Body by love

Joey loved the Sacramento Opera’s evening of arias at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

My husband refuses to take his shirt off when we have sex. He is embarrassed about being overweight. To make matters worse, in a moment of insecurity I said something about his breasts being bigger than mine. He took it personally, even though I was talking about my own insecurity about being flat-chested. I love my husband, but his body issues are a turn-off. I love the skin-to-skin feeling of sex and when he wears a shirt, it ruins the vibe. If I reach underneath his shirt, he gets tense. How can I get him to relax and believe that I want to be with him, fat or not?

Body shame is a form of self-rejection that blooms from the seed of self-hate. When a person fails to accept the uniqueness of their physical self or refuses to confront emotional challenges, disordered eating can result. Eating too much, or too little, for a healthy sense of self or for first-rate body-functioning, are symptoms.

Shame takes charge after a person consistently invests in the idea that his or her body is inadequate. Although we love to blame advertising, I don’t buy into it. Unless you are under 25 years old, you should not be buckling beneath the fear of not fitting in. (And, those over 25 ought to be better role models for those who judge themselves based on the crowd.) Each one of us must shoulder responsibility for harshly judging ourselves, and then follow the path to healing.

For you, that begins with your breasts. In Europe, there are jokes galore about the American obsession with large breasts. Most of the punch lines suggest that Americans are sexually immature or in an infantile stage emotionally and want mommies. That’s one perspective. Another is this: Your body is perfect for you. How do we know? You’re in it.

Now that’s a reality check.

When your comfort level with your body shifts, your husband may benefit. Other than that, he must excavate his history and move into personal transformation on his own (preferably with a good psychotherapist). If you encourage him to lose weight or push him to shed the T-shirt, his shame could intensify. Instead, focus on the physical pleasure he gives you during sex, on touching his skin where it does not trouble him and offering honest compliments of the experience. And, when you are not engaged in sex, tell him how much he turns you on. That will nudge him along, gently, toward seeing himself through your loving eyes rather than his judgmental ones.

I’m 30 years old and do not live with my parents. My mother still signs cards and gifts from her, my father and me. She also tells relatives to send my mail to her home. I have tried to get my mother to stop, but she just dismisses me. I feel like I’m 9 years old when I’m around her.

She prefers it that way. Your mother works hard to keep you small. Ignore her. Send your own correspondence or gifts and, when you do, notify relatives that your mother is a little mixed up about your postal preferences. If mom protests, state your appreciation for her effort and remind her that you enjoy handling things on your own. She may never get the message. No matter, proceed anyway.

I’ve been stressed with work and family issues. My girlfriend keeps offering to give me my space, and this is creating more stress for me. Please help.

Your girlfriend is manipulating you, consciously or unconsciously. She cannot give you what is already yours: space. Do the other scenarios in your life involve feeling controlled? If so, you can understand why your girlfriend’s “offer” triggers you.

Meditation of the Week

As an acquaintance of mine launched into another one of his email tantrums, I got it. Just like <i>Seinfeld</i> was a show about nothing, this man’s drama is always about nothing. And you? How are you expending your life energy?