17 May 2019  |

Dear Aunt Sevvy,

Is there ever an appropriate time to express an opinion or talk to your spouse about their appearance? I’m not talking about modesty, but what if your spouse is letting their health or appearance go? Can you say, “This would look better,” or “I wish you would try to …”?

Signed, Loving but Wondering

Dear Wondering:

This is a complex question. Yes, there are appropriate times to have a discussion with your spouse about their appearance. But Aunt Sevvy would stipulate that those times are few, and with very specific parameters.

One time you can discuss their appearance with your spouse is if they specifically ask you. You can be encouraging, remind them that you love them no matter how they look, and support them in any health or appearance goals they might have. Your job in this case is to be loving, reassuring, and supportive of their personal goals.

A second situation where you might tactfully mention your spouse’s appearance is if appearance is getting in the way of career or personal goals. This must be done tactfully, such as a wife suggesting to her husband that he dress up for work if he wants that promotion.

There is only one other situation that Aunt Sevvy can think of when it might be appropriate to mention your spouse’s appearance: if it points to a deeper concern. Are they having some mental health struggles? Are they under a tremendous stress? Here appearance isn’t the problem, but a symptom of a problem that needs to be gently and lovingly addressed, and that is where the focus of the effort should be.

Notice that in none of these three scenarios is the spouse allowed to talk to their partner about their appearance because they are annoyed or disgusted by it. There are already far too many expectations about appearance placed on people—especially women.

As Aunt Sevvy ages she has noticed that the amount of money and time required to meet society’s standards for her appearance has gone up considerably. A spouse should be the one person with whom you are allowed to feel fully embraced and loved for exactly who you are: wrinkles, love handles, stretch marks, jiggly thighs, varicose veins—all of it should be cherished, kissed, loved wholeheartedly and without reservation.

Make your spouse’s body something precious and holy to you. Show them that you love every inch, every fiber of it. You might just see the changes you hope for without having to say anything at all. And if you don’t, it’s worth loving that way anyway.

Though Aunt Sevvy would add that, under certain circumstances, it might be appropriate to request tooth brushing before kissing happens.

If your spouse is letting himself or herself go, it’s possible they are probably more self-conscious and concerned about it than you are. But be very careful what you say: studies show that shame is counterproductive to making positive health changes.


Aunt Sevvy

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You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.

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