When you’re in a relationship, your significant other sees every part of you: the good, the bad, and the vulnerable. That’s why having hard conversations is a fact of coupled life; when you share your fears and insecurities with your other half, your intimacy grows. These conversations are sometimes easier said than done, especially when talking about something as personal as body confidence. Dr. Rebekah Montgomery, a clinical psychologist based in Boston, has some insight on how body confidence can positively or negatively affect your relationship.
Factors that affect body confidence
Body confidence can feel like a vague term — and it can be a good or a bad thing depending on how much of it you have. According to Dr. Montgomery, there are four main factors that affect your body confidence:
1. Age: Your feelings about your bod can change as you go through different life stages. For example, the way you feel about yourself while in puberty is different than when you’re pregnant.
2. Physical Activity: Even if your body looks the same, Dr. Montgomery says that we might feel more confident when we’re regularly engaging in some form of physical activity.
3. Health: “Injury or feeling sick can definitely impact how confident we are feeling in our body,” Dr. Montgomery explains.
4. Peers: The people we surround ourselves with play a role in our body confidence both directly and indirectly. For example, Dr. Montgomery says that research shows that a significant influence on a young girl’s body image is her own mother’s body image. That is, the more body-positive a mother is, the more body-positive her daughter will be.
Since there’s so much that goes into the way you feel about your body, these factors (and their results) can affect your relationship as well. “Insecurity can make you feel less into having sex or less free/comfortable,” Dr. Montgomery says. “Lower confidence and esteem can also spread to insecurity in other parts of a relationship, like feeling unsure of someone’s love, feeling jealous of other women, or needing lots of reassurance.”
Why it’s important to talk about body confidence
Dr. Montgomery says that these feelings could potentially lead you to withdraw from your relationship. If you’re feeling like your insecurity might affect your connection with your S.O., Dr. Montgomery suggests opening up a dialogue about it. “Sometimes, when we speak up about something, it can lose some of its power,” she says. “It can allow us to feel less alone when we hear our partner’s perspective.” A healthy partner will reaffirm how attracted they are to you, and some partners might even share their own struggles, which can create a feeling of closeness between you two.
There are a couple of things you can do to make this conversation a successful one. First, Dr. Montgomery recommends giving your partner a heads up that you’re bringing up a vulnerable topic; you might even help them understand what you’re looking to get out of the exchange (encouragement, solidarity, etc.). Additionally, feel free to invite your partner to talk about his or her own experience with body confidence.
“This might help you realize firsthand that you don’t boil your partner down to physical features of their body — and they certainly don’t do that to you,” Dr. Montgomery says. “We all have aspects of our body we struggle to accept, and that has nothing to do with how lovable we are or how good of a partner we can be.”
How do you bring up hard conversations with your S.O.? Let us know @BritandCo!
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