Does an attractive partner impact your self-esteem?

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By Sabrina Almeida

Does it bother you that your partner or husband is more attractive than you? Of course it does! As humans, most of us are conscious about our physical attractiveness. Women more than men, perhaps!

And even if you aren’t, society often points it out.

Where did he find her? Oh! look at him and look at her? He could have done better? These comments are common, suggesting that we are likely to judge the book by the cover.

I can now look back and laugh at a comparison of me and my husband more than 30 years ago when we were dating, but it was hard to stomach at that time.

Not surprising then are recent findings that women in such situations are at a high risk of developing eating disorders. Published in the journal Body Image, the study offers interesting insights about relationships in which a woman fears she will fall short of her partner’s expectations. It found that women who were evaluated as less attractive were more motivated to diet and be thin if their husbands or partners were more attractive than them. It hoped that identifying at-risk women would lead to early intervention and prevent issues like depression, anxiety, substance abuse and dissatisfaction with life.

Why are women more vulnerable than men? Blame it on our conditioning! Traditional South Asian grooming, for instance, implies women must make themselves attractive firstly to get a good partner and then to prevent him from straying.

A friend whose marriage ended because of her husband’s extra marital activities was admonished by her sister who felt she should have “dolled up” a bit. Other friends gave her similar advice.

Needless to say, the man carried a chip on his shoulder for most of their 20-something years together. He felt he looked younger and better than his wife. Before his infidelity was discovered, there was a period where the wife attempted “to dress up for her husband”. However, it resulted in him telling her that she could never change her face.

We are constantly bombarded by images of the perfect woman. Just ask teenage girls struggling to look like Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.

A more attractive partner adds to the pressure.

A woman may not intentionally seek a ‘trophy’ husband or partner, nonetheless she must do whatever it takes to the keep the prize.

The study team looked at 113 newlywed American couples married less than four months and with an average age in the late 20s. I am inclined to think that the longer the relationship, the more the pressure. That and ethnic background!

South Asian women might find themselves at an even bigger disadvantage, given the bias towards fairer skin. As one South Asian man pointed out, “white women are so much easier on the eye.

The unhealthy South Asian diet and philosophy that you cease to exist when you have children makes it even more difficult to maintain a healthy weight or care about their appearance.

I’ve heard many South Asian men complain about their out-of-shape wives. Never mind that they were pot-bellied themselves.

One woman whose husband left her for a younger woman lamented about how her plus-size figure might have been part of the problem.

There is no doubt that woman’s self-image is largely influenced by how comfortable she is with her looks and weight. While positive reinforcements from her partner make a significant difference, most women with poor self-esteem have been struggling with body image for most of their lives.

What’s the solution? It’s what mum always told you—look beyond the cover which fades and tears as the years wear on!

We must teach our girls that personality can outshine looks. It also has a lifetime guarantee.

Don’t we all know handsome boys who are now ugly middle-aged men? It doesn’t bother them!

It’s time for women to stop defining themselves by another’s view, even if it is their life partner.

And if you must diet and exercise, do it for the right reasons… your health!

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