How a romantic partner’s opinions influence our body image and sexual well-being

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Romantic Couple

Our romantic partner has a significant impact on our life quality. What s/he says about our body can change how we think about ourselves.

A recent study published in Body Image confirmed this. Researchers invited 92 young men and women (18 – 29 years old) to finish a survey. The survey contains open-ended questions like

“Things that your partner have said and/or done that positively/negatively influence how you feel about your body.”

“How do the things (in Question 1) influence your feelings and how you see yourself sexually?”

“How do the things (in Question 1) influence your sexual life?”

Positive partner messages include approval and pride, such as

“My boyfriend tells me I’m beautiful every time he sees me” (woman),

and expressions about sexual attraction and desire, such as

“When she tells me how much she wants to do x or y sexual act” (man).

Positive nonverbal messages from partners include physical and sexual attraction, such as hugs and kisses. In addition, expressing affection in a physical or sexual way can boost a partner’s confidence.

For women, disapproval, laughter and disgust lead to hurt and doubt about one’s appearance. For men, rejection (e.g., cold shoulder) lead to negative feelings about self.

96% of women and 89% of men feel more confident and accept their body when they get positive messages from their partner. In addition, 79% of women and 74% of men fell sexually empowered and fulfilled with positive feedback.

When getting negative messages, however, 80% of women and 66% of men feel shameful and self-doubted about their attractiveness or self-worth. Moreover, 30% of women and 29% of men are less sexually satisfied.

Researchers suggest that young men and women are similarly sensitive about a partner’s feedback of their body. Furthermore, in a romantic relationship, even a message that seems neutral may have a positive or negative impact on people’s body image and sexual well-being.


Citation: Goldsmith KM, Byers ES. (2016). Perceived impact of body feedback from romantic partners on young adults’ body image and sexual well-being. Body Image, 17: 161-70. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.03.008.
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