Sex is the next step but Janette is ashamed of her body

Font Size:

Janette is ashamed of her body because of multiple surgeries. Ten years after her husband died, she is in a relationship and wants to take the next step but is struggling. Dr Emmanuella Murray explains how to get past body-shaming and get physical.

Q. Janette
It’s been 10 years since my husband died and I’ve met a man. The issue is that I don’t think I can consider a sexual relationship because I’m ashamed of my body after multiple surgeries. It’s hard to talk about.

A. I’m sorry to hear that your husband died. I can’t imagine how hard that has been for you. You are so brave putting yourself out there again. Meeting someone new isn’t easy and it can be so daunting, especially when making the decision to take the relationship further and become more intimate.

You say you are ashamed of your body after multiple surgeries. Of course, it’s hard to talk about. Shame is not an easy emotion and it often prowls when we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Women can be very harsh when giving body appraisals. We think we must have the perfect body all our life and that’s impossible. It doesn’t help with all the body-shaming messages out there, but I do believe we are getting better at appreciating who we are even with our imperfections.

You need to practise more self-compassion. If you can learn to become more loving and compassionate with yourself, you will be more likely to embrace your imperfections.

We all have imperfections! I hate to go all ‘muso’ on you but the song All of Me by John Legend is one that I quote a fair bit in therapy when people present with body shame in a relationship 

When we enter a relationship, we give all of us not just the good parts – that’s what being in a relationship is all about. The more we try to aim for perfection, whether it be with body or mind, shame is always waiting.

I have no doubt those surgeries were necessary to help you live a happy and healthy life, and what a gift that is. To overcome our need to be perfect, we must be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities, just as you have, and practise self-compassion.

Self-compassion is about being understanding towards ourselves and recognising that we all have insecurities. While we can’t just ignore our insecurities, it’s important that we don’t over-identify with those thoughts and feelings and get swept up with the negativity as this can prevent us from enjoying life’s moments and, in your case, moving forward in a relationship.

This is going to sound clichéd, but I want you to ‘dress to impress’ for yourself. Put on your favourite top or dress and feel good about your body with all its imperfections.

Give self-kindness your full attention and allow yourself to enjoy the next step of your relationship by reminding yourself that your imperfections are only reminders that we are all imperfect humans together.

Dr Emmanuella Murray is a clinical psychologist who has been practising for more than 10 years. She works with children, adolescents, adults and couples and presents to professionals and community groups.

If you have a question for Dr Emmanuella Murray, please send it to [email protected]

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy


Bob’s plea: ‘Ahhh! I just need some me time’

When couples are both finally retired, the extra time together can create issues.

Is love enough to quell fears about the age gap?

‘I love him but I'm not sure I can be his carer in later years.'

Doctor offers surprise advice on the benefits of slowing down

Jane is scared of slowing down and getting old, but could the opposite be true?


Total Comments: 4
  1. 0

    I dont go out socially etc because of the weight ive gained on meds ive never been self confident but now ……………….

  2. 0

    Tisme. I have a friend who is very heavy, also due to meds, and struggles to leave her home. She is a beautiful person and her friends would love to have more social occasions with her. We care about what is inside her, not about external appearance. Any true friend, of either sex, would feel the same. You love a person, not a body.

  3. 0

    Great advice but surprised it wasn’t mentioned how Janette would view her would-be ‘partner’ if they were in her situation? We would not be so harsh on someone else as we are on ourselves? So why do we beat ourselves up like this?

  4. 0

    Whether you’re scarred by surgery or scarred by an accident, those scars tell a story. They are part of you, wear them with pride. They are your story.
    When I was renovating a house recently, not being very good at it, I decided to use the Japanese method of renovation. That is to say the cracks are not concealed but simply filled to make safe and stop further damage etc. This reveals the house’s history. How it has endured over time. Often history may not be a good experience but it can be a good reminder of how we have mustered the courage to overcome adversity. Now that is something worth being proud of.
    Janette, it seems to me that you’ve come through the hardest part, now’s not the time to quit.



continue reading


What we know about the recently approved single dose vaccine

Some health experts have expressed concern at the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with some stating that we 'only get...

Retirement Income

'Secret plan' to force retirees to use their home to fund retirement

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has backed the Retirement Income Review findings that retirees should use their savings more "efficiently" -...


Do life insurance payouts affect the Age Pension?

Geoff's death policy pays out to his children, not his wife. How does this affect the pension? Q. GeoffMy wife...


Grip strength linked to mental disorders

Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression can increase physical health risks and are a leading cause of disability. Globally,...


Cucumber and Pineapple Salad

Whether it's for a barbecue, taco, burger or chilli con carne, our Cucumber and Pineapple Salad will pep up your...


Tobacco and childcare drive cost of living increase

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.9 per cent in the December quarter. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics...

Age Pension

Retirement system ‘uncertain for almost all retirees’

Australia, a nation of almost four million retirees, has one of the world's best retirement systems. The 2020 Mercer CFA...


The big question: How much do I need to retire?

Life expectancies continue to rise, and with that comes a host of challenges. For governments, there's the increasing cost to...