My wife Ashley and I receive countless messages online from couples who want to improve the sexual intimacy, connection and fulfillment in their marriage. We recently released a book called The Naked Truth about Sex and Marriage because we believe when a couples sex life improves, nearly every other aspect of the relationship can improve as a result. We’ve discovered along the way that one of the big issues holding couples back is discomfort with their own bodies and/or appearance.

We often share articles with a stock photo image of a couple kissing or cuddling and we’ve had several messages from readers saying these picture-perfect models in the stock photos only reinforce their own body image issues.

We get questions like:

“I want to be at my best for my husband/wife, but I’m so uncomfortable with my own body. I don’t even want him/her looking at me because I feel gross. I feel fat. I have stretch marks. I feel unattractive. I can’t compete the images of ‘perfect’ people I see all around me. My insecurities are creating sexual frustration and friction in our marriage. What do I do?”

We all have some level of insecurity. Even those “picture perfect” models often struggle with body issues. Being in perfect physical shape isn’t the solution (although better overall health can be a positive factor), the real issues are deeper than the surface.

If you want to improve your sex life but you and/or your spouse have insecurities or body image issues, please consider these seven truths.

1. Remember What It Means To Have a “Naked and Unashamed” Marriage

Our first picture of the first married couple in the Bible’s Book of Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” I’m sure they were in good shape but they weren’t “naked and perfect.” There were no other humans around to compare themselves to.

It wasn’t about comparison. It wasn’t about looking in the mirror (because there weren’t any mirrors). They had a beautiful connection and intimacy because they were focused on each other’s souls, not each other’s physical imperfections.

Find the courage and vulnerability to be “naked and unashamed.” It will take time, but it will create such comfort, security and intimacy in your marriage bed (and every other part of your marriage, too).

2. If You’re Uncomfortable Making Love With the Lights On, Try Candlelight

I know you might feel uncomfortable being seen, but your spouse wants to see you while you’re making love. Especially for men. Most guys are wired up to be more engaged and connected to their wife through visual stimulus. You might not want to see yourself, but he wants to see you!

If having all the lights on seems too intimidating, start with candlelight. The soft light is flattering to the figure and it also sets a romantic tone that could make you both feel more comfortable.

3. Remember That Confidence is Sexy

When we have physical insecurities it starts a domino effect. We don’t feel sexy so we don’t want to think about sex. You need to rewire your thinking.

Confidence is not a feeling. You might not feel confident about yourself right now, but you can choose to project confidence and before long, you’ll actually start feeling it. I’m not making this up! There’s plenty of research out there to back this up.

Like the bestselling book and TED talk “Presence” points out, even your posture can make you feel more like a superhero and take your mind off your own insecurities. There’s nothing sexier than confidence.

4. Start Flirting With Your Spouse Throughout the Day

Instead of looking at lovemaking as an uncomfortable chore or duty that you have to endure, start anticipating it with great desire.

Be flirtatious. Train your mind to see yourself as sexy and wanting to tease and please your spouse in creative an unexpected ways throughout the day. Make foreplay an all-day event.

5. If You Want To Change Your Body, Make Your Goal Progress, Not Perfection

Don’t get caught up in the comparison trip thinking you have to compete with air-brushed supermodels. And NEVER make your spouse feel like he/she needs to live up to those impossible standards.

It can be healthy and helpful to improve your daily habits through exercise and diet, but never think that physical perfection is the goal. You’ll never get there and you’ll live frustrated. Choose to be confident with who you are and if you have health goals, celebrate tiny steps of progress along the way.

6. Stay Away From Porn

Pornography is not just harmless entertainment or a way to spice things up. Porn will make your body image issues even worse because you’ll start comparing yourself to the images on the screen that aren’t even real.

Even more dangerously, pornography rewires our neurons to desensitize us to healthy sexual intimacy. Porn is an enemy of real intimacy and it’s longterm effects will be negative in your own mind and in your marriage.

7. Remember Who You Are

Above all, remember that you are more than a body. You are a soul. The scale doesn’t define your worth. The mirror doesn’t define your worth. It’s good to try to look your best, but your identity is never tied up in superficial things.

Embrace your identity as a beloved, cherished child of God. That will give you the confidence to be the spouse (and the person) God created you to be.

Reposted with permission. Read the original article here.

Dave and Ashley Willis are founders of the Facebook Marriage page and The Marriage and Family Foundation, Inc.