I was twenty and working at a Bloomingdale’s call center when someone handed me a complimentary pair of women’s shapewear. I didn’t know what Spanx were as I stretched them over my legs, later tossing them into a donation box. Postpartum with my second son, I regretted that decision as I spent $80 on a pair of high-end shapewear.
In my mid-thirties, insecurity threatens to wrap itself around me. Everything about my body is changing. My belly sticks out, cellulite ripples my legs, gray hair covers my roots, and wrinkles sink into my forehead. My body is nothing like what I used to see in the mirror. I feel a growing need to hide its true shape from not only the world, but my husband.
The reality is, our husbands notice when we gain weight or wrinkles, stretch marks or cellulite—just like we notice their gray hairs and extra pounds. This is part of life and marriage; we grow and age and our bodies change, together. Yet it seems women are expected to look as young as possible for as long as possible.
This strikes a haunting question in the hearts of some women: what if our husbands no longer find us attractive as we age?
Botox, Fillers, and Shapewear, Oh My
As our bodies morph into an image our youthful selve’s may deem unrecognizable, we may wonder if beauty is merely part of our past. Maybe our husbands wish they could trade in our current shape to hold our twenty-five-year-old frame with its thinner waistline. This fear isn’t unwarranted. Many husbands watch porn while their wife sleeps in the next room. Some older men neglect the wife of their youth, seeking out younger women. We know that even some Christ-proclaiming men lack self-control, integrity, and faithfulness and cheat on their wife. Not all men, but some.
What is a woman to do? We hop on Facebook and see Taylor Swift dancing sensually before swiping to the next video. Walking the mall is nearly impossible without massive portraits of Victoria Secret models hovering like a hawk over its prey. Then there’s the influencer in her 20s sharing before and after pictures of her botox journey and the ads for fillers in our email.
Though white-haired models are seen on Target.com, there’s still a whole industry dedicated to anti-aging. The culture is shouting at us that our worth is found in how beautiful—how desirable we are. We might conclude that if our desirability fades with age, we better do all we can to appear young.
Desirability as We Age
Like delicately crafted marble sculptures, we long to be barely touched by time. But statues cannot grow in depth and beauty as we do. We know Scripture teaches us that everlasting beauty is inward. But there’s also beauty in physically aging—in stretch marks that evidence new life and lines that prove God’s faithfulness to sustain us.
There’s still a desirability to be lived out as we age. Not for the world, but for our husbands. In a marriage where a man and woman are committed to love each other through each bodily change, there is attraction that deepens with time. It is often reported that couples have better sex in their 30s and 40s than in their 20s. The years of exploring and learning together only solidifies the bond. What else could be more attractive than two people giving themselves to only each other until death parts them? Can a fleeting thought of a handsome man or beautiful woman truly compare to life-long monogamy? And yet, being desired by our husband was never meant to satisfy.
The Desire to Be Desired
It’s a God-given desire to long to be desired. Like the bride in Song of Solomon who says, “Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers,” we hope for our husband to do the same (Song 1:4). It’s normal, right, and even good to want our husband to speak about our body as Solomon lavishes words on his betrothed. Yet this longing can be twisted into sin. We might desire to attract men other than our husband or turn our husband’s pursuit of us into an idol.
Our bodies weren’t created to be spent worshiping on the altar of male attention, but rather as a holy, living sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1). If we place our identity in being desired by our husband or any other person, we will be left hollow.
Women need more than botox, push-up bras, and shapewear to persevere through the sagginess of our breasts or stubborn weight gain. We need something lasting, a change of heart—confidence in something so much greater than our outward beauty: our incorruptible identity in Christ. You and I need a desire for honoring God with our bodies that outweighs our longing to be desired.
A Husband’s Desire Won’t Fully Satisfy
I pointed to my stomach in exasperation. “I look six months pregnant!” My husband’s reply: “I’m attracted to you whether you look pregnant or not.” Rather than telling me it was all in my head, he acknowledged my frustration over my body and poured his desire over me anyway. I loved him for it, but I still hid my bloated belly under the tight woven threads of a garment.
Even with our husband’s affection set on us, we can still struggle with our body’s many changes as we age. I still grimace at the cellulite on my legs and cry in frustration standing in front of my closet. My heart holds a deeper need and my husband’s desire can’t fix it. I need Jesus to be more to me than youth, beauty, or the perfect body. It’s what we all need.
We need the Spirit to help us honor our Creator with our bodies, submitting our longing to be desired by our husband to him. If we believe our value is in how desirable we are, we will do whatever we can to attain it and still be left wanting. But if our worth is in Christ we are free to bask in his beauty. You and I are free to live in our bodies rather than warring with them. We are free to find our fullness in Christ alone, in whom we are fully known and fully loved, forever.