Last night I hosted a free online presentation about how betrayed partners can use specific skills and tools to manage the inevitable triggers that go hand-in-hand with the discovery or disclosure of sexual betrayal.
There were more than 70 partners in attendance, and when we got to the Q&A portion of the presentation, there were a number of questions and concerns about body image or “attractiveness” that impact triggers—such as:
- How can I not be triggered if my spouse prefers a body type different than mine?
- I’ve gained some weight and I’m not as attractive as I used to be. How can I not feel bad about that?
- My husband acted out with (or is attracted to) women who are more attractive than I am. I don’t see how I can not feel triggered about that.
On the one hand, I understand. If the mindset is that attractiveness or beauty is a universal, objective, or static phenomena, then everyone would have an easy “measuring stick” with which to evaluate and judge their—or other’s—relative attractiveness.
But that’s not how beauty—or attraction—works.
And even more important, is attractiveness the measure with which you want to evaluate yourself? Or how you want to evaluate your daughter, your sister, or your best friend?
Betrayed partners often try to get inside the mind of their unfaithful spouse to see the world as he (or she) sees it. They want to know who their spouse finds attractive, or what did his/her affair partners look like. Again, while I can completely understand your being curious, or wanting to know, the bottom line is that the focus is on the wrong thing.
No one has an affair, is unfaithful, or acts out sexually because of the attractiveness of another person. In fact, some sex addicts will tell you that their partner—the one they betrayed—is the most attractive person (to them) that they have ever been with sexually.
The problem with focusing on the appearance of a porn star, sex worker, or affair partner is that you will 1) compare yourself to the other person and create pain and shame, and/or 2) you will reduce yourself to a collection of body parts.
In other words, you will self-objectify.
Objectification is “the action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object.” Please don’t do that to yourself.
In my post 5 Steps to Restoring a Body Image Wounded by Addiction, I talk about the hits partners’ body image takes when confronted with sexual betrayal.
If your esteem and body image have suffered because of addiction, make a decision now to reclaim your right to feel acceptance, love, and even delight about your one, unique body.
Beauty originates from the inside-out, rather than the outside-in. You can spend hours and days perfecting your appearance. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on “improving” your body and appearance, yet be completely devoid of beauty.
Your most gorgeous self is likely found more often in completely unscripted moments like when you first wake up in the morning, after a workout when you’re make-up free and your hair is a mess, or when you’re feeling vulnerable and unsure of yourself.
Let go self-objectification, and declare your authentic beauty.
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2017)
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