Maintaining Intimacy in a Relationship When I Have Poor Body Image

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Happy couple reading newspaper on couchThe struggle with a poor body image can be something that impacts your life on multiple levels. Feel bad about the way you look, your body, and your appearance can negatively effect how you interact with others, your ability to thrive in, and hinder you from accomplishing many things.

Many people misunderstand what poor body image is or the extent in which in can influence your life. Poor body image often results from an underlying issue and is not simply vanity of selfish ambition.

The Internal and External Factors of Body Image

Body image is the combination of how we view ourselves and the feelings and thoughts that are influenced by the way in which we view ourselves. Body image can change depending on various internal and external factors and triggers.

Individuals who struggle with poor body image may feel negativity towards one specific body part or towards multiple areas of their body, such as their face, torso, etc. This negativity can trigger more serious and problematic conditions, such as isolation, avoidance of social events, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and more.

When Body Image Affects Your Relationships

relaxed young couple working on laptop computer at homeFor some people, the struggle with body image permeates the relationships with loved ones. It can be challenging to engage with someone when dealing with your own self-doubts and worries about your body, as negative body image can be all consuming.

This can even affect intimacy between two people in a committed relationship, where a person with poor body image may fear this level of vulnerability and exposure of their own body. A lack of intimacy resulting from poor body image can become problematic in a relationship between two individuals and is something that should be addressed.

Finding Help Now for Intimacy Troubles

If you have found yourself in the position where intimacy is avoided due to negative body image, it is important to know that help is available to support healing and a rebuilding of a positive body image. Working with a professional, such as a counselor or therapist, can help you discover if there are any root issues at the heart of your body image concerns.

This can be helpful in understanding the fears and negativity projected towards your body and in overcoming the negativity that you often experience. It may also be beneficial to work with a marriage family therapist to discuss the intimacy aspect of your relationship and ways to improve in this important area with your loved one.

Repairing Intimacy Issues

Romantic couple holding hands walking on beach at sunset. Man anRepairing intimacy issues can be complex and challenging, particularly when there are body images interfering with your ability to share in this time with your loved one.

If at all possible and when appropriate, find a way to discuss these concerns with your spouse or partner. If you are having trouble conveying your struggles, this may be something you can share with the guidance of your therapist or counselor.

Communication, honesty, and genuineness about your struggles and fears can be tremendously helpful in your relationship. It may also be helpful to focus on aspects of your body that you do enjoy or find acceptable rather than hyper focus on the parts of your body that you are dissatisfied with.

Your environment can also help influence your comfortableness when intimate with your loved one. Creating a place that is comfortable and romantic for you both can help set the mood for intimacy and possibly distract you from any discomfort you may be feelings.

There Is No Shame in Needing Help

The important thing to realize is that there is no shame in your struggles, even if this is negatively impacting your relationship and ability to be intimate with your loved one. Remaining stuck in your struggles because of shame will only prevent you from finding the help and healing you need to progress and move forward.

Begin by confiding in your spouse or partner if you feel comfortable doing so. Seeking professional assistance can be invaluable through this process and help lead you to make peace with your body and flourish in your relationships.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

How has a negative or poor body image made it difficult for you to maintain intimacy in your relationship? What resources or tools were helpful to you in overcoming this struggle?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 7th, 2015
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