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I Feel Like I Care About My Spouse’s Appearance Too Much, How Can I Stop This?
We often really want to believe that we love our spouse for who they are. We love their personality, their integrity or the way they make us laugh. But if we’re being honest, most of us would have to admit that one of the first things that attracted us to our spouse was the way they look. Of course, most of us don’t insist on someone looking like a model or movie star. But very few people end up marrying someone they don’t find attractive. Your spouse may not look like the person you imagined when you were much younger (mine doesn’t, anyway), but most of us come to love the way our spouse looks. So what happens when that appearance changes? And should you feel guilty if this matters to you?
A wife might sheepishly explain, “I feel like such a shallow fool. But lately I’ve been very bothered by my husband’s appearance. And none of it is his fault. He’s had to go on medication because of a medical condition. And this has caused him to gain weight. And it gives him a puffy appearance. The great irony of this is that I’m not much of a beauty myself. I used to be very insecure because I thought , that people always thought we didn’t match. My husband was so handsome and I was just average looking. Because of this, I felt like I had this huge catch. I felt so lucky. And now my husband not the handsome man anymore. Don’t get me wrong. He’s not ugly or unattractive. In fact, we’re probably a lot more equal now, which you’d think would make me more comfortable. But no, I worry about it. I find myself shopping for clothes that will make my husband look more attractive When I went v him some of these clothes, he asked if there was something wrong with his old clothes, and he seemed hurt. The thing is, I’m not usually someone who cares that much about looks. I am certainly not concerned with my own. And a person’s personality and integrity is usually much more important to me. I am so disappointed in myself for being so shallow. Why is his appearance so important to me? And how can I stop this?”
I think you are a little too hard on yourself. I actually get a lot of correspondence from people who are considering separation or divorce simply because they are no longer attracted to their spouse. You don’t even come close. You just feel a change. And even if you are bothered by it, you don’t seem motivated to act on it.
It is human nature to be drawn to things (and people) that we find attractive. So when that attraction wanes or changes, it’s natural to wonder what it means for our marriage. It’s also just a fact that none of us are going to look like we did when our spouse first met us. Everyone ages. Each one changes. Some of us age better than others. But we hope our spouse sees what’s inside us beyond what’s on the outside.
I can only tell you my opinion. My stance on this has always been that it’s fine to expect your spouse to make an effort. I think we should all present our best selves to the world. I work out to stay in shape and I take care of my appearance as best I can based on what is realistic for what I have to work with. I hope my spouse would do the same. At the same time, I will never look like Angelina Jolie. I’m a woman of a certain age and it’s unrealistic to expect me to look anything but that. I draw the line at injecting things into my face and having unrealistic expectations. There are things you just can’t resist. And I think, at least for me, that’s really the difference. If there are things about their appearance that your spouse can’t help – then there’s really no good that can come from trying to change that or hold that unfortunate fact against them.
A change in appearance due to medication is quite different from a change due to a love of donuts or an aversion to exercise. I think it’s fine to do the best you can with what you have – and that’s probably why you turned to new clothes.
As for why this means so much to you, I think part of it is the perception that you got the better end of the deal because you saw your husband as so handsome while you felt that you were more average. (You may have sold yourself short.) And you may also think that his appearance is a reflection of you and your own worth. But you probably know that for most people, attraction typically changes over time. Physical attraction is only part of it. You are drawn to the person inside – who you know better than anyone else. You appreciate your history and how much you’ve been through together. You appreciate the support and understanding your spouse has given you.
To me, these things are much more important than what you see on the outside. You already know that this or that change would not bother and confuse you so much. Perhaps as your husband gets more used to the medication, the changes will subside. But in the meantime, I think it will help if you put your focus on the inside, on the support, and on the things that haven’t changed—maybe his smile, his hands, his broad shoulders. I suppose not everything has changed. And I suspect it will get better too. This is new. And an illness causes stress. There’s nothing wrong with trying to maximize what you have to work with, but at the same time you don’t want to hurt your husband – who is already going through a trying time. It’s better to know that you are a loving, united couple than a couple that looks good but doesn’t have that connection.
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