Recently I came across a discussion on Facebook that boiled down to this: “How does a woman respond submissively to her husband when he expects her to stay thin during pregnancy and is bothered by her weight gain from 3 kids in 4 years?”
The question then went on to describe his concern that he might fall into lust because he no longer found her attractive. He argued that men are hardwired to find thin and young looking women attractive and cited this article as a source material for his way of thinking.
Now, of course this post rightfully incited a riot. There are several disturbing things going on with this question.
First off, his main concern is not that his wife is a glutton, eating herself to death, and in sin. Even the blog post he cites is mainly addressing gluttony (though it’s focus is a bit off). His main concern is that she is losing her physical appeal to his appetite.
Second, is this really a matter of submission? Is a woman required to keep herself attractive for her husband? Is she required to submit herself to whatever physical standard he deems attractive in the moment?
Third, did he really marry his wife for merely her physical appearance? Is his love dependent on externals?
If he was concerned with her eating habits and not just her baby weight, he may have a case. But he would be wise to approach the subject delicately. The last approach he should consider is the “You’re not attractive” route. Perhaps he should even consider leaving it up to her doctor to discuss it with her. Or offer to cook healthy foods for her (and eat them with her). Or exercise with her. I don’t care how ugly you think your wife is, you don’t have to tell her.
The word “submission” gets thrown around frequently in these sorts of discussions. I don’t believe Biblical submission gives a husband license to ask whatever he pleases of his wife. There are some things, especially appearance wise, that people just can’t change. If this were a question about hair length or body hair or whether or not she wears makeup or certain outfits he has some leeway. But how she gains or loses weight is not something she has much control over.
There is give and take in marriage. There is no Biblical requirement to stay attractive to your spouse. It is definitely a kind thing to do what you can. If you know they have a preference do what you can to meet it. My wife enjoys my beard and hair, and I like to keep her happy, even if sometimes my face itches and my hair gets hot. But I don’t think you’re in sin if you just can’t meet their standards.
Probably the second most disturbing part about all of this is the way these “Christians” are adopting the world’s idea of what is attractive or necessary in a spouse. The Bible warns against putting too much emphasis on physical appearance because youth and “beauty” fade.
Christians should seek to find the inner beauty of their spouse attractive.
But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:4
Inner adornment should be far more important to a husband than his wife’s outward appearance. It’s his job to wash her with the Word and present her without blemish.
Besides, the world has a stupid standard. The average woman will spend most of her life with a post partum body. Why does the world expect women to forever look pre-baby (or in some senses pre-pubescent) when the reality is that most of womanhood is spent with scars from child bearing and age?
I sincerely hope that he married her for more than her looks. A man who concerns himself only with how his wife looks is not loving her, he’s merely lusting over a body or a pretty face. Further still, he’s probably basing his standards of beauty on worldly standards.
The most disturbing part about this question is the fact that he is willing to shift the blame for his sinfulness onto his wife. He is trying to blame his problems with lust on his wife’s appearance. This is nothing new, Adam played the same game when asked about his decision to eat the Forbidden Fruit.
Christians need to stop writing blog posts and books giving men ammo for their blameshifting. His sin is his own, even if his wife is hideous or withholding sex from him, his lust is his sin. She will answer for her sins, be they gluttony or withholding. He doesn’t get to blame her for his sin anymore than she’ll be able to blame him.
I’m glad to see the response to that post was overwhelmingly against this guy’s way of thinking. But the fact that these conversations come up at all is still evidence that we have a long way to go. Stop lusting after women, and stop blaming them.
And please, stop calling your wife fat.