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Sex with Dr. Jess


July 20, 2023

Attraction & Body Image: Communication for Couples

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A pregnant listener wants to know how to deal with hurt feelings; after her partner; interrupted a conversation to check out another woman. Jess and Brandon share their thoughts on how to deal with sensitive issues like body insecurity, affirmations and feelings of un-attractiveness during pregnancy and throughout life’s transitions.

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Rough Transcript:

This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.

Attraction & Body Image: Communication for Couples

Episode 326

[00:00:00] You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and relationship advice. You can use tonight.

[00:00:14] Brandon Ware: Welcome to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast. I’m your cohost Brandon here with my lovely other half, Dr. Jess, and today we are talking about body insecurity and how we respond to our partners when they make requests.

[00:00:27] Brandon Ware: I mean, it sounds like it would be very simple, but

[00:00:30] Jess O’Reilly: there’s always nuance, isn’t there?

[00:00:31] Brandon Ware: Always.

[00:00:32] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah. So we received a question from a woman who says she’s pregnant with her third child. She’s been with her partner for many years, and here’s what she says. I’ve been entrusting him with my physical insecurities during this pregnancy, and I find it hard.

[00:00:47] Jess O’Reilly: to see my body change in this way. So we were at the pool the other day, with our kids, and we were having this face to face conversation with, when suddenly, kind of mid conversation, he checks out this other woman getting out of the pool, in a very obvious way, very much in front of my face, so I’m feeling very hurt from this incident, because I’ve been really open about how I’m feeling about myself, and his attraction towards me, and I don’t really know how to address this.

[00:01:12] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah, why don’t you go?

[00:01:14] Brandon Ware: You want me to start? I mean, okay, maybe he’s a dick. Whoa. Maybe. Well, I mean, maybe it was also, he noticed something. I mean, I feel like in this circumstance, you got to pay attention to your partner and their request. They’re saying, I need this from you. I feel this way. And I feel like perhaps this person didn’t listen.

[00:01:34] Brandon Ware: Isn’t heeding their advice. Yeah. Heeding like, and responding to their request.

[00:01:38] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah. I’m thinking about folks who are going to say like, Oh, well you’re responsible for your feelings, but come on. That’s not the whole picture. Right. Right. I think we also. I know we have to be considerate of other people’s feelings like we’re not responsible for our partner’s feelings entirely that but that doesn’t mean we can’t hurt their feelings you know if you’re mid sentence with me and you stop paying attention not just to check someone out but just period I’m gonna have some [00:02:00] feelings if you stand me up I’m gonna have some feelings if you greet me with a big smile I’m likewise gonna have some feelings in response to you right so we say oh people are responsible for their own feelings but we don’t live in a in a vacuum so um You know, if I’ve already told you that I’m feeling out of touch, I’m feeling uncomfortable with my body, and you’re ogling someone else in an obvious way, I’m probably going to have some feelings.

[00:02:21] Jess O’Reilly: And it’s not necessarily that your ogling is entirely responsible for them, but you are contributing to the way I feel in a negative way. Your behavior is… Partially the catalyst. And so I was talking about a very similar issue the other day with Luna Matadas, so fellow sexologist, who, by the way, teaches brilliant courses on communication and confidence and is so good at seeing, I think, nuance and educating on these issues.

[00:02:42] Jess O’Reilly: So I do recommend people go check out Luna Matadas dot com. She does coaching. She has all these online courses. And the first thing that came up in our conversation, what Luna said, this probably isn’t just about this isolated incident, but maybe more about a general lack of affirmation from your partner, right?

[00:02:59] Jess O’Reilly: So perhaps the lacking is related to sure, you know, it’s appreciation for your body, but it’s also more broad and rooted in, and in wanting and deserving more affirmations in general.

[00:03:09] Brandon Ware: I think I’m glad that you said it. I know I’m going to take heat on this for being like, well, maybe they just noticed and maybe this or that, but I’m envisioning somebody who’s not mid, like you said, mid sentence, not showing their partner, uh, the attention that they deserve in the midst of a conversation.

[00:03:24] Brandon Ware: I’m not saying that you don’t get distracted from other people, but if you and I are having a conversation and then I stopped mid sentence to stare somebody else up and down, I think I’m being disrespectful to you on many different layers.

[00:03:34] Jess O’Reilly: Right. Not because I own you, not because I own your eyes, but because we’re in the middle of a conversation.

[00:03:38] Brandon Ware: Yeah, I know.

[00:03:39] Jess O’Reilly: to really think about that they’ve already shared that they’re feeling uncomfortable. So how might this behavior in this moment affect them? No, they don’t get to control you. They don’t get to tell you what to do, but don’t you want to be kind to your partner? And so if we go back to kind of what Luna said around affirmations, I think For you, maybe you can consider, you know, what affirmations do you want from him?

[00:03:58] Jess O’Reilly: What do you want to [00:04:00] hear so that you feel reassured about how he feels? Or is there another way he can affirm you and show you? And I would hope that if I told my partner this, that they’d want to affirm me, right? And that you do the same for them. So again, I know folks are going to be like, it’s not your partner’s responsibility to validate you.

[00:04:15] Jess O’Reilly: True. It’s not their job to make sure you always feel at ease. It’s not their job to ensure that you feel great about yourself. It’s not their job to make you love your body. Bye. If they love you, if you love someone, don’t you want to be a part of making them feel amazing? I mean, again, you don’t want to be burdened with the responsibility of ensuring they feel great, but if they tell you how you can affirm them, I’d hope you’d want to do it for them.

[00:04:35] Jess O’Reilly: So I, I would think about how can he affirm you and how can you communicate that to him? And I think the flip side is also that you need to be open to affirmations from him. And you may need to be really clear about. What types of affirmations work for you, especially at this time while you’re pregnant?

[00:04:52] Jess O’Reilly: You know, maybe if he says something like, I’m just gonna make something up. Oh, your, your belly is so sexy. Maybe that doesn’t feel right at this moment. So let him know what does feel right. What do you want? Because sometimes when our partner doesn’t give us what we want, we tell them it isn’t working, but we don’t tell them what we need.

[00:05:05] Jess O’Reilly: And we need to be clear about our needs. And also I think you want to affirm yourself and hopefully you have other sources of love and support that lift you up and celebrate you so that you just more generally feel. great about yourself, or at least good about yourself. You know, I was thinking the other morning, I had a really rough morning and I was like, feeling very whiny.

[00:05:23] Jess O’Reilly: So, you know, the usual. And I said to Brandon, I remember, I don’t know if you remember, I was like, I want you to just envelop me like a bear. I want you to be the bear. I want you to tell me it’s going to be okay. I want you to tell me that X, the thing that I was flipping out about at the time in an anticipatory way.

[00:05:38] Jess O’Reilly: I want you to tell me that if X happens, you’ll be there for me. And I know that you would be, but I needed to hear it. I needed that bear hug. And I had to be very specific about my needs because they were different that morning than what they usually are. And, and this. Person’s case during pregnancy or needs might be really different.

[00:05:54] Jess O’Reilly: So let him know.

[00:05:55] Brandon Ware: I’m also thinking about based on the tone of this question, how this person, how this man, [00:06:00] this guy responded when his partner called him out on it. I don’t know if she, I don’t know if she did, because I’m wondering if he went on the defensive, if he kind of flipped it around, if there was anything else where it was like, What do you mean I wasn’t doing that or, you know, making them feel like gaslighting them or doing something to just make them feel even worse rather than, you know, sitting in it, because I’ve been guilty of this for sure, where I go on the defensive and I do all these things to kind of justify my position rather than sitting in it for a second, taking a beat and accepting responsibility and apologizing.

[00:06:30] Brandon Ware: And then say, you know what? I apologize for having had done that. Let’s, you know, let’s fix it. Let’s move forward.

[00:06:35] Jess O’Reilly: Mm hmm. And I think, you know, when we think about pregnancy, there’s a really important piece in terms of identity and life transitions here. During pregnancy, your body becomes a lot of things.

[00:06:44] Jess O’Reilly: And of course, it’s different for everyone. But many feel that, you know, the body is no longer their own. Your body is responsible for the life of… Another, your body is poked and prodded, oftentimes with a gratuitous lack of consideration. Your body is shape shifting. The basic things that you used to do, from sitting, to sleeping, to playing sports, to walking, to peeing, change really drastically.

[00:07:04] Jess O’Reilly: People start to ask personal questions about your body, and may feel entitled to cross lines that they didn’t before. And sometimes, partners act differently toward your body. They can be afraid to touch you, or they don’t want to do the same sexually, because They think they might hurt you or they think that you don’t want it.

[00:07:19] Jess O’Reilly: So that’s a really important conversation because you brought up attraction. Does he know what you like and is it different when you’re pregnant? And of course it can change from day to day, from month to month. So basically it’s not uncommon to feel many ways about your body during pregnancy. And this can really affect how you experience desire and affection and touch and pleasure.

[00:07:37] Jess O’Reilly: and connection and more. So I think that’s probably an important conversation. If you’re feeling like he’s not attracted to you, you said something in there about attraction. Why is that? Right? What are you picking up on? You know, what is he putting out there? And you know, there is this piece that it’s natural for people to notice and be attracted to other people.

[00:07:53] Jess O’Reilly: You know, I say this all the time, being committed to someone, loving them, being monogamous doesn’t mean that you won’t. Notice other people [00:08:00] and it doesn’t mean that you won’t be attracted to others or fantasize about others, but you can do all those things and Affirm and honor and respect your partner You can do all those things and be mindful of how they’re feeling in the moment, right again during pregnancy and other life transitions Stress around your body shame around your body disconnection from your body can heighten all sorts of feelings including body insecurity And I would hope that if you’ve told your partner that you’re feeling this way, they’d be motivated to First and foremost, not further feed that insecurity and then do the opposite to uplift you.

[00:08:33] Jess O’Reilly: I’d want to show, you know, if it was me, I’d want to show extra appreciation for you. Not just for your body, but your entire self, your body. Yes, but also your mind, your spirit and your soul, because body image is about self esteem and overall self worth, right? It’s not just about your body.

[00:08:48] Brandon Ware: Those two things really stuck out where you just said mindfulness and respect, right?

[00:08:51] Brandon Ware: Like offering those to your partner and, you know, trying to move forward from. This snafu, this mistake, it’s doable.

[00:08:58] Jess O’Reilly: Oh, of course. Of course. And again, if you’re feeling insecure about his attraction to you, I think you can start by thinking about really what makes you feel as though he’s attracted to you.

[00:09:06] Jess O’Reilly: Like what are the signs to you? What is it you need to hear? What is it you need to see? And I think, you know, it also makes me think when I talk about pregnancy and life transitions, I think about aging more generally and the double standard that tends to exist when it comes to gender and aging. Like I can’t tell you how many people.

[00:09:23] Jess O’Reilly: We’ll say things like, oh, women age like milk and men age like wine and I, I look at you and I’m like, yeah, you’re just getting better and better looking and I’m not, I’m not, you know,

[00:09:30] Brandon Ware: Maybe your eyesight’s getting worse, worse and worse.

[00:09:33] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah.

[00:09:33] Brandon Ware: I mean, I like where this is going, but yeah.

[00:09:35] Jess O’Reilly: And I’m not trying to like, you know, poo poo myself or anything like that, but it is different and I think we have to just be thoughtful about how our partners are feeling like I think about pregnancy, I think about postpartum, I think about paramenopause, I think about menopause and it isn’t just about the way we look, it’s about the way our bodies can change so drastically.

[00:09:55] Brandon Ware: Yeah, there’s a lot, a lot to unpack there as opposed to this quickie episode that we’re trying to [00:10:00] record.

[00:10:00] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah. So I hope I really, I hope you’re able to start the conversation with him about how he can affirm you. And I hope you find more ways to affirm yourself in your daily routine. And I hope you can also talk to him specifically about how you felt in the pool the other day.

[00:10:13] Jess O’Reilly: I hope you can say, you know, as you know, I mentioned I’m really struggling with how I’m feeling. And when we were mid conversation, you kind of stopped to look at that other woman. It hit me in a certain way. And perhaps you can ask him how he perceived the situation and let him know. what you’re doing to feel better, but also, again, what you’d like from him.

[00:10:29] Jess O’Reilly: Not only moving forward, but also let him know what you’re hoping to get out of the conversation regarding the pool incident. Like what I really know, I think it can be really helpful to kind of figure out, well, how do you want to feel? Right? How are you hoping to feel? How can you make yourself feel that way?

[00:10:40] Jess O’Reilly: And how can your partner also help you to feel that way? And I think it’s a good reminder, you know, insecurity is universal. No one is always secure. It’s not a static state of being, but it’s an experience that ebbs and flows and the way we feel about ourselves, you know, our bodies shift day to day and even minute to minute.

[00:10:56] Jess O’Reilly: So the fact that you’re acknowledging what you’re feeling during this pregnancy, I think is a, a really good start. And maybe you just need to have a few more conversations. And then, you know, just on your own, I also want to mention, there’s a lot here. It might be worth exploring why you’re feeling this way about your body and the way it’s changing.

[00:11:12] Jess O’Reilly: What is the source? Where’s the shame coming from? Where’s the pressure coming from? How can you alleviate some of it, right? What beliefs can you embrace that maybe might make you feel a little bit differently about? the magic of birthing a human being, you know, do you want to be more neutral toward your body?

[00:11:25] Jess O’Reilly: Do you want to be more positive? Do you want to reaffirm the fact that you’re the same person deserving of love and respect regardless of what your body looks like, right? Do you want to take some time to appreciate your body for bringing life into this world, for anything else it does for you, perhaps for the pleasure you can derive from it?

[00:11:40] Jess O’Reilly: Can you go enjoy pleasure in your body? Can you indulge in joy? So I’m going to leave you with that and encourage you to just seek joy today. And I hope everybody does go find a little bit of joy and pleasure in love and life and in the bedroom. And if you have some thoughts on this, because I don’t, obviously I don’t have all the answers.

[00:11:59] Jess O’Reilly: It’s [00:12:00] very nuanced. It’s not that one person is bad and the other is good. I think it’s just about figuring out how can I be considerate of my partner’s feelings? How can I be clear about how my partner can give me what it is? I need and how can we keep that conversation ongoing because this is absolutely not a one shot deal.

[00:12:16] Jess O’Reilly: If you’d had this conversation five months ago, five years ago, five years from now, it’s always going to look different. So we have to keep talking. Absolutely. All right. Thank you so much. Thank you for sending in the question. I know it’s not always easy. I know sometimes. People send these questions when they’re feeling kind of desperate, and I wish there were more spaces where we could have these conversations, like talk to our friends about it.

[00:12:36] Jess O’Reilly: Because I do find when I talk to regular folks who aren’t in the field, just hearing the different diverse perspectives is a huge learning experience for me. Um, I don’t think that experts have the answers. I think it’s going to be different for every person. And I’ll remind you that we are still running our sale this week on our video courses.

[00:12:54] Jess O’Reilly: We’ve got a mindful sex course that’s really cool and as well as a last longer in bed course and mind blowing oral happiercouples. com code is podcast and it’s to save 25%. I’m looking at Brandon. He’s like mouthing at me. You know you have a mic. You can just say it.

[00:13:07] Brandon Ware: I didn’t 25% code podcast

[00:13:11] Jess O’Reilly: happiercouples. com code podcast folks wherever you’re at. I hope you have a great one and I hope you get to embrace so much joy.

[00:13:19] Jess O’Reilly: You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your life.