There is no greater joy for me than falling asleep in my husband’s arms. I have been married 37 years, and I am 61 years old. Yet, it feels like I just learned in the last few years how to intimately love someone.
I have always been in love with my husband, but I have never really felt the level of intimacy with him like I do now. Did losing 260 pounds make the difference?
Just physically losing weight is not the key to greater intimacy. The real key for me was losing the tons of emotional baggage I was carrying.
Whether that baggage came as a result of the weight or as the cause of the weight issue isn’t really important. Discarding it was the thing that set me free to really bond with my husband.
As a former super-morbidly obese woman, I saw myself as less than an ideal woman, especially in the area of sexuality. It is a time when all of a sudden one is uncovered, exposed, open, transparent. There is nothing hidden.
For many women, especially those with any kind of weight issue, the message of skinny-is-better plays in our minds constantly. It’s a message reinforced by any romantic novel, movie, television show and almost every form of commercial advertising.
Many women have internalized this whether they are of normal weight or morbidly obese. We just don’t feel worthy of anyone’s love. We can’t believe someone would really love us if we don’t look perfect. Of course, no one, not even the models, is perfect. Still, we are ashamed of our bodies and feel our husband or any other man must be, as well.
I was aware of the reality of how this played out in my own life during a recent interview.
I’ve been interviewed numerous times in the last year about my book, Sweet Grace, and my weight loss. Arthelene Rippy, hostess of the Homekeepers show on CTN, asked me a question on live taping of her show in July of this year. The question caught me momentarily off guard although re-watching the show you can’t really tell it. She asked if my weight gain affected my marriage.
Without skipping a beat, the answer flowed out of my heart. “I have the most wonderful husband in the world. He has loved me no matter what and is very consistent no matter what weight I am. My weight gain did not affect my marriage to a great extent except that it affected me, how I related to myself, how much I gave to the marriage and how I received love. Part of this [obesity] issue is being able to accept somebody else’s consistent love in your life.”
Once those words came out of my mouth, I began to see how real they were.
When we got married, there was one time my husband said to me, “I love the way you look, but please don’t gain any more weight.” I took that as a slam. I’m sure he meant it as a compliment. He doesn’t even remember saying it.
Looking back I realize by immediately thinking the worst of any comment, I should have realized I had a monumental problem, and it wasn’t my weight. It was my extreme low self-worth and the feeling that I was not worthy of being loved.
From day one of marriage, my husband has been the epitome of commitment, loyalty, hard work, peace, care and love.
However, for years, no matter how much he tried to show me he loved me by his consistency, I couldn’t accept that he really did love me. I would manufacture reasons to believe he didn’t.
I’d take something he said wrong or out of context. It could be something simple, meant as an observation. I would take it wrong and cry for hours over something I thought he meant, which wasn’t the case at all.
I put up emotional walls. I was scared to trust. I was afraid he was just saying he loved me, but one day the other shoe would fall, and I’d find out he didn’t.
Always the guilt and shame about my weight hung over me like a dark cloud.
How could he stand to touch me when I didn’t even want to look at me? And so I would avoid him, make excuses. Years later, my gynecologist gave me valuable insight. “Your husband is like all of us men. We need to know we are making our wives happy. We need to know we are enough.”
Truth is, we all need to know we are enough. We all need to know as a child of God we are loved, cherished and accepted just as we are.
Intimacy is as much about loving yourself as it is about loving another person.
Jesus gave us this truth in the Great Commandment. “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”1
I cannot truly love another person until I love God and myself. How can I love God with everything that is in me if I don’t love myself? How can I bond with my husband if I feel like I am not worth bonding to?