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Letting the Love Flow
By Sally E. Smith

Throughout the ages, the rhapsodies and travails of love and romance have been immortalized in sonnets, memorialized in songs, and acted out on stages, television sets, and the silver screen. Collectively, we seek to partner with another, to feel the warmth of love and the heat of passion, and to sustain a bond over the course of a lifetime. Yet as plus-size women, we often have a complicated relationship with the notions of love and romance, and our journey toward love is often fraught with pitfalls and detours.

As I’ve listened to women in our community share their relationship joys and sorrows over the years, a common thread has emerged: in order to attract love, we first have to love ourselves. Although that concept may make sense intellectually, it’s decidedly easier said than done.

First of all, we live in a culture that tells us that we don’t measure up to society’s ideals of beauty. It’s hard to look in the mirror and appreciate our beauty when we see few examples of plus-size beauty around us. (Thankfully, MiB’s gorgeous plus-size models are an exception to the rule!)

For those of us who have a negative body image, it’s very difficult to make an intimate connection. Body shame can prevent us from entering into a relationship or from enjoying intimate experiences. It can also place our partner in a quandary. After all, if our partner is attracted to the body that we loathe, it’s not much of a leap to assume that there must be something wrong with him or her.

But the challenge is more than skin deep. Many of us have internalized the message that we aren’t lovable, or that a stable, healthy relationship is beyond our reach. As a result, we may choose partners who treat us badly, or we may seek validation through physical intimacy without emotional attachments. In order to open our hearts, we must expose our vulnerabilities; that is sometimes just too painful.

As difficult as it might be, we owe it to ourselves to heal our wounded body image and self-esteem. Once we’ve made that commitment, there are plenty of resources available to help us in our journey, from excellent books on body image to online discussion boards to support groups. Once we begin to appreciate our uniqueness and beauty, we can more clearly see what we have to offer others and what potential partners have to offer us. From there, the possibilities for love and romance can blossom.

While loving ourselves isn’t a guarantee that we won’t be hurt, it almost certainly ensures that we’ll be able to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward. Part of celebrating life is partaking in all that love has to offer – and that’s something each of us deserves.

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