For the partner who “doesn’t get it”:
1. Bear compassionate witness.
Recognize that you do not have a problem-solving role in this. It is not your job to make your partner feel beautiful or confident, and in fact by trying to “convince them” that they look fine, you are often deepening the wound. A lot of the anger you feel is likely the result of feeling like you keep trying, and failing, to solve their problem.
If you stop trying to solve it, some of that anger will dissipate. Instead of solving the problem, you have a very important role– a hero’s role really. Your role is to simply bear witness to their pain, to hold space for their struggle with compassion, patience, and acceptance.
You don’t have to take on or feel their pain to do this, but you might have to let your heart soften a bit so that you can connect to the fact that your partner is afraid and in pain, and you can’t fix it. It’s humbling, and hard, to sit with someone and just bear witness with compassion and acceptance, especially if you have been conditioned as a man to feel anger and base your worth on your ability to solve problems… but I promise you, this practice alone has the power to restore intimacy and trust between you.
Related: 5 Things That Women Want From Men
You might be surprised at how powerfully your partner struggling with body insecurities can bloom – if they feel truly witnessed, accepted, respected, and cared for in this way.
Note: I encourage you to ask them questions about how they feel, what hurts and what frighten them about the way they look, and why. Ask and then really listen– not with the goal of solving, changing their mind, or pointing out flaws in the logic, but rather just to understand your partner more deeply.
Here are a few phrases that can help you with this:
- I don’t understand yet, but I want to. Can you tell me more?
- I’m so sorry you’re going through that. I had no idea.
- That sounds so ______(hard/painful/scary/upsetting/awful/lonely).
- I don’t know what to say, but I’m here, I’m listening. I believe you, and I care.
2. Apologize and commit to curiosity instead of judgement.
In a separate conversation, apologize for being dismissive, belittling or blaming your partner, or any other behaviour that has eroded some trust and intimacy between you, if necessary. Let your partner know that you will be attempting to be more thoughtful and curious about both their issues and your reactions… and then do exactly that.
Ask her questions, with the goal of better understanding where she’s coming from, then ask yourself questions.
Why do you think you’ve reacted this way? What are you really angry at, or frustrated by? Does logic actually play a role here, or is that just wishful thinking? Why do you think rejecting your partner for rejecting herself will be helpful? What role have you been trying to play in this situation, and how has that affected you? Your partner? What role do you want to play now? And what do you really want in this area? What emotional needs are going unmet for you? Get curious, and share what you discover with your partner struggling with body insecurities.
3. Get support.
You have every right to be struggling with this. It’s extremely difficult to watch someone you love suffering and in pain, especially with something it feels like you (or they) could easily solve. It would be much easier if you could fix this, or if they could just flip a switch and stop caring so much about how they look, or if it was purely an issue of logic or willpower.
I’m with you. As a body image coach, I know all about this yearning to fix and help people in pain. Your feelings of frustration are valid, and you need and deserve a place to talk about your experience. That place just might not be with your partner. (It’s not often appropriate or fair to ask the person in pain to support you about how hard it is to support them.)
Reaching out to other man with a female partner struggling with body insecurities would be a great way to get support in this area, or if that sounds impossible, hiring someone to talk to in the form of a therapist or coach can be extremely valuable.
I hope this is valuable to anyone in a partnership where beauty or body image issues and insecurities take up space. It’s not easy for anyone involved, but it doesn’t need to drive a wedge between you.
Sending you so much love,
Written by: Jessi Kneeland
Originally appeared on: jessikneeland.com
Republished with permission