I’m 24 and have had a relationship problem since I was 13: I find it offensive and hurtful when my boyfriend looks at other women, watches movies or even when he goes to his parents’ house where he works in his dad’s shop that has calendar girls. I get angry at him and want to break up with him when he sees a stripper in a movie or a naked woman. It’s so painful because those people in movies and on the calendars are perfect and I can’t even come close to looking like that. When I asked my boyfriend if he thought they were better looking than me, he said yes and ever since then, I think about it.
I don’t know what to do with myself or how to fix this. Everything my boyfriend needs he can get from movies these days; I’m useless to him. How am I supposed to compete with good-looking women who get hours of work done on them before a photo shoot? Or a woman who seductively dances well? I can’t do anything sexy. I have tried losing weight and working out which put me at an unhealthy 100 pounds and it seemed like he thought I was more attractive by how he acted. I gained back 10 pounds and stopped working out because I got really sick and didn’t have the energy to stay tiny anymore. I lost my breasts with the weight loss and it made me feel even worse that he was watching movies with busty women. I can’t win. When I’m with him, I find myself always thinking about how I look, if he thinks someone else is better looking, or if a certain position makes me look okay. Every time we cuddle I suck my stomach in so it feels and looks small. I am obsessing about how I look and how other people look but can’t seem to stop. I need help.
I know you will probably say be yourself to be happy, but how to people know who they are? How can people be okay with their partners looking at other women? It’s like cheating to me. I mean, people on TV are being sexy to entice the people watching. Where are the limits? That kind of thing is meant for the bedroom between two lovers. How is it right that my boyfriend is being turned on by another woman and then has to sleep with me after seeing perfect people do things I am not capable of? I just feel so lost. What are some ways to boost my self-esteem? — Not a Calendar Girl
I’m so glad you added your final sentence which implies that you know the problem here is entirely yours and not something your boyfriend is doing wrong — although, I do find it odd that he told you he thought the women in movies are prettier than you, but I suspect such a statement may have come after endless and accusatory questioning on your part so that your exasperated boyfriend finally threw up his arms and surrendered, offering whatever answer he thought might pacify you for the time being. But I could be wrong. If I’m wrong, and your boyfriend thoughtlessly feeds your insecurity, you may want to consider whether you’re with the right person.
But back to your insecurity, which is the driving force behind your unhappiness. If you’re insecure because you think some girl on a calendar or some woman in a movie can offer your boyfriend something you can’t, you’re crazy. You offer him something way, WAY better than they ever could: a third dimension. You’re REAL; those woman are merely images. They can’t do anything for your boyfriend besides provide a momentary diversion. They can’t touch him. They can’t kiss him. They can lie next to him in bed on a Sunday morning. They can’t smile at him with a slight overbite that makes his heart go all aflutter every time he sees it. They can’t sit with him when he gets bad news, or celebrate with him when he hears good news. They can’t go to baseball games with him or bake him a birthday cake or hold his hand in a movie theater like a lovestruck teenager. They can’t remind him to get a birthday card for his grandmother or play him at Scrabble or tell him he needs a haircut. And if you’re worried that they can turn him on in ways you can’t, then lady, it’s time to get in touch with your sensuality because that’s something that every woman, no matter what she looks like or where she’s from, has and can use with amazing results if she knows how.
So, how do you get in touch with your sensuality? Lots of ways! For me, relaxing in a hot bubble bath works. Maybe yoga works for others. Or satin sheets, or wearing sexy underwear or baking a chocolate soufflé. Maybe it’s learning to give a kick-ass back rub, or making a dirty martini, or wearing stiletto heels. You know what I would recommend to you? Belly dancing classes. Since you seem to think only skinny women with perfect calendar girl figures can turn a man on, it would behoove you to surround yourself with women who will not only prove you wrong, they’ll inspire you to use exactly what you have to express your sensuality.
Finally, whether you ever gain the self-esteem you need to maintain a healthy relationship, you need to understand that watching a movie or looking at a calendar (which, by the way: hello, 1987), or simply living among beautiful people does not constitute cheating. You may feel like you can’t measure up, which is something I hope you’ll work on with the help of therapist and some of my suggestions, but in the meantime, know that if you continue to suggest to your boyfriend that he is somehow wronging you by watching a movie, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot. Giving the guy a break will be step one in turning him on.