order to keep our eyes focused on you – and away from other women. Sometimes, it’s difficult for us to look away. It takes hard work and effort, and it helps when I see that my wife is prepared to do her part and to consciously work on staying fit and healthy and looking good.” Many men admit that it isn’t easy not to look around, and when you neglect yourself, it doesn’t motivate him any more to look only at you!

4.  I want (and need) to be proud of you.
If you’ve ever thought that you aren’t a trophy wife – think again! If you’re married, you are automatically, to some degree, a trophy wife and someone your husband wants to boast about. Every man is a competitive hunter in nature, and wants other men to think that he excelled when he chose a wife. In the words of a very honest friend of Shaunti: “Sometimes, I meet a man who looks like an average man… but then, when I meet his wife and she is overweight, unfit and uncared for, I feel sorry for him. It sounds terrible, but my insides churn for his sake. I get an ‘oh, I feel so sorry for you’ feeling. It sounds absolutely shocking to say it out loud, but that is what every man thinks. But sometimes I meet a man whose wife is also overweight – but she takes care of herself. She makes an effort with her appearance, dresses well, puts makeup on and does her hair. If she feels comfortable in her own skin and has self-confidence, you don’t notice the extra kilograms. I look at that man and think: you’re a lucky man.”

On the website www.marriagebuilders.com, Willard F. Harley, author of the book  His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-proof Marriage, writes that your mate’s attactiveness can be seen as any other emotional need. It is not an easy task to fulfil all the emotional needs, and physical attraction is no exception. “If your mate tells you that when you lose weight, you will be fulfilling one of his/her emotional needs, you have a choice. You don’t have to lose weight. You can even choose to pick up weight. He/she will probably still accept you, regardless of how much you weigh. But it isn’t a question of acceptance, it’s a question of choosing to fulfil your mate’s emotional needs or not.”

So, what should you be doing?
It remains a personal decision, but there is one golden rule to follow: don’t talk to your husband about it! “Most men are very sensitive about this subject, mostly because they remember how sensitive you were about this topic in the past. Think about it: if your husband wanted to talk to you about this, regardless of how diplomatic he is, what would you really do? Probably the same as I did in similar circumstances – burst into tears,” says Shaunti. After a session like this, no man will ever again feel comfortable to speak about the subject, she says. He also probably won’t be completely honest. Shaunti’s husband’s rule is: “If you aren’t realistically happy with your appearance and fitness, you can assume he isn’t either.” Don’t force him to tell you this, warns Shaunti. Secondly: do something about it! Men become frustrated when their wives complain constantly about their appearance, without doing something meaningful about it. So – next time you feel like wearing your over-sized sweater and slops and lying in front of the TV with a giant bowl of popcorn, think about the message you’re sending your husband… unless, of course, he comes and joins you for a kissing session on the couch! Then, he won’t have any reason to complain, and INTIMACY won’t pick on you either!

You know you've let yourself go when...

  • You own more than two pairs of Crocs and wear them all weekend, every weekend.
  • You think GAP is a space between the teeth, not a clothing brand.
  • Your make-up is growing a strange kind of fungus and you haven't bought new mascara in years.
  • Your idea of dressing up is wearing something other than a baggy t-shirt.