Husbands of the world, we need to have a talk.
A year ago, I wrote a lil’ PSA for the wives out there whose hubbies haven’t gotten on board with their changing bods. And now, I’m devoting part two of this conversation to the men who contribute to their struggle.
I know you’ve been living in a comfy societal bubble that deludes you into thinking that your wife is somehow supposed to maintain impossibly unsustainable beauty ideals. I get that from a young age, the media has inundated you with images of thin, white, busty, young women who are more likely to mimic a Barbie doll than a fully-fleshed, evolved human being. I understand that we’ve all been conditioned to avoid aging, to believe that weight loss is king, and to see things like cellulite as an unsightly flaw that needs to be erased ASAP.
But it’s time for a legitimate wake up call. You have all — we have all — been taught wrong. We’ve in fact been taught so fucking wrong that the vast majority of women out there feel like total shit about their bodies. And when you make jokes or dole out criticism because you see your wife gaining weight, getting older, or physically changing in a way you’re not comfortable with, you directly contribute to her low self-esteem and inner shame.
You’re also being a giant asshole in the process.
I know this may be a tough pill to swallow, but your wife’s body is not your body to control. She lives in it, so she gets to determine how she wants to operate. You commenting on her physical appearance in a negative way simply because you’ve been taught that it’s okay, does not make it okay to do. It’s unnecessary, mean, unintelligent, and dare I say it, abusive when done on the regular. She doesn’t need your unsolicited weight loss tips, responses about her diminished thigh gap, or “playful” jabs because her arms jiggle more than they did when you first met. She does need you to grow the fuck up, though. And growing the fuck up means dismantling your own inherently fatphobic, ageist, and sexist beliefs about bodies so that you can spend more time getting it on with your wife than telling her off.
I have seen this ridiculousness happen firsthand to so many women who have reached out to me in desperation on my social media platforms. I’m a body acceptance and self-love activist on Instagram, and I get dozens of messages from women asking me for some magical answer so they can feel better about themselves when a partner tears their body down with cruel words. Unfortunately, my response is not ideal for them. Rather than telling them to rush their way into altering their physical appearance or losing weight, I instead encourage them to continually enforce the boundary of telling men who ridicule to stop what they’re fucking doing. Which is me essentially giving these women even more labor to do in a home environment where they are already working hard not to lose their shit while being ridiculed by their spouses in the first place.
I remind these incredible human beings that their body is not the problem — our profit-driven, discriminatory, and fatphobic society is. And if a husband cannot get on board with their spouse’s body changing, then they are a huge part of the problem too.
Let me tell you a story. Back in 2014, I was a 30-year-old woman who joined OKCupid in the hopes of meeting a guy I could date after a heart-shattering year spent divorcing my college sweetheart. As I continued to keep my body as thin as possible, layer the anti-aging cream on thick, and wear whatever I thought would make me appealing enough to men, I stumbled upon a profile that stopped me in my tracks. Matt was a cute, athletic dude with a sexy man beard and an adorable daughter from his first marriage. His face looked impossibly sweet, and it was clear from the pictures he shared online that he was a big-hearted papa bear. We struck up a conversation, went on a handful of dates, and now we’re married with two children of our own.
In those early days of courtship, both my husband and I did everything in our power to present versions of ourselves that society loves to give gold ribbons to. And it was easy enough for us to do, since we both had the time in our single lives to actually devote to obsessing over maintaining our thinness. But then I got pregnant, and with that came the inevitable physical changes that barely anyone talks about but so many women experience in new motherhood. I gained weight, accumulated a bunch of stretch marks, and had loose belly skin in the spot where my babies had called home before they entered this world.
None of this was something to be seen as shameful, sad, or a failure on my part. These are completely natural aspects of pregnancy and childbirth, and even more so, they are 100% natural parts of life for women, whether they birth children or not. But it’s hard to feel good about your body when you’re constantly bombarded with messaging that incorrectly tells you that you’ve done something wrong by getting older, going through a change, or basically just living your life.
In the six years since we met, Matt’s body has changed too. He’s also gained weight, spends more time playing with our kids than he does hustling at the gym, and is working his ass off in a job that’s helping keep us afloat during this nasty pandemic. Not once in the time that we’ve known each other have I ever thought less of my husband because he’s in a bigger body than when I met him. To be completely honest, I find his current state refreshingly attractive because I know that, much like me, he has stopped regularly controlling his aesthetic through an overwhelming amount of intolerable upkeep. And because of this, I feel like I’m seeing my husband actually be himself around me, and I’m so here for it.
And do you know what I’m even more here for? Loving my husband at every phase in his body game — because he is a human being first and foremost. And human beings are not designed to freeze in time and look just one way for the rest of our lives. So if you can’t figure out how to retrain your brain a little (or a lot) to undo society’s bullshit and find your spouse appealing at any age, in any shape, or in any condition, then why the fuck did you commit to a lifetime of marriage with a human being?
I’m happy to report that my husband feels exactly the same way about me, and it shows. He loves me for everything that I am, knowing that my body — like his — will evolve over time. Understanding this has made for a delightful situation where we get to grow with each other, tumble around in the bedroom with shame-free glee, and feel truly seen and adored by the person we’ve chosen to marry.
I wish this for all of your relationships too. It’s so much better than nitpicking, shaming, criticizing, and complaining because your life partner hasn’t physically maintained what’s usually unmaintainable.
So husbands — it’s time to get on board with your wife’s changing bod. It’s time to do the inner work required to challenge why you see her or anyone else’s physical changes in a negative light. It’s time for a fatphobia overhaul like you’ve never known before. And if you’re willing, it’s time to actively fall in love again with the phenomenally evolving woman you are lucky enough to have by your side.