In more ways than one, I consider my partner to be my mirror. Through their compassionate, sunshiny spirit and the love that they have for me, I've been able to learn a thing or two about myself, including lessons about body positivity. So, the one (and greatest) way I like to be body positive towards my partner is by expressing love and giving attention to parts of them they're often insecure about. Based on the way my partner treats me, I know how good it feels for these less-loved parts to get some TLC.
My partner and I often say really cheesy things to one another, like, "I love every inch of you." And it's true. So it's likely that my admiration and my partner's insecurities can intersect. For example, I love Skylar's feet and think their gap-toothed smile is so sexy. Both of these are features that they have mixed feelings about due to rude comments from family and friends over the years.
Of course, I'm not suggesting that our partners have the sole power to make us love ourselves. Relying on one person for your sense of self worth is certainly not healthy. What I'm saying is that our partners — as well as our friends, family, and even acquaintances — have the ability to make us feel that much more or less sure of ourselves with a simple comment.
Sometimes, the stupid things people in our lives say over and over again might act as catalysts or blockers for change in our lives. After all, it's hard to feel confident about our crooked teeth when a loved one makes endless comments about how it's not too late to get braces. It's hard to embrace our masculine gender identities when those around us police what we wear, and ask, "Why can't you just wear a skirt like a normal girl sometimes?" Any influence in our lives, from economic standing to beauty advertisements, has the power to shape our perceptions of body image.
On the other end of the spectrum, if your partner loves to kiss or bite your belly during sex, or they tend to comment a lot on how good your hair looks, odds are that you'll get closer to believing those things. Personally, I've been insecure about my belly (especially during sex) in the past, and sometimes get hung up about how weird my asymmetrical hair looks as I grow it out. These body negative thoughts are things I am aware of and want to be free from, especially when I get caught in a cycle of negative self-talk. I feel grateful when my partner is there to snap me out of it, in the same way they help me get out of bed on the mornings that I'm too depressed to take that first step. But it's even better when you share body positivity with your partner at random, creating daily reminders of "yes, thank you, I am great," to keep you propelling towards your goal of greater and mutual self love.
My personal rule of thumb, and something that is applied both ways in my relationship, is: If you love something, say something. Forget all that crap One Direction told you about not letting these little things slip from your mouth. Tell them if you love the dimples in their back. Tell them how sexy they look in shorts. Tell them that they look so wonderfully masculine when they wear their hair a certain way.
But although compliments can be great, remember they're not foolproof. Appearance-based compliments don't feel body positive for everyone. If you've been with your partner for some time, you probably know which parts of their body they're insecure about, including those parts that are off-limits regarding comfortable conversation. Talking about my vagina, my belly, or my health often doesn't leave me in a good place, so I prefer not to discuss these things at times. But there are still ways to bring loving visibility to these extra sensitive areas for your partner, keeping in mind their reactions and feelings.
For example, I often feel insecure about my belly (granted not as much as I did in previous years), and don't like to discuss it or make it visible. This leads to anxiety surrounding the way it looks when I'm seated in one of my signature crop tops or during sex.
Earlier in our relationship, my partner would often try to make me feel more confident with words like "but your belly is beautiful!" Once they noticed that this method was only met with death glares, they instead started incorporating some much-needed body positivity into our sex life, placing special attention on my abdomen with kisses, nibbles, and playful licks. The first time my partner did this, I felt stunned and a little uncomfortable. But I quickly recognized how good it could feel, both physically and spiritually, and so belly play became a regular part of our routine. Now, I can more openly talk about my belly, and allow myself and my partner to be playful with it. I still get a lot of body negative feelings about it, but my partner bringing loving visibility to something I formerly hid reminds me that it's just as beautiful as the rest of me.
And so I do the same for my partner, who luckily has way less severe body hang-ups than I do. I don't hold back in telling them how much I love their chest and how cute I think it is when they twitch a ton as soon as their body relaxes at the end of the day. I kiss the gap between their two front teeth and lovingly stroke their feet, first and foremost because I love them. But knowing that my naturally-occurring obsession for their body can do body positive magic simply by expressing it encourages me even further. The point is: You and your partner should work together to find the type of mutual body positivity that makes you both feel good.
If you want to be your partner's mirror too, I highly recommend showing every part of them the visibility it deserves, and reflecting a fresh perspective that isn't riddled with body negativity. Marvel at every part of their body out loud so that one day you can both see the same thing.
Images: Meg Zulch