You marry a person whose physical appearance attracts you to him or her. And then he or she changes in such a way that the attraction is no longer there. How do you deal with this?
The first thing that comes to mind is, you deal with it VERY CAREFULLY, VERY PRAYERFULLY.
This is a very complicated and delicate issue to deal with, to say the least. It’s complicated because everyone who is dealing with it has their own takes on the matter, which brings out emotionality. And when there is emotionality involved, there are heated opinions that are often expressed.
It’s delicate because it’s almost a “no win” situation. The spouse who is turned off by the other spouse’s appearance doesn’t like the situation. And yet he or she doesn’t know how to approach the subject. (That is, unless he or she is a fool who blurts out unkind remarks.)
And the person whose appearance is in question, certainly doesn’t like the situation either. Whether you believe it or not, he or she hates this situation probably more than you do. But something is blocking their way to change matters.
A Spouse’s Appearance
Please know that this article will not address the person who blurts out crass statements to their spouse. They absolutely shouldn’t do that. Repeatedly, the Bible tells us that those who speak with haste are “fools.” And fools most often won’t listen to logical reason. (Proverbs 18:2; Proverbs 29:11; also Proverbs 18:6; Proverbs 29:11 are just a few scriptures that bring this out. You can find more in the Open Bible Info web site link: Bible Verses About Fools, and also the Bible.org study article written by Bob Deffinbaugh, The Fool.) So, this article will not address fools.
And this article will also not address a spouse’s physical appearance, where he or she cannot change what has happened to their appearance. This is where there has been an accident that happened to them, or a stroke or the situation where the normal aging process involved. It’s not that these issues do not cause problems in themselves. But the spouse who will not stand by a spouse who is dealing with physical afflictions where they have no power to change …well, that spouse is also a fool. (Again, see the above references to fools.)
Yes, it can be difficult to deal with these type of outward appearances. But those who reach out to the Lord and within for maturity will not go the route of the fool.
Being More Specific When Addressing Appearances
Instead, this article will address dealing with a spouse’s physical appearance, most specifically weight issues. (You can glean the other type of physical appearance issues from what is written on this angle. Otherwise, the subject will be reaching all over the map to be all-inclusive.)
What we’ve seen and read through our research, is that there are a lot of divorces that occur because this matter. And many more marriages are not in a good place because of it, as well.
We recently received an email from a man who has been separated from his wife for a long period of time because he decided he couldn’t live with her because of her “excessive weight” problem. We’ve also received a number of emails from others who have asked that we address this problem. So, for this reason, I’m writing this article. But it’s difficult, because there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution to “fix” this issue.
My first instinct, when I learn of someone who rejects the other spouse because of outward appearances, is to slam them with all kinds of scriptures that talk about the importance of the heart rather than the outer appearance of a person, from God’s perspective. One can be found in 1 Samuel 16:7, where God told Samuel “The Lord does not look at things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Another Look at God’s Word
Another one is where the Bible tells women, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)
What I believe this says is that a woman is to concentrate on who she is on the inside. She is to be a woman of a “gentle and quiet spirit.” It’s not that she isn’t to care of her outward appearance. But rather that this is not to be her main focus —for herself or for her spouse.
And then we’re also told in the Bible, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” (Proverbs 31:30-31)
Again, this talks about outward beauty being temporary and not as important as inward beauty.
As I was praying and researching, I came across the following article. It gives another perspective. It is written by Philip Brown and expands on this point of how God does care about outward appearances.
You can see how complicated this issue can get. I still believe the other scriptures say that our physical appearance shouldn’t be our main concern. However, in context, that which is seen on the outside DOES matter to a certain extent.
So often how we present ourselves on the outside invites others in so that they want to know more about who we are within. They will then be exposed to the heart of who we are. You may say that is shallow, but it is what it is. We can fight it, but we can’t deny that it’s something we deal with in this world. If only we lived in a world that only cared about our inward heart, rather than anything outwardly! That would be heavenly, indeed. It’s something to look forward to beyond this fallen world into the next.
So, I’ll do the best I can to bring out some points for you to consider on this matter. They will come from various articles I’ve found on the Internet. Some of them you will probably not agree with, and others you may. But hopefully, this article will help some in their marital relationships to get to a better place. That is my/our hope, here at Marriage Missions.
Whether you agree with any of the insights given below or not, please pray about what we’re presenting here. And keep praying until you know what the Lord is telling YOU.
So, to start this discussion, I found an article written by Dr David B Hawkins. It is posted on Crosswalk.com and addresses what to do about a spouse’s appearance when you are turned off in some way.
Here’s how he starts off:
“In a recent advice column I shared some opinions about whether husbands or wives should be concerned about how their mate looks. I challenged you to respond as to whether love should be unconditional. I received many responses —most suggesting that it was a complex issue. Many of the responses indicated that we should never judge others by their outward appearance. And yet they should be concerned with our mate’s health. We should also be just as concerned about their inner beauty, and building our relationship on those enduring traits.
“What follows are a sampling of the responses I received”:
To read the rest, the following is a link to the article:
— ALSO —
Joe Beam also weighs in (pun intended) on this subject. It’s something you might benefit from reading on his web site:
And then Timothy Dalrymple gives some very thought-provoking things to consider in his article:
In the next article, although it isn’t written from a spiritual standpoint, it lines up scripturally. One point it brings out is: “Your marriage vows tell you, ‘for rich or for poor’ and ‘through sickness and health.’ But where is the part about ‘through fat and skinny?'”
You may not have included that particular wording in your marriage vows but it is included in the covenant of marriage you entered into. However, there are some helpful thoughts to consider in this article:
Authors Steven James and David Thomas give a very different perspective as to how to approach this subject. This is particularly true when the wife asks the dreaded question whether she looks fat in a particular outfit.
Even though I’m a woman (and they aren’t), I have to say that I believe they give sound advice. Many women may not think so, but this subject cannot be approached by a “one size fits all” type of solution.
Their approach to this matter is featured in a Growthtrac.com article, which was gleaned from their book, Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat? A Man’s Guide to the Loaded Questions Women Ask. See what you think, as to whether you agree or not, as you read:
In the next forum, you will find many different sides, which are presented. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, but you may want to wade through them. You very well could find insights into the question:
Furthermore, on this Issue of a Spouse’s Appearance
And then, here’s an article written by Michael and Amy Smalley, which focuses on what they’ve realized in dealing with Michael’s weight problem:
How do you you deal with your spouse’s physical appearance when it’s troubling to you? It’s certainly not by blaming or shaming, or ranting or raving. It is to be done, rather, by being prayerful and supportive in your approach.
The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” So make sure you’re leaning on the side of benefitting them and your marriage and not just dumping emotionally on them.
The one thread that seems to run through all the articles above is that when you approach your spouse on this issue, make sure you do it in a way that is respectful and is motivated by love and concern, not negativity. Not only will the later backfire on you (who do you know who “saw the light” because a spouse berated and hurt them?), but it will strain your relationship and the situation all the more.
The following advice, which seems to be sound, comes from TheMarriageCounselingblog.com web site.
“If you and/or your partner are overweight, make becoming healthy a high priority. Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death among adults.
“If your partner is overweight, do not criticize him (or her). Making jokes or teasing about his (her) weight problem will not lead to motivation to become healthy. Instead, it is likely to just make him (her) feel worse about the situation. Instead, talk about your concerns and talk about how the two of you can work as a team to get healthy. Discuss strategies such as joining a gym, going for walks together, meeting with a nutritionist, or joining a weight loss support group such as Weight Watchers. Help each other plan healthy meals. Assist with shopping and preparing food, and work together to make healthier choices.
“If your spouse is not motivated to make any changes, don’t despair. And don’t nag. Nagging rarely yields results. Instead, make positive changes yourself. Almost everyone can benefit from making some more healthy diet changes and start to get exercise. Invite your spouse to go for a walk and try to encourage them to be more active.”
And finally, in my search to help both spouses, I came across an article written by author Barbara Curtis. While her way of losing weight may or may not work for you or your loved one, from what she wrote, it sure worked for her.
Enablement of a Spouses Appearance
Barbara made the statement that can ring true:
“A family can enable a fat member by offering them more food than they need. They enable by telling them they are not overweight, that you love them the way they are.
“Loving people the way they are is one thing. But loving them to death is another. Obesity kills. While in the process of losing weight, I went for a checkup and noticed that everyone in my doctor’s waiting room was overweight. When I asked him what percentage of everyday health problems he saw each day were due to overweight, he said perhaps 90%. That’s ballpark —and anecdotal —but it’s probably pretty close to the truth.”
That’s tough stuff to think about. Barbara went on to write many things that I encourage you to read in the link provided below. But this stood out to me:
“So I guess my message to anyone of the mind that by accepting a spouse who is overweight you are demonstrating unconditional love: No! That is not unconditional love. That is just being resigned to watching your spouse continue an unhealthy pattern that will affect you and your children in a negative way by encouraging denial and inauthenticity.”
In Conclusion, on the Issue of a Spouse’s Appearance
The best way I can end this article is by encouraging you with the following:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God… For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33)
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
We hope you’ll “join the discussion” below in this forum so that others can benefit from your encouragement. We say “encouragement” because we hope those who share, will take this subject seriously. The goal is to motivate others, rather than tear them down.
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Mental and Physical Health