Yesterday morning (4 am my time), I received an anonymous question from a new reader. She’s had a, shall we say, colourful life, but now has settled down, has become a Christian, has a husband and is growing in Christ. But, while we are all forgiven, forgiveness does not always equate to a blank slate. While it does in God’s eyes, the fact is, we still bear the consequences of our actions, grace or no grace. These aren’t punishments from God, they are just us getting through life following our own will, or sometimes being subject to the will of others.
And so, this dear sister in Christ comes to me with a question that I’m sure is weighing on many of our sisters in the christian community. In fact, I’m almost positive this is a gender wide question for wives regardless of faith:
Does my husband still find me attractive?
After pregnancies, stretch marks, baby-weight, sleepless nights, stress, graying hair, sagging breasts from breastfeeding (or just time), all the wear and tear on a wife’s body.
Does he still find me desirable? How can my he still be attracted to me? He must be comparing me to all the beautiful women that he comes across at work, in ministry, during his commute, at the gym, etc.. Does he still want me? Or am I just the default because he’s put in the time? Or does he put up with my body because of the relationship?
In cases where wives have married later in life, or are on their second marriage, there is a question of “did I waste my youth?” They feel that they don’t have their “best” self to bring anymore to the marriage, and so they feel they have cheated their husband.
Well, I have my answer, but given the tone of the email, despite her asking for my opinion and experience, I didn’t feel that would be enough. So, I put out a survey, with slightly different questions for men and women. In just over 12 hours, I had 100 people respond. It’s not quite 24 hours now, and I have over 120, sixty two of which are from husbands. I’m going to keep the survey running and may use the new results in the future, so please, continue to fill it out if you are reading this and haven’t participated yet. Now, 62 husbands is not enough of a sample size to write a scientific proof on, but for the purposes of this question, I think we can call it a valid data set. It was an anonymous survey, there was no way their spouse was going to find out the answers, so I choose to believe that people were honest.
One of the questions was a simple “Do you find your wife attractive?” Over 95% of husbands answered yes, they do find their wife attractive! Now, that by itself was enough to answer this wife’s question, but I wanted to dig deeper. I wanted to remove some doubt. Maybe these people have never had kids, maybe they’ve only been married a short time. Maybe their wives exercise like crazy and keep fit. So, I asked some qualifying questions. Let’s look at this group of husbands who still find their wife attractive.
Over half (51%) feel their wife is more attractive than when they got married! Another 30% say she is about the same. Only 19% say less (but keep in mind, they still find her attractive). This is contrary to the societal concept that women lose their attractiveness over time, when, according to the respondents, 81% feel that their wife is either just as attractive, or more attractive than when they got married. Now, at the same time, 57% of these wives are less fit than when they got married. So it must not be an issue purely of physical looks.
Maybe it’s about sex. I mean, if you’re having constant sex, that must increase the attractiveness, right? But 61% say they are having less sex than their first year of marriage, and 76% of the husbands said they would like more sex. Well, maybe it’s not about frequency. I mean, I’ve heard, and said it myself, that nothing is more sexy than a wife being sexually confident in the bedroom (and I still believe this), but 71% of respondents say their wife is not sexually confident (maybe it’s time to buy her The Sexually Confident Wife).
Perhaps they just haven’t been married that long. No…the average marriage length for these same marriages was 18 years (with a max of 46 years, way to go!).
What does this mean?
So, what is going on? I mean, these wives not getting younger, they’re not having more sex, they’re not feeling more confident, and many of them have been married quite a long time. Why are all these husbands more attracted to their wives? What is happening to these men, since it doesn’t seem to be anything the wife is doing.
Well, the answer lies in psychology. I’m sorry to say this to the older ladies (and by older, I mean anything over 20’s, because I know when you hit 30, you think you’re old now), but for the most part, you probably aren’t more attractive than the younger (20’s) women on the street. Objective research shows that people find them more attractive. But, research does show a couple interesting traits in marriages, particularly happy ones.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
One of these traits is called a memory bias. We tend to rewrite, or evaluate our memories of the past as being worse than they were in reality. But wait, wouldn’t that make you unhappy? Follow the logic here: our sub-consciousnesses are amazing machines. Subconsciously, we know that we are more likely to be happy if we believe things are improving. After all, if things are improving, then in the future things will be better if we stay the course. And how can we be upset about things improving and a bright future? But, here’s the problem, perhaps things aren’t improving. Perhaps, I know, it’s a stretch, the wife not getting younger. So, what do we do? We modify our memory, or we evaluate our memory differently. We subconsciously choose to believe that they were in fact less attractive (or just as attractive) in the past. Using this trick of the mind (of course, without our knowing it), we can honestly look at our wife, smile and tell her she’s more beautiful than ever, because, from our modified perspective, she is! It’s not a lie, we really believe it. We believe it so much, we have changed reality to match our belief. That’s how much we love our wives.
OK, so that explains how he thinks I’m more attractive than before, but isn’t he looking at other women? What about them? Is he comparing us?
And here’s where the second trait comes in, again, particularly for happy marriages, and again, it’s subconscious. Our minds do their best to protect us. They know that we want to be happy. They know that there are more attractive women out there. They know that if we compare, it won’t match up. So, what do we do? We ignore the evidence. And there are studies that show this. People in happy relationships are less willing (subconsciously, they look away quicker) to look at pictures of attractive members of the other gender. I mean, why would we? It would create a conflict in our brain, so we don’t let it. So, when a husband says “there are no other women in the world for me” he’s not lying, he may not be aware of their existence! Again, we have changed reality to match our belief. That is how much we love our wives.
So, to answer the specific questions she asked:
a) Does my husband (to the best of you knowledge and experience) find me attractive?
I’d say 95% chance that he does!
b) in the way the he does the beautiful women that cross his path.
Chances are, if you asked him, he will say “you’re the only beautiful woman I see”, and he’ll mean it.
I hope that answers the question, whomever you are.
P.S. Oh, and if you think consciously knowing these subconscious traits are in effect changes the outcome, it doesn’t. I still think my wife is more attractive now than ever before, and I’m still oblivious to other women.