Dear Broad Strokes,
I’m in a new relationship and so far, it’s going great. However, my new partner is very shy about their body and that is worrying to me. For example, they never want to hook up or be naked together with the lights on. How can I talk to my partner about this? Do they just feel uncomfortable around me?
In the Dark
Dear In the Dark,
In any new relationship, it can be difficult to talk about the things that make us feel vulnerable. If you want your partner to talk to you about something that makes them feel shy or nervous, you’ll have to show them that you’re willing to make yourself vulnerable too. So when you have this conversation, don’t interrogate your partner or put all the burden for opening up on them. Frame this as a conversation about your relationship together and how you can be happiest together, so that both of you have stakes in the conversation.
Choose a time when you’re alone, unhurried, and not in the bedroom to have this conversation. You might start by asking how they’re feeling about your physical relationship together. Not only does that ease you into the conversation, but your partner might share some perspective that helps you figure out how to approach the conversation. I think it’s best to be upfront about what’s worrying you here, since beating around the bush might provoke miscommunication or hurt feelings. So just say, “I notice that you don’t like to turn the lights on when we’re naked together. Is there any particular reason why?”
Be open-minded about your partner’s answer. If it seems appropriate, you can ask them thoughtful questions or invite them to say more about particular emotions or experiences. There are lots of perfectly valid reasons why one might not feel comfortable in their own skin, so just hear them out. The more you show your partner that you are listening attentively, the better your conversation will be.
Your partner may get squirmy, and give you a sort of throwaway answer, like “No reason.” Here, you might tell your partner how their actions make you feel and why you’re worried about them. Be specific about your own emotions: do you feel that there’s a lack of trust in your relationship? Do their actions make you feel insecure or bad about your own body? Is there another issue in your relationship that you feel this might be related to? The point isn’t to make them feel guilty, but to let them know that it’s not something to ignore. Make clear that it’s something you two need to talk through.
One of the best things you can do here is to remind your partner of how attractive you find them and how much you enjoy being with them. In all difficult relationship discussions, it’s important to reassure your partner that you value them. Especially since you’re asking your partner to talk through insecurity about their own appearance, you should emphasize all the things you find sexy about your partner, physically and emotionally.
Try to end the conversation by talking about some small but concrete things you two can do to remedy the situation together. Gradually ease into being naked together. Ask them, “What do you need from me to help you feel comfortable?” and “Is there anything that I should make sure NOT to do?” Over several conversations, you can help each other figure out strategies for making sure you both feel comfortable and both your needs are being met.
This is a hard conversation to have, but it’ll be worth to make sure that both of you are feeling fulfilled and safe in your relationship!
* featured graphic by SGH