Nearly all mums struggle with their post-baby body. We worry about how it will change. We worry about whether it will go back. We’re pressured to lose the weight quickly. We see photos of ‘insta’ perfect mum-bods that bear no resemblance to our own. We have a deep rooted fear that it’s not good enough anymore. Not for our friends. Not for our family. And perhaps most importantly, not for our partners. If you are lucky, your partner will reassure you and tell you that he loves your body as much as he ever did. But if you’re unlucky, your partner might tell you that he doesn’t see you the same way or make hurtful comments about weight loss or toning up. If that’s you then here’s what you need to think about if your partner criticises your post-baby body.
It says more about him than about you
This is so important for you to understand – his comments say more about him than they do about you. They are telling you his values and beliefs. They are not evidence you that you aren’t good enough. You are absolutely good enough. If he’s critical of the way you look after a baby then that’s showing you the type of person that he is. It’s not a reflection of how you look or how your body is after a baby.
Are you hearing what you expect to hear?
If your partner has told you “you’re fat, ugly and disgusting” then that’s pretty clear (and he should be hit round the head with a frying pan…). Often though, we hear things as critical when they actually aren’t (you can read my experience of this in this post on How my husband really hurt me with popcorn). This is because we project our own fears, anxieties and beliefs onto what people say. An example could be your partner saying “Are you going to eat that?”. You might hear that as “Are you going to eat that because you’ll get fatter if you do…”. Whereas he might just have meant “Are you going to eat that because if not I’ll have it…”. It can help to be a little mindful of what you ‘hear’ and to double check if it was actually intended as a criticism. And if in doubt, ask him.
His views are probably not his own
We aren’t born with opinions or beliefs. We pick those up along the way. So your partner’s views on your body will have come from influences outside of him. Think about how his mother might feel about her own body. Was she always dieting? Did she judge women who were overweight? What about his dad/siblings? Friends? The Media? What beliefs might they have taught him about how women should look? If you can see where these influences are coming from think about whether or not you can challenge them. Sometimes all we need is a gentle nudge in the direction of an alternative viewpoint for us to see things differently.
Think about why you need his approval
Nothing hurts as much as the criticisms of those closest to you. We all want the approval of others and it can be painful when we don’t get it. But here’s the thing; we want it but we don’t have to need it. If we build our own internal confidence and strength then other people’s views won’t matter to us. So think about what it means to you that he is negative about your body. Why is it important to you that he tells you that he loves the way you look? If it’s because you struggle with low self esteem and need that external validation, what can you do to change this so you don’t need it as much? Hint – you can start by signing up for my free 5 day learn to love your post-baby body challenge!
Think about how important it is to your relationship
As I’ve said above, a partner who criticises your body is showing you who they really are rather than who you really are. But that can be hard to see and often, living with someone who is critical will be extremely draining. If having a supportive partner who reassures you is important to you then you need to talk to your partner about his behaviour. Sometimes people aren’t even aware that they are being critical. And often if you tell someone they are hurting you they will make an effort to change. Talk to your partner and make him aware that his comments are upsetting you. Tell him what you would like to hear instead and hopefully he will start to give you the reassurance that you would like.
What you allow is what will continue
Time for some tough love. This sentence was one that was said to me by my life coach about 5 years ago. It has stuck with me since then and has helped me to find the strength to stand up for myself in my relationships where I couldn’t before. If someone is behaving badly towards you then keeping quiet about it gives them permission to carry on. It’s not easy but you have to stand up for yourself and say when someone’s behaviour is unacceptable. They won’t like hearing it but that’s not your problem.
It’s OK to set boundaries and to ask to be treated well. It’s also OK to explain consequences of something carrying on. If you feel that you can’t stay in a relationship with someone who criticises you then say so. You are allowed to be honest about how you are feeling and if that gets shut down by your partner then that is a clear red flag that your wellbeing is not important to them.
The bottom line if your partner criticises your post-baby body…
This is a hard subject to give a balanced view on. On the face of it, someone who criticises you for how you look should be removed from your life but it’s never that easy. Especially when kids are involved. My honest opinion on this is that there is no excuse for nasty, hurtful or critical comments about someone’s appearance. If someone does it they should be pulled up on it and if it carries on, that’s your cue to leave. BUT… you need to make sure that this isn’t something that can change first.
No one really wants to upset or hurt their partner (and if they do then again, big red flag!) but we can fall into damaging patterns of behaving that mean we forget to consider how we might be making someone feel. The most important step to resolving this issue is to talk to your partner and tell him that his criticisms need to stop. Be honest about how much he is hurting you and be specific about what you need from him instead. Hopefully this will be all you need to do to start getting the reassurances you need and to feel supported by your partner instead of criticised.