Body image after pornography

You know how you can know you’re attractive, but not actually know you’re attractive?

Cue Men: “huh?”

Cue Women: “totally.”

We spent this past week in the mountains with our extended family. This can be a stressful time for most people as we try to live together in peace and harmony with our relatives. While everyone has their own set of expectations and unconscious stuff they bring along with them to these family gatherings, I have an extra special piece of garbage that tags along…

You see, my sister is smaller than me. The woman has single handedly given birth to seven children, and she’s still smaller than me. I am tempted to steal some of her thyroid pills..

How much smaller is she? Oh, probably only about 5-10 pounds. She just passed along two pairs of her jeans and they fit me. You would think I would be happy about this, but I am not. I still can’t stop obsessing about our size difference. 

I do this everywhere I go. It’s like a sickness that I can’t get out of my head. I size up (literally) every woman I meet. Its so freaking ridiculous. 

I drive my poor husband up the wall with my constant comparison to every other female on the planet. It affects everything I do, and I don’t know how to stop. Oh I know all the psychobabble about how we should all be content with the bodies we are in, grateful for the work that they do everyday, everyone is beautiful in their own way…blah blah blah… sometimes it works and I can be happy and content and grateful, but it sure doesn’t take long to slam me back into my self made prison of comparison and loathing. 

For posterity’s  sake, I will let you know that I am 5 foot 7 inches and I weigh on average 130 pounds. I am told over and over that I look way younger than I am. Men hit on me and look me over. I get flirted with and told I am attractive.  I fit a size 4-8 depending on the brand. 

Why is this not enough?! I know that compared to most women I did pretty well with the whole genetic lottery. I eat well and take care of myself. I am not overweight. I am not ugly. 

But I don’t like my outer appearance. In fact most of the time I hate it. 

I told my husband that I think I need to go back and do some more work on myself. I am enrolled in some amazing classes online that are helping me do the much needed work to break unhealthy thought patterns. I would recommend this website to any and every woman, but especially to women who have lived the story I have lived with a husband who looked for pleasure in the bodies of other women. 

Our culture is brutal on a woman’s self image. Everywhere we go we are bombarded with images of beautiful, thin, perfect women.  My instagram sucker punches me regularly as I’m scrolling through and suggested people show up on my feed exercising or modelling or what have you. All thin and gorgeous. Pintrest does the same thing with “pins I might like”. I hate it. It’s enough to make me want to quit the internet all together. 

I think our culture is brutal enough on women, without the extra damage of a porn addicted husband. When you see first hand what your husband is lusting after, it destroys you. 

What do women in this situation do?

Women in these shoes keep quiet. Do you know how embarrassing it is to have a husband who reaches for other women instead of the one beside him. We are accused by our husbands, our church leaders, our self help books of being frigid, withholding, having no creativity or playfulness in the bedroom. We are told we need to work harder at pleasing our husbands. We must do everything in our power to keep their interest. It is our responsibility to help them with their addiction. 

Do you know what this does to the heart of a woman? 

It shames her. It embarrasses her. It places blame for her husband’s addiction at the feet of the women he is destroying. She is not enough. She can not keep his interests at home. Her body isn’t enough to entice him, to please him and to satisfy him. 

A woman may understand on a logical level that pornography is not about her. She may know that this addiction stems from her husband’s lack of connection, his anger, his past, his own sickness of spirit and soul and mind. She may be told a million times that she IS enough. That her body IS amazing and wonderful and sexy.  But in her heart of hearts she will not believe you.

Because if it was true, if it was REALLY true, then her husband would not look at the bodies of hundreds of others instead of at her. 

“It is not your husband’s lies that will do the most damage to you. It’s the lies you tell yourself.”

Leslie Vernick

I lived with this for seventeen years. It almost completely destroyed me. In my own anger and shame and pain and desperation, I did not do everything the way I should have. I no longer cared. But that is another post..

I don’t know if I will ever find true healing this side of heaven. I will continue to do the emotional and mental work to heal. I will continue to rewrite the messages in my head that I am unworthy, I am unloveable, and I am not enough. There are times when the voices scream these messages at me so loudly, that they drown out everything else. I can not hear the voice of my husband or the healing parts of my soul that tell me otherwise. I am lost in my own isolated pit of hell where they scream at me that I will never, ever be worthy or beautiful or sexy or enough for any man. 

I have more to write. Encouragement and mindfulness to share with you. Things I have learned about how the brain works after sexual trauma. I will write these things, but not today. Today is about sharing a part of me that is real and broken.

 I hope to encourage you by letting you know that you are not the only one who feels this way. There are countless women out there who are just as shattered as you are. They just don’t show it. 

Today I will leave you with this website. I encourage you to look, and to join, and to learn and grow and heal. It has been essential for me in my healing journey. 


Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

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