Boost Your Body-Image for Better Sex

Dear Dr. Patti:

I have been married for nine months to my second husband. Although we have a satisfying sex life, and I love him very much, I find it difficult to show him my body. I wasn't like that before, but I had two children with my first husband, and I am just very self-conscious. I know that our sex life would be fantastic if I could just let go, but I'm afraid. What can I do? --L


Dear L:

I want to commend your attitude right up front. As for how to reclaim your acceptance of your own shape, the first step is to find a way to accept yourself the way you are -- or make a concerted effort to change the contours of the body you have. Make sure that you are physically fit and active, so that you are working toward your weight and fitness goals.

After you've committed to how you want to deal with the physical end of things, it's time to address the mental part. One of the most powerful activities for individuals or couples with body-image issues is the mirror exercise. Find the courage to do this, either alone or, preferably, as a shared ritual with your hubby. Stand naked in front of a full-length mirror. Starting at the top of your body, slowly speak to the mirror, stating what you see and how you feel about it. For example: "I see my blonde hair. I love my hair; it makes me feel womanly. I see my deep blue eyes, and I feel sad when I look into them". This can evoke deep emotions, a healing benefit of this process. If working with your spouse, have him then take a turn speaking about his body. While one is talking to their image in the mirror, the other watches. Continue this exercise until you've reached your toes. Then you and your mate should discuss how you each felt during the exercise and what insights about yourselves and each other you've both gained.

Often couples have a breakthrough about what they have been holding back in the sexual relationship. Also, a good read is Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth. It speaks to the cultural context in which American women live, which contributes to those feelings of discomfort that you feel about your physical imperfections.