I think a lot of spouses have a bad habit of talking bad about themselves. Women in particular are generally very well know for criticizing their appearance. Most men don’t do this as much. Men, if they verbalize this, tend to downplay their accomplishments and their self-worth.
I think the general idea is that when people do this, they’re hoping their spouse will lift them up. It’s a game to solicit compliments.
“I feel fat” is intended to produce a “No you don’t, you look beautiful.” The problem is, most people fall for it, and by answering with the expected answer, they reward their spouse for this bad behaviour. So, the next time their spouse is feeling like they need a compliment, instead of just saying “I need you to say something nice to me.” they again play the “I feel fat” game.
The problem is, eventually the other spouse might actually start believing them. They might start thinking “yeah, you know what, she is getting fat”. And the thing is: it’s not about the weight. It’s about the perception. Yesterday I wrote “confidence is sexy”, well, the opposite is true too. Tell someone you aren’t attractive enough, and they’ll start to believe you.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about weight, breast size, thighs, clumsiness, prowess at work, athletic ability, or what. The thing you should ask yourself is: is this really how I want my spouse to see me? Because you’re slowly programming them to see you that way.
How do we help our spouses with this?
Don’t lie. Not even white lies. Because we think white lies don’t hurt anyone, but they do. In this case, they teach our spouse that it’s okay to play these kinds of games.
So, what do we do instead. For example, how do you deal with the “I look fat” question? Well, it depends. If your spouse really is starting to put on weight, you could go with “Well, I still find you sexy.” That way you aren’t lying, but you are still showing that you find them attractive. Or, if you’re brave, you could address the actual issue. You don’t have to be cruel and say “Yeah, you do look fat.” But, you can say “Well, what do you want to about that? I’ll help you if you want.” which will lead into a productive conversation instead of a fishing expedition.
If they aren’t overweight and they’re merely fishing for compliments, then you can simply ask “What made you ask that?” which, again, can start a real conversation instead of playing games.
16 thoughts on “Is that how you want your spouse to see you?”
We can also help by being proactive in our compliments. If your spouse is a word of affirmation type of love receiver, lavish compliments on them. Not flattery, but real compliments. Same goes for an insecure spouse. Give genuine feedback to them. Find positive things that stand out or attract you to them, and then verbalize those things.
Is that an out house? 😀 I don’t get the correlation.
I think many women say those things because they genuinely believe it. When their spouse says something nice back, they don’t believe them. Maybe some are playing a game of sorts, but others genuinely feel that way.
Agree with Keelie and Austin!
Most people who get down about themselves, genuinely believe in that moment or longer, just that. I think maybe as a couple if these type of feelings are on display that the two of them should start to work together and remove the outside criticism of negative feedback and/or address the feeling/s head on by breaking down who, what, where, why and how they came to feel this way about them self. We are called as a spouse to carry each other’s burdens. If there are zero or few positive feedback a in a marriage towards the other spouse, and even just only negative, then of course they are going to feel blah about themselves. If it is coming from the world or an experience then we need to work together to help the other one remove those blocks and thoughts in their life…which is our life too!
Oh, I don’t doubt they believe it in a lot of cases. But verbalizing it must have a purpose, no?
The correlation…something about talking shit about yourself? That’s where crap belongs? I don’t know. Couldn’t think of a better image 🙂
Good point though. But I wonder if it’s still a subconscious desire for attention. Or perhaps a learned behaviour from their mother who was playing that game…or further down the line.
Lol…about the out house. 😀
I’ve been actively working to eliminate these silly mind games. I frequently used to tell my husband what a horrible mother I was when I was feeling insecure about my parenting and he clearly didn’t understand that I was fishing for compliments, so he’d just kind of shrug and I would think, “Oh no, he thinks I’m a bad mom too!!” This is just silly. So now I’ve started to simply say, “Hey, I’ve had a rough mom-day today. Would you be willing to tell me one thing you appreciate about me as a mother?” It’s straightforward, not passive aggressive, and as a words of affirmation gal, I get the reassurance I need with no drama, and I no longer come across as talking crap about myself. It really is a win/win.
Spot on, thanks JD. Although, wives are designed to lean-on, need … however you want to view it, from their husbands, specifically. Men **need** respect and women **need** to be loved, not so much as complementary but balancing each other as we grow in Christ.
Living in an over sexualized society women, unless they fit the twiggy type model, generally are insecure to a degree about their body shape. (I understand that this society brings a wack of problems for men also, but they are different than self worth problems, as men are more visual and we women know this)
Okay, next question. What do you do when your spouse starts to reject complements? I got tired of the game and stopped playing it from my end, then started to confront my wife on her game playing. It didn’t go well, so I tried Austin’s approach. She never seemed to believe my complements. More than once a “You look nice/sexy/beautiful!” turned into an argument. Once the argument ended with me yelling, “I’m the only person on this planet qualified to judge if you are beautiful or sexy! And I say you are, so you are!” Really romantic right.
This is the same issue really, you’re giving compliments to make her feel better. Instead, give them because you want to express them. Then it doesn’t matter if they believe you or not. And when you are not so invested in the reaction, when it instead comes from wanting to share what’s inside. Then it’s more believable.
I was taught growing up that it was the polite, humble thing to do to dismiss compliments.
“You look pretty in that dress.”
“Aw, this old thing? No, I don’t.”
To accept a compliment was to be haughty and vain.
Imagine my jaw on the floor surprise when I rejected a compliment and the giver became upset and told me I should learn to accept a compliment and not be so stuck up. It felt weird at first to smile and say thank you.
I think one of the most freeing things for me was reading a book about accepting my ugliness. Once I decided it was ok to be ugly, I decided it was ok to be me…uniquely beautiful me. Oddly enough, once I started accepting and vocalizing my approval of myself, my hubby started vocalizing his disapproval of himself. I reassure him and pay him compliments. After all, that’s what I wanted when I complained about myself. But, I also treat him the way he did me, with a what are you going to do about it attitude.
You don’t like your spare tire? Well, I still have that army training workout video. You feel like mean-dad? Welcome to parenting.
My wife says this occasionally, but I don’t think she’s fishing. I tell her the truth, that she is really sexy. She tells me that I have “eyes for her”. Both of these things are true! While she weighs a few pounds more than when we met, I really do have eyes for her. In my opinion, that’s a gift. BTW…I’ve put a few on myself.
My husband does this, far more than me. He grew up with an insecure father who regularly criticized/s himself, attempting to pass it off as humor. I’ve always hated the self deprecation and have told him so many times over our 8 years as a couple. I encourage him to speak positively about himself and he has gotten better, but it’s still a behavior of his. I don’t talk about myself this way, because #1) I truly see myself as valuable beyond physical aspects and that confidence stems from good upbringing, early and real relationship with Christ and knowing my true value in him, and #2) I just don’t verbalized stuff in general. I’m an INTJ personality type and sometimes forget to verbalize whatever it is I may be thinking no matter the topic. Which is a problem for my husband who loves words of affirmation. I try : (
I am doing a lot of reading recently because my husband and I are having problems sexually – I’m glad I found this site because there have been a few good articles. When we married, I didn’t realize how bad my husband’s issue with poem was, and long story short, it created so much strife that we weren’t intimate for almost a three year period (he sought counseling, I was patient, but when I found out he’s lied to me – I was shut off emotionally from him and didn’t want his intimacy and he never sought it from me because he is actually a very kind gentle soul and desires an emotional connection to pursue sex). I contemplated divorce, but he got more counseling and we talked about it openly and have finally been able to receive some healing, but – to keep this relevant to the topic – he gets so down on himself with guilt and pressure etc. that when he has a hard time, uh, staying hard. So sorry for tmi. I questioned if he even still finds me attractive – big mistake! Because it messed with his emotions and now he feels increased pressure to perform so that I feel loved and wanted. And while I chose to trust him that he does find me attractive, he doesn’t trust me when I tell him that I find him attractive and see him as a good man – he will self deprecate by saying stuff like “I’m so fat” (he’s seriously not – just heavier than when we married) and he gets very frustrated. It’s frustrating for both of us and we both want to get past it. The mind is a powerful force. Insights are appreciated if anyone has any.
It’s not uncommon for people to have trouble with forgiveness. I wrote a devotional because I got so many people sharing the same sort of of struggles. You can find it here if he’s interested: Seeking Forgiveness