Looking Good For Your Man

Sharon Beauty, Body Image, Marriage 5 Comments

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Well it’s almost mid-May in Chicago which, I am learning, means that Spring is finally  starting to peek out from under the frozen tundra. It’s not in full bloom, mind you, but there are some flowers here and there and I finally put away my down coat until next winter.

In case you were wondering, I really miss North Carolina.

As Ike and I mark our first successful survival of an Illinois winter, we have both concluded that we don’t like the winter at all, but for two very different reasons. For me, it’s the length that’s a killer. I was fine back in January when it was 4 degrees outside, but when it’s late April and still in the 30’s? That’s not right at all. Ike, on the other hand, doesn’t mind the cold. In fact, he prefers it to the humid summer heat. What he doesn’t like about the winters is that it transforms his wife into a shapeless amoeba of winter wear.

Ok maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but suffice it to say that he likes my figure and was frustrated by the fact that I was bundled up all the time. Indoors or outdoors, I was consistently covered in wool or long underwear. Not exactly every man’s dream.

This seasonal development led to some interesting conversations between the two of us, which then led to some great conversations with my girl friends. While it is generally accepted that women should try to dress and look good for their husbands, we don’t often talk about why that is, and the potential pitfalls in such a blanket statement. So that’s what I want to address today. As a Christian woman, how should I think through dressing, exercising, wearing makeup, etc. for my husband?

There have been a lot of books written on this topic, explaining that men are “visual” and women need to “speak their husband’s love language” and on and on and on. I don’t altogether disagree with those reasons but they’re a bad place to start. Every person’s understanding of beauty is culturally constructed and can, at times, be in conflict with God’s design for creation. Of course it is impossible to extract ourselves entirely from our culture, but there is a better place to begin this conversation than with the moving target of male desires and expectations.

That said, the optimal foundation for this discussion is found in the marriage between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:25). When it comes to the touchy subject of women and appearance, the model of Christ and his Bride is a really beautiful and healthy example. From this relationship we learn two things:

1. Christ’s love for the church is not based on works. Christians do nothing to “earn” God’s acceptance and love. We don’t need to pretty ourselves up or get our lives in order first. We can come just as we are and be loved unconditionally. Similarly, a wife should never use her looks to earn her husband’s love and attention. Appearance should not be a bribe or a hook to hold onto his affection. If you find yourself getting dolled up for fear of losing your husband’s interest, there is a problem. This type of fear has no place in the relationship between Christ and the church, nor should it in marriage.

Before I move to the second point, let me add a final thought here. In addition to adorning ourselves out of insecurity, women sometimes justify vanity under the guise of serving our husbands. I am totally guilty of this! I know my husband likes me to look good so I fully indulge my vanity, going so far as to count it godly since it is done for the sake of my marriage. It is so easy to let sins in the back door of pretended holiness!

2. Christ does not require but inspires good works. Although good works are not necessary for salvation, James 2 reminds us that faith without works is dead. James made that statement with the knowledge that a true follower of Christ, one who has been captured by his love and has committed their lives to him, will show it. Not out of obligation but inspiration.

In the same way, a callous heart towards a husband’s desires speaks volumes about the relationship. On the one hand, it could indicate that her husband is not loving her well. She may have been hardened by neglect or insecurity. However, some fault might also lie in her heart. For instance, I’ll admit there are days when I resent men who want their wives to look good for them. It can feel like an oppressive extension of an already perverted culture. Yet my reaction isn’t altogether fair. Many men have reasonable expectations of their wives. They don’t want their wives to look like Barbie dolls–they simply want to celebrate their wives’ beauty.

In a healthy Christian marriage it is good for your husband to delight in your body. And as a response to his love and commitment, it is good to take care of your body and allow him that delight. This mostly means being healthy, but it can also mean asking your husband about his preferences in what you wear and how you dress. Not because you have to earn his attention, and not because he won’t love you otherwise, but because you love him. It is a decision made with the same freedom we have to serve Christ.

Outward appearance is indeed a sticky issue given the ways in which our culture so heavily distorts beauty. But the solution is not to reject all outward forms of beauty anymore than it is to give into them. What matters is that your body is a means for loving your husband, loving yourself, and most importantly loving God. Christian husbands and wives know they are closest to this goal when their service to one another mirrors the love we see in Christ.

Comments 5

  1. Chris Pappa

    I take umbrage with the generally accepted idea that “women should try to dress and look good for their husbands.” The Bible consistently dismisses physical beauty in favor of holiness, a priority that husbands ought to mirror. How often have you heard a pastor mention his wife as “smokin’ hot?” How much more rare to hear him praise her for being obedient to Christ.

    I suppose that wives, out of love for their husbands, may make decisions with their bodies that make their husbands happy; but husbands should be similarly motivated, and I’ve rarely heard a man mention “looking good for his woman.”

    Besides the clear biblical priority, there is a practical issue with men expecting physical beauty from their wives: We all grow old, and our bodies lose their beauty. I, for one, look forward to the day when my wife and I are a frail old married couple, too focused on the beautiful heart within each other to let the outward appearance get in the way of our love.

  2. RachelJoy

    I like this article and pretty much agree. I also take care of myself as well as my outer appearance, not just for my husband, but for me. I want to make sure that my outside appearance resonates the goodness I feel in the inside. And it can also be a good witness to other people…before a stranger can see your salvation they see you, so I believe it’s important that we represent Christians as people with the spirit of excellence portrayed both in character and appearance.

  3. Post
    Author
    Sharon

    Thanks for that feedback, Chris! That is a message that is all too often ignored or omitted by Christian men. It also irks me when pastors talk about their “smokin hot wives”–I don’t know where that phrase came from or why it’s become an obligatory statement that many pastors seem bound to make from the pulpit. While it is certainly appropriate for a pastor to commend his wife’s beauty, both inside and out, there’s something about that particular phrase that seems so worldly and weirdly sexual.

    It is indeed fine and good to want to look nice for your husband (lest we stray into a dualistic mindset that treats the body as less important or beautiful than the soul and mind), I think your words are exactly what women need to hear in order to have a healthy relationship with their appearance, and to present their bodies to their husbands in freedom, not bondage to worldly standards. Thanks, Chris!!

  4. PointSpecial

    Sharon,

    As a native Chicagoan (and fellow… Trinitarian…? uh, grad student at Trinity?), I can say that this spring has been wetter, cooler, and cloudier than normal. I just saw a blog post by Tom Skilling, WGN’s resident weatherman addressing this:

    http://blog.chicagoweathercenter.com/2011/05/ask-tom-why-why-are-we-having-this-horrible-spring-weather.html

    On average, it has been 2.3 degrees cooler, the 12th coldest in the last 52 years, the cloudiest EVER in April, and the 24th wettest (not sure if this is using the last 52 years that O’Hare has been the official weather site for Chicago or if it goes back to the start of records in 1871, after the Chicago fire).

    Concerning the true heart of the post… my wife puts forth effort in some respects for me, but I don’t really ask all that much. I know she has it tough being a stay-at-home mom of two with a husband in Seminary and working full-time to boot. We actually had a discussion about it after she read “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldham and there was a chapter in the book about just this.

    When she asked me about what I thought about it, I felt like I was between a rock and a hard place, in some respects… because though there were some things, for instance, that she wore that I didn’t really like (old stretched-out clothes for example), I didn’t want to make her feel bad about it in any way or diminish who she really is, which doesn’t have a bit to do with her outward appearance.

    As it ended up, the conversation kind of brought forth some things (such as the worn out old clothes) that I guess were grating on me a bit but I hadn’t ever really thought of, and she went out and replaced them with new things. She said that she actually felt better about herself when she was wearing better-fitting clothes, even if they was just “kicking it around the house” gear and it did give her an opportunity to address the fact that she’s colder, in general than I am… but still is able to wear cute things that she’s comfortable in.

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