I collapsed into a chair in the corner of the room at my father-in-law’s 70th birthday party trying to melt into the wall behind me as the Marilyn Monroe-esque bartender paraded back and forth carrying trays of drinks.
My husband was catching up with a cousin and my daughter was running around laughing and dancing and high-fiving everyone in sight. But instead of being in the moment and enjoying myself, I was slowly bubbling with anger and contempt for my other half.
The cause of my rage was clear—it was the pessimist and the over-thinker in me joining forces to create misery where misery doesn’t exist. Those two assholes do this quite often.
My eyes shot daggers at my poor husband, who, aside from occasionally glancing in the approximate direction of the curvaceous blonde—perhaps to keep an eye on our daughter who happened to be in the same vicinity, or to wave to a nearby relative—wasn’t really doing anything wrong. Yet, as I sat there with my unstyled hair sprouting tufts of grey and covering up my unshaven legs with an old pair of jeans, fully aware that it’d been far too long since we’d had the time or energy for any intimacy—I convinced myself that he was jumping at any opportunity to look her way and engaging in fantasies about this girl who still had the time to apply false lashes and the body for a skin-tight dress that ended just below her rear, where sheer black stockings began.
Listen. There are plenty of women in this world who can share a room with a beautiful, vivacious, younger woman and maintain unwavering confidence without batting a mascara-free eyelash.
I am not one of them.
But it’s not for lack of trust in my husband. It’s not because he doesn’t show me affection or compliment me or has ever given me any reason to doubt his attraction to me.
It’s because of something lacking within myself.
I used to have a lot of confidence. I never used to compare myself to others, especially not physically, and I’m still not entirely sure where that all went down the tubes.
It could have been with rise of the positive body image movement—which ironically had an adverse effect on athletically built girls like me by constantly touting messages like curvy girls are better than skinny girls and men prefer curves.
It could have been the subtle comments about my body and other women’s bodies from my own mom—even if complimentary—inadvertently making me feel like there was some standard I should maintain.
Or it could just be a normal insecurity that impedes many married, new moms who put the needs of another before their own and haven’t had time for self-care. It’s hard to feel attractive or want to steal away for an afternoon quickie with your partner when you’re embarrassed by how ungroomed your bikini line is. Though hubby may not care, it certainly doesn’t make for that “I feel sexy” mood.
But the most likely culprit of all the possibilities is I feared that, somewhere amidst the whirlwind that is the first year of parenting, I lost sight of how to be a wife and what my husband needed from me beyond anything physical, causing me to question his satisfaction. My not-so-subtle critiquing. The frequent snapping and nagging over silly, unimportant things. Was I asking him how his day was? Was I letting him know how much I appreciate him and respect him for all that he does for our family. He deserved to be treated like the Superman I always claimed he was.
Yes, marriage is a commitment, but one that many people back out of if they feel they’re being taken for granted. He chose me to share his life with over any woman in this world; body, mind, and soul; and the young woman strutting around before my eyes was my reality check that everyone has options, a fog-horn sounding off in my ear with the question does he wish he’d chosen differently? I’m convinced that my fear of a potential physical attraction was just a shallow front for a deeper-seeded issue of self-doubt that reached far beyond my opinion about my body or appearance.
I managed to pull myself back to a logical place before senselessly banishing my man to the couch for the night, and logic opened the door for some gratitude.
Gratitude for my baby girl whose mere existence provides me with far greater reward than any beauty routine or fancy new outfit possibly could. For the fact that I love my husband so much that the fear of ever losing him sparks temporary bouts of insanity. For the memories of my pre-wife, pre-baby days where I felt ceaselessly self-assured, but even more thankful that I now have much deeper substance in my life to which I can turn my attention.
I’m not sure how to fully resolve my own issue with confidence and insecurity. Maybe it’s a constant effort to work on myself and my own marriage that will help me to feel increasingly fearless against my own made-up competition, and non-stop communication with my partner, my best friend, about my thoughts and fears.
I am sure though, that glaring laser beams of disapproval in his direction and manufacturing scandalous scenarios is only going to launch us further from where we want to be. And I wouldn’t trade shoes (not even my flat-soled boots for her 5″ pumps) with the scantily-dressed bartender for the world.