In the heady rush of new love, having the wonderful man who would become your husband think you were practically perfect felt, well, perfect. He loved your looks, your ideas, the way you laughed. He even thought it was cute that you couldn't do much more in the kitchen than boil an egg.
But now, years into marriage, the butterflies are a memory, replaced with a steadier attachment and commitment to do the day-to-day work of loving. And the rose-colored glasses that fogged over your weaknesses have now lost their tint, making all too clear to your husband what you could do better.
No matter how supportive and kind your husband is, it can still be difficult at times to feel that maybe who you are today might be lacking in some areas, thanks to lies society tells and because of the day-to-day demands and realities of life. Here are just five examples:
1. Body shape/appearance
Our society is obsessed with women being thin, eternally young and able to "bounce back" after baby. Whether we're inundated 24/7 by images of women who genetically — and surgically — defy the norm, and photos that have been digitally altered, men and women alike have internalized a very warped version of the "feminine ideal."
Add to that the twisted expectations that come from viewing nude or nearly nude women's bodies through pornography and "soft" porn, and what's normal is made to seem "weak" or "ugly." This can make all of us whose bodies are simply progressing through life in a typical fashion are made to feel we aren't good enough.
The beauty of the physical act between husband and wife is that it bonds us, brings us closer and provides a private space that's just our own. It sets us apart from everyone else. But plenty of circumstances, physiological issues and emotional complications can intrude on that special connection.
The physical changes of pregnancy and childbirth, the exhaustion that comes from parenting young children, the stresses of work and of worrying over raising teens are just a few things that can reduce the frequency and quality of sex.
We may find ourselves collapsing into bed at the end of the day with no expectation of respite from our busy lives the next day, or the next, or the next. Seeing "that look" in our husbands' eyes can either feel like just another expectation or drain on our energy or as a luxury we simply can't afford. And knowing that intimate bond is going neglected may make us feel we're doing a disservice to our husbands and marriages.
In past decades, men were the main financial providers for families, but now more women are working as the main providers or along with their husbands. For example, fewer than 50 percent of mothers with children under 18 were in the labor force in 1975 but now that rate is above 70 percent, according to the Department of Labor.
Especially during and since the Great Recession, more women have felt pressure to help contribute to their family's finances on top of all their other duties of being wives and mothers and household managers.
Even with a husband who provides financially for most of our family's needs, we may feel we're not "good enough" because we either don't earn any money — one big way our culture measures worth — or not as much as our husbands.
Even as cultural shifts and financial needs have led to more women earning money, couples have been slower to shift attitudes and behaviors in taking care of needs at home. We women may feel we "should" do more housework because it's how our parents did things or because we are the ones who spend less time at paid work.
At the same time, we stress over the balance of labor in the home. One day we might feel resentful that we're doing more than "our share" of the laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning and child care, while another we might feel we're not doing enough to help our husbands unwind after a long day of paid work, by providing a nice made-from-scratch meal or a clean house (or maybe just living room…).
Asking for help is a vital skill for anyone to learn. But in longtime relationships, it's often easy for each partner to stop hearing the requests of the other or even ignore them. The reasons for this are all over the board: lack of time, lack of energy, complacency in the relationship. But when our requests for help go unheeded by our husbands, we may give up asking or veer into the "nagging" arena.
When that happens, we feel guilty for being "one of those wives" even when we're unsure how our needs will be met without constantly asking.
While most women only have days or moments of feeling inadequate, some have those feelings reinforced — and prolonged — by their husbands' betrayal, whether it's through pornography, infidelity or addiction. In those cases, don't hesistate to search out ways to find support and strength. You can once again know you are "good enough."