Let’s Get Physical: Health Body, Healthy Marriage

Let’s Get Physical: Health Body, Healthy Marriage March 17, 2014

Dear Shaunti, I am definitely not the size I was when I married my husband. But honestly, 4 kids and 25 years later, I don’t see it ever happening. The problem is that I recently overheard my brother saying something about how happy he was, now that his wife was getting in shape. It irritated the stew out of me… but it also got me thinking. How important do you think it is to my husband that I’m not in shape anymore? We married for “better or for worse”, right? – Plus Size Sue

Dear Plus Size Sue,

Oh man, I have definitely walked some time in your shoes! I’ve only had two kids, but I definitely have a body type and a metabolism that seems to gain weight if I barely smell the chocolate chip cookies across the room! So I totally understand your concern and your irritation, sister.

That said, I also need to be honest. It is awkward to discuss, but the answer is very, very clear in my research. It is true that our husbands have married us “for better or for worse” and “it’s what’s on the inside that matters”. The trouble is, sometimes that can lead us into thinking that what’s on the outside doesn’t matter. But to our man, it does. (At least according to the thousands of men I’ve surveyed.)

The reason it matters is probably because guys are so visually wired. This is going to sound unbelievably old-fashioned (I can see the angry emails already…), but at the most basic level, men simply enjoy looking at this woman they are married to! Believe it or not, this is part of their happiness in marriage – and it has a biological root. In the male brain (unlike a female brain), a man’s visual circuits are very connected to his emotional circuits. In my research for my book about men it shocked me to learn that almost every man cares if his wife is out of shape or never tries to look nice, and does not make a real effort to change.

Now, that said, there is also really good news for you and me and any woman like us: our husbands don’t expect us to shrink back down to our honeymoon bikinis. That’s not what they are talking about. In fact, 5 out of 6 men on my survey agreed that what mattered most to them was not hitting a particular size or a number on the scale, but simply seeing that she was making the effort to take care of herself for him. Even the effort to do her hair and makeup just for him – instead of just when they were going out with other people – made him happy. But it was the effort that mattered.

That effort to be healthy and energetic sends an important message to our husbands. It says “I care about you enough to take care of myself for you.” And although it may absolutely sound old-fashioned, I have seen in my own life that sending the message that we care (rather than the message that we don’t) has far-reaching impacts that go far beyond this one issue and truly do bless the whole relationship.

Do you want Shaunti to share these life-changing truths at your church or event? Inquire about Shaunti speaking, here.

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.

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  • califmom

    Thank you for addressing this issue. I work VERY hard to keep myself in shape and look good for my husband and he does the same for me. He appreciates it and compliments me on it. He also notes our friends and says, “wow, she’s just given up, hasn’t she?” Personally, I feel God gave me one body and I need to take care of it well, I am 53 and looking at women in their 60s and 70s. I don’t want to be one of those women who can’t go anywhere or do anything because their bodies have fallen apart or they can’t go more than 50 steps without a breather.

  • Elvenfoot

    I totally agree with califmom, though my husband doesn’t try hard and I take care of myself for my own sake, too, not just his. But I, too, feel like I need to take care of the body God gave me. For it is partly an act of worship. He gave me something good, and he entrusted me with its care. I don’t really have the right to abuse it or let it go into “disrepair.” I, too, don’t want to grow old feeling like I’m falling apart and that my husband doesn’t think I’m attractive anymore or meet old friends and give them a nasty shock. And I don’t think it’s fair to my husband to let myself go. To me that is disrespectful to him.