How do I make my girlfriend more comfortable about her body?
May 5, 2011 12:11 PM   Subscribe

How do I make my girlfriend more comfortable about her body?

Basically what it says up top. My girlfriend and I are young and started dating in January. My girlfriend is lovely and wonderful and has a great body (not lingerie model, but curvy, in an AWESOME way. Trust me when I say that she has nothing to "worry" about) However, she has some body issues. Whenever she's naked she'll try to cover herself up to walk around. I, on the other hand, have a body like a stick insect, and I'll walk around naked all day long, no problem. She just doesn't seem comfortable with her body in general, and though I ply her with compliments (which I do naturally; I WANT to compliment her), that hasn't seem to changed while we've been dating (4-5 months.) We have tons of sex (at least once a day when we're together) but I just feel like she's still uncomfortable around me or self-conscious.

Do understand that it wouldn't matter if she were to continue to be insecure. It doesn't inherently bother me - I only want it to change because I care for her and want her to feel good about herself. If I'm being totally unreasonable, typically male, pigheaded, etc., please tell me.

Anonymous because I don't trust the internet...
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a guy, so perhaps this question is better answered by a female, but has she shown other signs of insecurity other than a tendency to not walk around stark naked? I understand it may seem silly to drape yourself when walking down a hall if the only other person in the house is someone you're in a sexual relationship with, but I think that's the male mindset. As much as anything, it's the habits you're in. For that matter, in health clubs I've been in, I see a lot of different attitudes about how free and easy men are about being naked.

You've said you have an active sexual relationship; I'm assuming this means she doesn't act too hung up about her body during the act. Does she seem confident in social situations, or does she act embarrassed about her body in those situations as well? If she seems confident when she's got her clothes on, and you two aren't experiencing sexual disfunction, I'd say it's not much to worry about.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:19 PM on May 5, 2011

There's nothing you can do for her other than suggest she see a therapist. she has to do the rest on her own.
posted by TheBones at 12:19 PM on May 5, 2011

From what you say it sounds to me like ordinary modesty rather than a particular body issue. Just let it pass. It may change in time.
posted by DarkForest at 12:20 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

There is nothing wrong with not preferring to walk around naked.
posted by shownomercy at 12:21 PM on May 5, 2011 [13 favorites]

Goodness, you're not coming across as unreasonable or "typically male".

Are you sure that what she's doing is because of "body issues"? Maybe something else is going on. What I mean is -- it sounds like you're interpreting her trying to cover her up as "oh, she's ashamed of her body" rather than asking why she is. And there could be any number of reasons.

Try asking in an impartial way that you've noticed she does that, and that that's what you're afraid is going on, but wanted to check what was up before you assumed -- "hey, I've noticed you tend to cover yourself up to walk around when I don't; what's up with that? Sometimes it gets me worried that's because you're ashamed of your gorgeous bod -- but I don't want to assume that's what's up, or maybe you're just cold or something."

Then she can tell you what's going on, which could be anything from "yeah, it's freezing in here, dude" to "I grew up with six brothers and I was the only girl in the house so it's just a habit" to "I think I saw one of your neighbors peeking in the window once" to...anything. Then when you know what's going on, then you can address it. And there are some things that you may have to address by just accepting them; some people just have "things" that they're wired for. Some people are just naturally a little more modest, and it's not anything about not trusting their partner -- they just don't like walking around naked, and that's that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:22 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

I only want it to change because I care for her and want her to feel good about herself.

Love her, tell her you love her body and then quit worrying about it, unless she wants to talk about it. She's not a project for you to fix or change. Your intentions are good, but this is her issue (if it's an actual issue) and one only she can fix it.

Seriously, don't try to suggest she do X or Y because "No really, your body is great," it'll probably just cause more focus on her body.

Just be.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:22 PM on May 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

Seconding darkforest and shownomercy. Many people, including me, don't like to wander naked even if I am alone or with my spouse.

Randomkeystrike's questions are more important, though.
posted by theobserver at 12:23 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, uh, good luck with that.

Not trying to be discouraging here, but your girlfriend has been living in her body longer than she's been dating you, longer than you've known her even. Whatever it is that she's self-conscious about--and you don't know if she is!--odds are pretty decent that it doesn't actually have anything to do with you. As such, the odds that whatever it is is going to change in a couple of months are pretty much non-existent.

Also, not wanting to walk around naked doesn't necessarily have anything to do with "body issues." Not everyone is comfortable with the same level of nudity, and that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the way they look or think they look. It could just be force of habit.

But answering the question directly: if you think there's a problem, you need to talk to your girlfriend. Again, we you don't seem to know what's really going on there, and we sure as hell don't. Maybe she is self-conscious about her body. Maybe it's because of her weight. But then again, maybe it isn't. Maybe she's cold. Or maybe she's just modest. I dated a girl once who was (and is) absolutely smoking but didn't really like to be naked unless we were actively making out. Had nothing whatsoever to do with self-image and a lot to do with her upbringing.

So really, that's it. Talk to her or don't, but don't go around assuming you understand the reasons for her behavior unless you've had that conversation.
posted by valkyryn at 12:25 PM on May 5, 2011

Agree with DarkForest. When I was younger I was very subconscious about my body (which was even better then than it is now!) got better as I got older and more comfortable in my skin (literally!), but even in new relationships, I was still kinda weird about it. In my late 20's and a few years into my relationship, I ain't got NO shame! :)

Also--and I don't know her so if she has a legitimate issue this could really be the wrong thing to do--but you might want to consider making comments about female celebrities with bodies similar to hers. I just know if I was with a guy and knew he thought Kate Moss or Cameron Diaz were the hottest things ever, I would definitely feel uncomfortable around him because it's like, "Wow, you have a type and I am NOT it!" Like I said, if she has serious insecurity issues, you saying anything about ANY other woman would be a mistake but just something to consider...

And to re-emphasize something: I really think age is a huge factor. People are typically more "attractive" (at least in a conventional sense) when they are younger, yet it seems that you more often hear people say that they get more confident all-around as they get older...
posted by lovableiago at 12:27 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oops, SELF-conscious, not SUBconscious....
posted by lovableiago at 12:27 PM on May 5, 2011

All you can do is be kind and enthusiastic about her and her body. She'll get more comfortable over time. As others have said, this isn't necessarily a problem and definitely not something you need to fix.

Just enjoy yourself and try to relax.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:30 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ok, so I have been sleeping with this guy for months. MONTHS. I still cannot take my clothes off in front of him. Putting clothes on - fine. Naked sexytime - fine and fun. But the time when I think he is just looking at my body and I am showing it to him....makes me nervous. And awkward. And I don't think I have a horrible body or anything, I am just not comfortable with it. BUT. I know from experience that over time this feeling will lessen. He thinks I am sexy and cute and he likes my stomach and with time I will get over this like I have with other guys in the past. But only because I know he likes me, my body, etc. So, lots of love and support over time is likely the best bet.
posted by hepta at 12:33 PM on May 5, 2011

1. You can't "make" her feel more comfortable with herself--they are her feelings. She has to become more comfortable.

2. Just want to advise you that even though it sounds like you're doing a good job of being caring and supportive, too much discussion of the issue, even in the form of "I love your body and it's perfect and wonderful" can possibly have a counterproductive effect by communicating that you're focusing on her body a lot.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:33 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you are having sex together and it's fun and active, and you are enjoying each other's company, it sounds like you are both having a good time and are happy with the situation.

Be careful using expressions like "I feel like she's still uncomfortable around me..." That isn't a feeling, that's a thought. You think she is still uncomfortable around you. Basing an assumption solely on your thinking is taking you into dangerous territory - assuming that what you think is happening is actually happening. The evidence - such as it is in your question - points the other way.

In short, people can be comfortable in many different ways. You guys seem really close and very intimate. My guess is that if there was a problem, she would say something. Otherwise, try the opposite thought - she IS comfortable in her body, in being around me and her covering up has nothing to do with being negatively self-conscious. It's at least as true a thought as the one you are having now, and it may serve you better.
posted by salishsea at 12:33 PM on May 5, 2011

You've approached this really well, I think. I agree with everyone else that there could be many reasons for this... I was really awkward about being naked with my partner for a long time. It took almost a year before I was totally comfortable even having sex with the light on, let alone walking around naked (whereas my partner was comfortable right from the beginning).

We're almost two years in, and I'm just as comfortable as he is.

So, give it some time and keep doing what you're doing. If it's self-consciousness, she may get over it. If it's something else, she may get over that too. Or she might not. If it's something you're really concerned about, ask her.

Good luck!
posted by torisaur at 12:33 PM on May 5, 2011

No you're not being unreasonable or pigheadead at all, you sound very sweet and well intentioned. But here's the thing: you really can't do anything about her body issues, apart from what you already do. Because they are not dependent on you, they very likely were formed in childhood or early puberty and ah hello everyone has them, really, or at least, most women, one way or another, to some small degree. It's rarer a girl will have no body issues at all.

The question is, how strong are these issues really?
Does she show any signs of being unconfortamble when having sex?

Or is it just a bit of awkardness walking around naked? Because if that's the case, and in every other respect she's comfortable when dressed, and likes how she looks and does not obsess on weight, food intake, dieting, etc., then I don't see the problem. Not everyone is comfortable being naked even with the most intimate partner. I wouldn't worry unless there were more specific signs in her behaviour.

In any case, don't bring up the issue out of the blue, if it's big enough of a problem then she should be the one to want to talk about it. If it's just that awkwardness, well, you'd make her feel even more awkard bringing it up if it's no big deal to her.

Compliment her by all means but don't overdo it - if she's not too happy with her body, it makes her focus even more on it. Distract her from it. Compliment her on something else too, make her feel appreciated for her as a person. After all, we don't get to choose our bodies or be able to do much about them actually, whereas there's a lot we can do about our personal traits and behaviour. And it's nicer to be appreciated for that sort of thing, isn't it? So help her care less about how she looks, and care more about herself as a whole.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:34 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe what's bothering you is that you're being denied the pleasure of seeing your gf walking around naked. But not everyone has the same level of comfortableness with their nakedness. You have to accept that and that she'll drop the sheet when and if she feels like it. You use the phrases "make her more comfortable" and "I only want to change it". But you can't. So....change your expectations, because you can't "make her" or "change it" unless she wants to. And please don't constantly gush over her body (figuratively ;). Because a little goes a long way and she may feel like you're focusing on it too much, or subtly trying to pressure her. Good luck!
posted by iconomy at 12:36 PM on May 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

1. I don't have body issues at all and I don't like walking around naked, or sleeping naked either. I feel chilly and exposed and ... naked. I like clothes.

2. You might be harping on her too much with all of this. Making the whole thing into an Issue and a Project can be counterproductive. Try complimenting her when you feel the spontaneous urge to do so, with no goal behind it, and just letting it be other than that.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:41 PM on May 5, 2011

I'm not at all uncomfortable with my body but I have a habit of covering my upper body with my arms when I walk around with no top on, and my husband teases me about it which is annoying because I don't do it consciously (I accept the ribbing if I'm completely undressed, like what am I, Porky Pig who only needs the top covered but not the bottom?).

So maybe just leave it alone.
posted by padraigin at 12:44 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Padraigin, I'm with you. Arms help with the unsupported boobs thing.
posted by sestaaak at 12:47 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you obsessed with her body? Tons of sexual attention, tons of compliments, you making her body-confidence your project, that's a lot of attention to be paid to one body. Perhaps she would feel more at-ease if you paid her body less attention, not more.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:48 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

I think casual, non-sexual touching can be helpful, if it's just about being comfortable naked, whereas comments (even complimentary ones) just draw attention to something she'd prefer to ignore. Actions speaking louder than words, and all of that.
posted by lhall at 12:52 PM on May 5, 2011

My number 1 reason why it is good to do yoga is "it makes you feel comfortable being in you're own skin"

I'd also suggest modeling nude for art classes. It's a pretty cool feeling to see how different perspectives perceive beauty
posted by goalyeehah at 1:09 PM on May 5, 2011

I have pretty much no issues with the way my body looks. However, I don't really like walking around naked. I get cold really easily. My boobs feel really awkward and heavy and in the way when they're not supported. I tend to bump into things and scratch myself a lot, and clothes help keep me from getting injured. Mostly, it just doesn't feel right to me. That's not discomfort with my body. I love my body. I just don't like the feeling of walking around naked. So unless you have a whole bunch of other evidence that your girlfriend is uncomfortable with her body, I'm going to say that it's likely that she's perfectly comfortable with her looks, but just doesn't like the feel of walking around naked.
posted by decathecting at 1:14 PM on May 5, 2011

Have a fun photo session where you take nude portraits of her. Some ideas.
posted by Dragonness at 1:15 PM on May 5, 2011

Have a fun photo session where you take nude portraits of her.

Argh! I really don't know about this one. IF she does have body issues I doubt she would find this fun. And I think most women would have a degree of discomfort with this completely aside from body issues. If you want to suggest this, suggest it once in a super non-pressure way and if she doesn't go for it, don't suggest it again.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:20 PM on May 5, 2011

As a curvy girl, I've found it hard to feel comfortable walking around in the nude, unsupported, especially when dating a stick-thin guy can't help comparing my body to. But one of the first things I was ever told that certainly makes me feel good about it was "there is nothing more alluring than to see you walking around naked with such confidence."
posted by lizbunny at 1:21 PM on May 5, 2011

Anonymous because I don't trust the internet...

I'm having a hard time figuring out why you felt the need for this to be anonymous. Why is this a big deal? What are you ashamed of? (See how that worked?)

Ok, here's a calibration point from the not-mefi world:

From your description, your girlfriend sounds exceptionally normal and healthy. You, otoh, sound like a clueless nudist, with a touch of overbearing earnestness. I have no doubt whatsoever that this would be the most supportive reaction of anyone I could relate this question to IRL (even from those who themselves might be slightly clueless nudists, with a touch of overbearing earnestness.)

I just feel like she's still uncomfortable around me or self-conscious.

Your possibly excessive showering of compliments may be making her *more* embarrassed about her nudity -- for a person with a modicum of modesty (physical or emotional), an occasional compliment can feel wonderful, but a few too many feels annoying and/or insincere.

On preview: Actually, from what you've written, you're leaning a little towards the creepy side of obsessing over her body.. (note: I don't actually think you're creepy, it's just that you seem to be harping on this just a little too much for comfort)

On review of preview: Oh! Maybe that's why you feel this should be anonymous..
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 1:55 PM on May 5, 2011

I've noticed it mentioned in the comments, but I have a hunch this may not be phrased clearly for the OP...

Some women are talking about walking around "unsupported". In case it's not clear -- they don't mean emotionally unsupported. They're talking about physical support -- meaning, "sometimes having your boobs bouncing all over the place is uncomfortable and so that's why I put clothes on."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:03 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

TPS is on to something here. Consider, also, that if she's as yowza-hot as you describe, she's probably had to deal with a lot of unwanted attention, and with people who were more interested in her looks than her mind or her feelings. If this is the case, the "hey sexy, why are you covering your sexy body when it's so sexy?" comments might really backfire.

I don't know whether that's the case, though. The only example you have is her covering up to walk around when she's naked, which is really normal, especially if you have neighbors and/or open shades. Casual nudity is strange to a lot of people, including couples: you typically see your naked partner when it's sexytime, but when you see them meandering absently down the hall or slouching on the sofa watching TV, there's a disconnect between sexy person and totally unsexy activity.

If she explicitly asks you, or says something obviously negative about her body in your presence, then you can help. Otherwise, be your regular good-boyfriend self, listen to her and all that good stuff, and tone down the effusive compliments on her body.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:09 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

The other thing to consider is maybe she doesn't want it to be sexytime, all the time. Do you think it would be super sexy to have your GF strutting around nude all the time? It's possible that's what she *doesn't* want, like she wants the two of you to have times where you're just normal with each other without sex constantly in the air.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:21 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that by looking at her a lot, complimenting her frequently, reveling in her physical beauty, you may be making her feel like an OBJECT, one that is being WATCHED TOO MUCH. She is an individual person with her own boundaries, comforts, and preferences. It is not her job to exist for your visual pleasure, or to have the sorts of reactions you think she should have. She is not wrong, she does not have a problem. She is herself. Quit trying to "make" her be different. She is entitled to be decide entirely for herself when she will or won't clothe her body, without any judgment from you.
posted by Corvid at 4:52 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am a woman. I am comfortable with my body. I am NOT comfortable walking around naked, not even immediately after sex. I cover myself up with a towel or dress if I'm gonna be walking around in a bathing suit. I dont have any self image issues, I'm just modest and it's part of who I am.

Maybe your girlfriend is comfortable with herself, just not comfortable with the "let it all hang out" feeling?
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:23 PM on May 5, 2011

[be helpful or come back when you feel that you can, please. Don't turn this question into a fight with the other commenters.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:03 AM on May 6, 2011

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