I am a man dating a really special woman, but her body-image issues are subverting our relationship. I tell her everyday how beautiful she is, that she is sexy, desirable, etc... I know that ultimately it doesn't mater what I think or feel, but what she thinks and feels, but I try to foster a positive relationship environment just the same.
I know that body image issues reflect deeper issues that can include childhood trauma, self-esteem issues, intimacy issues, etc... I have read numerous articles, web pages, and clinical writings on the subject. I also have a strong academic background in behavioral sciences and 14 years of Buddhist education to work from to help me see (and be of benefit) with clarity.
My question is this: As a partner of a woman with body image concerns, what can I do to help her improve her situation in life? Our sex-life is all but non-existent, our communication is limited, and it has taxed my own sense of peace and fulfillment in the relationship. I want to her to know she is loved, feel loved, and feel beautiful. I've been open, patient, available, and aware for several months now, and am beginning to wonder if (as a man) there is NOTHING that I can do. What do you think? I think all women are a goddesses in their own right... How can I help the woman I'm with see that in herself?
What a situation. But, actually, I think most people have been in some version of this throughout their lives. For instance, I know that I struggled a lot with my body image and my boyfriend would always try to get me to sleep with my clothes off, but I was too timid and insisted on sleeping with my clothes on. The good news is that eventually with enough encouragement from him, I eventually caved and began to see my body through his eyes not mine, and then eventually had an entirely new perspective. It was definitely a long haul.
I think that constant adoration and praise is necessary and you could also encourage her to look at other women's bodies. I think joining a gym was one of the best things -- in the locker room, you begin to see how varied women's bodies are, and you realize that the person who you thought was slim and beautiful actually has cellulite on her stomach -- there is more there than we ever realize. So a combination of encouraging her to look at other people and also expressions of how much you think she looks beautiful will hopefully help.
Your patience and effort deserves praise.