How Bad Body Image Interferes With Intimacy

By Linda DiBella for

Intimacy. In a romantic relationship, it is a sacred bond that requires openness and vulnerability. It requires the courage to express the deepest parts of yourself, knowing that you can truly trust the other person. However, it’s nearly impossible to cultivate intimacy to its fullest extent when one or both partners hold back because of a lack of trust, fear of vulnerability or the inability to reveal their true selves.

While we can all look back on our lives and identify situations that either tested our ability to trust, convinced us that it’s dangerous to be vulnerable, or caused us to question our self-worth, a poor body image will almost certainly propagate these feelings, affecting intimacy on at least two levels:

More from YourTango: 7 Sex Positions Men Love

Physical intimacy. Imagine this scene: A man and a woman are kissing and their hands begin to undress one another. The man is barely thinking because he’s so excited and grateful to be in the presence of such a beautiful woman. The woman, on the other hand, is thinking, I wish we could turn off the lights because I don’t want him to see my dimply thighs.

With each article of clothing that drops to the floor, the woman’s feelings of sensuality diminish and her body becomes more rigid. As a result, what could develop into a deeply natural and beautiful sexual experience is blunted by an emotional wall she puts up. Meanwhile, picking up on her subtle cues, he wonders if he did something wrong.

Emotional intimacy. While you would think that despising your thighs would motivate you to do something about them, ironically, it does just the opposite. If you suffer from poor body image, you’re more likely to overeat and engage in other unhealthy habits to comfort and/or punish yourself, creating a vicious cycle of weight gain and self-loathing.

More from YourTango: The Best Sex & Orgasm Advice On YourTango

So how does this stifle intimacy at the emotional level? According to Geneen Roth (author of When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair), “Every time you sneak food, you give yourself the message that you cannot be seen … [and it] translates into sneaking your desires, sneaking your hungers, and sneaking your heart,” because you feel you don’t deserve love.

And of course, if you share your negativity towards yourself with your partner, he/she may try his/her best to convince you otherwise, which can make things worse. For example, in the book For Keeps: Women Tell the Truth About Their Bodies, Growing Older, and Acceptance, author Sara Nelson tells the story of how on numerous occasions, her boyfriend lovingly referred to her as curvy, round, sexy, generous, lush or Rubenesque. “That’s how many times I wanted to kill him,” she explained, because she couldn’t accept her body and the last thing she wanted to hear was that he did.

If your body image is getting in the way of intimacy in your relationship, remember that you are not only your body. You are a combination of heart, soul, feelings and emotions that represent the true meaning of beauty, far more than your waist size. The more you appreciate these qualities, the more likely you’ll feel compassion for yourself. And as you soften up to you, you’ll open the doors to a deeper level of intimacy that may just eventually have you feeling grateful for every inch.

More from YourTango: Oral Sex: Tips & Advice

This article originally appeared on How Bad Body Image Affects Intimacy.


Elisa Faulkner- Uriarte
Elisa F4 years ago

Thank you...I can relate.

Helen Wu
Helen Wu4 years ago


Latoya Brookins
Latoya Brookins5 years ago

Colleen P, did you know that Sarah Michelle Gellar has scoliosis and that is one of the reasons she relied so heavily on stunt doubles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Kate S.
Kate S5 years ago


Ewelina Grobelna
Ewelina Grobelna5 years ago

funny how all this advice wherever its posted is always accompanied by picturres of actually fit and attractive looking ppl.....hard to accept that you're naturally more curvy (which is not fat just not stick thin) when all you see is nice and slim....

Justin M.
Justin M5 years ago


Cat S.
cathie S5 years ago


Arild Warud

Is this news???

Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolsey5 years ago

Something for the image-conscious amongst us...

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson5 years ago

Be comfortable with who you are and accept yourself as you are, even as you work to change the things that you can.