by Suzanne Thomas

I hear from women all too often who struggle with unhealthy body image issues and self-doubt, even in their marriage relationships. That’s not what God wants for you, or for your marriage! When you look at yourself in the mirror, I want you to see yourself the way God sees you, and the way your husband sees you. I am going to share my story with you, and maybe you can learn from my journey through mastectomy, and my worries about intimacy with my husband post-mastectomy.

When I was first told that I was going to have to have a double mastectomy, I was initially shocked, and scared about the surgery itself, and then about what the resultant scars would look like, what I would look like. I scoured the web for any information I could find on the subject. My family physician told me that compared to other surgeries, it wasn’t too bad, that surgeries which go into a body cavity, like heart surgery, or hip surgery, are much more invasive, much more difficult to recover from physically. He also acknowledged that the emotional aspect could be significant.

In the middle of all this confusion, my husband said an amazing thing to me. He said, “You’re my wife. I love you, and that’s never going to change. I didn’t marry you for your breasts.” I needed to trust my husband to mean what he said, and remember that my breasts don’t define who I am as a woman! I’m so much more than that! I am a daughter of God! I’m a wife. I’m a mom, a friend, a sister, and many other things. NO surgery can remove those things.

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy to go home from the hospital after surgery, look in the mirror and say, “Oh, that’s not so bad!” In fact, it probably took me a week to get up my nerve to actually look at myself. I was afraid to look. I looked in the mirror, and thought, “I look like a skinny pre-adolescent boy!” And, I did, sort of. Then, I kept reminding myself what my husband said to me. I’m his wife, he loves me, and that’s never going to change! But I had to be okay with how I looked. God tells us, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (I Peter 3:3-4) I never have been a rocking beauty physically. And, that’s okay. But, beauty, according to God, is who we are to Him. The real me was still there.

After a few weeks, my surgeon said that it would be okay for us to resume our sexual relationship. I was still concerned about how it would go with my husband, if he would be okay with me, as I am, post-mastectomy, and if I would be okay with intimacy. But, my concerns were wasted time. I should have trusted my husband more, and I should have rested in God’s Word, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) I had worried that my husband would not really be comfortable hugging me. I made a lame joke that when he hugged me, there was “nothing between us,” meaning that my chest no longer was “between us,” making us stand slightly apart when we hugged. I couldn’t help but think of the Proverb that says to men, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth….may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-20) Clearly, my breasts couldn’t satisfy him. Since he doesn’t look at pornography, he would never see a woman’s breast again! Open communication was needed, and it was the lifeline of our intimate relationship, the same as it is for every marriage. After we resumed intimacy, I simply asked him if he could still be happy with me, with my new body, and, thankfully, he was. The insecurities were all mine, not his. He was fine with the new me!

Anyone with insecurities about body image can do something similar. Talk to your husband about how you feel. If you are shy, find a way to still be intimate with your husband, and work with your shyness. Let your husband know how you feel so that he can be sensitive to your feelings as you work through them.

For all of you who struggle with body image issues, if you think you are overweight, or too thin, or too this, or too that, try to remember that your husband married you because he loves you! You are the one who is beautiful to him! Give yourself grace. The flaws, as you perceive them, are probably miniscule in comparison to what you’re missing if you allow them to take away from having an amazing, fulfilling sexual relationship with your man. Discuss your insecurities with him. Remember that outward beauty is a fleeting thing, and that real beauty is your inner self, a gentle and quiet spirit! And, for me, I just keep reminding myself that I’m his wife, he loves me, and that’s never going to change!

Adapted from MomLife Today

Taking it One-to-One:

• Is there someone you know who would be encouraged by this article?
• Have you and your spouse avoided a much-needed conversation in this area?
• Do you need to be reminded today that your beauty comes from God alone?