Body Image Nightmare...
Body Image Nightmare...A friend of mine (all personal details changed!) Robert is completely frustrated with his long-term girlfriend’s body image issues. He told me how Gemma’s once-private battle with insecure feelings about her body has seeped into aspects of their relationship as time goes on. At 39 he reckons it's time to accept herself; instead it seems to get worse with age.
Robert’s described various instances leading to strains between them. Say they're going out shopping - she starts getting freaked out trying on clothes. Not only does a shopping experience not fill him with joy, but it's made almost intolerable hearing her recite why each item of clothing shows off the worst aspect of her body.
Ditto when they go out with friends. She does the classic thing of trying on a dozen potential outfits only to find criticism of each. Then once out, Gemma fears she doesn't look as good as the other partners and girlfriends. And worst of all it affects them in-between the sheets because she's inhibited about showing her body. Gemma's got to have the lights down low whereas Robert would find it erotic to be able to see her.
Gemma doesn't seem to comprehend why Robert sees her image issues as a problem. Why does he? Because he cares. He's a very caring man and doesn't like to see her tormenting herself. Such protective feelings can quickly turn to frustration and anger if a partner doesn't respond positively to them - and do something about their issue.
Well, Robert’s reached that angry phase. I suggested setting his boundaries and telling Gemma he'll interrupt when she starts complaining about her body. He’s to completely ignore her if she slips up and re-starts banging on. If after a couple weeks Gemma doesn't understand that he won't listen to her self-criticisms then I’ll suggest Robert takes a more dramatic tack - he tells her he doesn't like hearing her self-criticisms and leaves the room immediately. Drastic measures, yes, but taking away her audience may mean she stops complaining.
An edited version of this was published in The Times