“Dave, a guy at Walmart hit on me today. Who on Earth would find this attractive? A stupid person, I guess.”
“Lyndse, you just called me stupid. I obviously find you attractive. I chose to spend every day of my life with you. I chose you over becoming a scholar with a gigantic library and a fireplace. I chose you over traveling the world. I chose you knowing you’d gain weight when we had babies. Every time you insult yourself, you insult me. Because I chose you.”
It was a turning point in our marriage. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t grasp how beautiful he saw me.
Later on, when the repressed memories of my abuse resurfaced, it started to make sense. It was textbook stuff at that point. After decades of abuse, any positive self-image had been altered. Destroyed.
As I progressed on my journey of healing, I was able to start seeing what Dave saw. What he had chosen. When he would compliment me, I would thank him.
In the early years of our marriage, I would pair a thank you with a but.
“Lyndse, you look gorgeous today.”
“Thanks, but I’ve gained so much weight.”
“Sweetie, your hair is beautiful today!”
“Thanks, but I look so tired. My face looks horrible.”
“Lyndse, your outfit looks so great on you.”
“Thanks, but these pants are a size bigger than I was wearing last month.”
The irony: my love language is words of affirmation. I craved those compliments from Dave, even when I couldn’t receive them. It was frustrating for both of us.
In the last three years, so many things have changed for us. When he tells me I’m gorgeous, I say thanks and kiss him. When he tousles my hair and calls it cute, I thank him and smack his butt. When he comments on my outfit, I pair a “Thank you!” with a little spin.
I don’t look much different, honestly. My weight has fluctuated about 75 pounds in our 10 years of marriage. Up and down. I’ve had seasons of amazing haircuts and seasons of us not being able to afford haircuts. My wardrobe has definitely improved, but I’ve always had stuff in my closet that worked. I just went from a few things to having an entire wardrobe that works for me.
What’s changed is my heart.
I’m still changing. My heart is healing. I’m still learning to capture all the negative thoughts about myself and replace them with truth. But it’s happening more and more each day.
I’m blessed that I’m married to a man who didn’t give up. On our wedding day, he told me, “You are so unbelievably sexy.” And I answered, “Thanks, but I gained 10 pounds last month.” But Dave never gave up. He never stopped trying to tell me the truth, when I couldn’t tell myself.
After 13 1/2 years together, I see the same look in his eyes that he had when I was a size 0, well-rested, with zero stretchmarks, and perfect hair/nails/clothes. Scratch that. The look is different. It’s more. His eyes then were filled with wonder and new love and curiosity. Young and waiting for a wedding night.
Now, he looks at me like a man who has climbed peaks and gone through valleys. A man who gave up dreams for new ones. A man who finds me irresistible, with stretchmarks and jiggle and dark circles under my eyes. Thousands of nights together.
We’ve lived life. A life that’s unique to us. We’re the only two people on this planet who know what it was like to see Graham for the first time. The only ones who know what it’s like to parent Adelaide. The only ones who know the exact pitch of Bess’ voice. The only ones who know the specific hurt of burying Laurence and Flannery. And the specific joy of seeing Lewis inside my uterus, when we all feared he wasn’t.
I still have such a long way to go, but each sunrise gets me closer to my goal of seeing myself the way my husband sees me. The way I see him. When I tell Dave, “You look hot today!” He smiles and thanks me. And gives me a kiss. And that’s the way it should be. Two healthy people loving one another. Growing older and wiser and getting wrinkles and buying jeans that fit without caring about the size on the tag.