We All Want to Be Wanted
“I want you to want me,” sang the ’70s band Cheap Trick. We all want to be wanted, to be desired for the person we are and for the body we have. There’s nothing silly or shallow about that – chemistry is built on a mutual back-and-forth wanting of each other!
That’s what makes it so painful to feel like your partner doesn’t want you in some way. Sometimes our partners do want us, but our own self-esteem blocks us from feeling it. But other times, sadly enough, our partner may actually prefer a different ‘sort’ of look. Plus, our bodies do change, especially as we age, bear children, handle health challenges and deal with life’s stresses.
“Attraction Mis-Matches” – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
We may imagine the stereotypical situation as a guy who wishes his girlfriend or wife was thinner, perhaps after having a few kids, or had more curves in the culturally-deemed “right” places. It can, however work in other types of relationships too – What if she really prefers sex with a larger penis than he has? (Or – yes this does happen – a smaller one?). Same-sex and queer couples are not immune, either.
Here’s the thing – we are all entitled to our own attractions. At the same time, we must also accept the body of whoever we’ve chosen to date, love and/or marry. Simply because there is an “attraction mis-match,” so to speak, doesn’t need to spell out doom for the relationship. It is possible to have preferences for other “looks” while also valuing and accepting your partner’s appearance.
When Mis-Matches Turn Hurtful…
The problem, of course, is that not everyone is so kind. Some people are rude, even cruel, to their partners who don’t fit some idealized appearance. To be on the receiving end hurts!
If you’re struggling in a relationship where your partner really is not into your body, consider these tips:
- Recognize that whatever their current opinion does not reflect reality. Whether or not your partner is appreciative of your body, you can still practice self-love for your own body. If you’re not feeling it, don’t force it – but if you’re able to at least hold space for wanting to appreciate your own body, that’s a start.
- Sort through your own feelings. You’re likely hurt, sad, maybe angry or scared. Name your emotions and see if you can sense where your body is holding them. Ask yourself, does this situation remind you of anything you’ve experienced in the past? Sometimes present challenges are even more difficult when we’ve had times that were similarly painful in our personal history. Try your best to feel your feelings and practice self-compassion. You’re entitled to feel however you feel.
- Look at your relationship on the whole. Aside from this particular problem, what is the state of the relationship? Are you generally happy otherwise, or are there other major issues? Are there other significant ways in which you are not being honored or appreciated? Many problems can be worked through, so its not a sign of doom to have issues! But taking a bird’s eye view of your relationship might help you decide whether this is a place you do want to stay, and if you do – what you really want.
- Try talking to your partner. Sometimes it is helpful to start from a positive place, if you can. Communicate your intentions about the relationship and how you would like to feel together. Remember, it is normal and natural to want to feel beautiful, wanted, and desired. It may be helpful to reference happy times past if possible.
- But also, hold them accountable. Share how the things they say or do make you feel. Try to be as direct and specific as possible, so they can clearly see what you mean. If you were to write out what you wanted to say, 5 really concise bullet points will typically land better than a 3-page emotional journey. You will be heard much easier, and may have the chance to share more detail once they (hopefully) understand.
- Request specific behavior changes if needed. “I need you to stop making comments about the size of my waist,” for example.
- If you are still struggling, consider seeking help from a couples therapist. Many excellent therapists are (sadly) used to dealing with body-related issues. Know that you’re not alone, and help is out there if you need it.
- If your partner has become physically, verbally or emotionally abusive or controlling of your behavior – seek help immediately.
For Many Couples, There IS Hope
Finally, realize that in many relationships it may be possible to get past this issue. However, if your partner continues to be hurtful and unappreciative, it may be a sign that this is not the relationship for you. These are not easy situations certainly, yet if you have had happy times in the past where you felt wanted and attractive to your partner, it is often possible to get back to that place again.
Bio: Dr. Nazanin Moali is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in the Los Angeles area. She works with various individuals to understand and improve their sexuality. Dr. Moali conducts personal consultation sessions in her Torrance and Hermosa Beach offices, or via a secure, online video-counseling platform. Click here to download the 101 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Hot checklist. Download her new ebook, How to Increase Your Libido – For Women, here.