I received an email recently from a woman who is engaged. She was absolutely flabbergasted and stunned when her fiance admitted to her that he is tempted to look at other women (even though he turns away and really tries not to). How could she marry someone who thought other women were attractive?
I think this is a common concern, and so I thought today I’d try to give us a way to look at how we should react when men admit that they’re temped to gaze at attractive women.
First, I totally understand how hurt most women are when they find out their guys are tempted by porn, or even just a pretty woman–even if they don’t do anything about it. It’s totally natural to be upset because it feels like he doesn’t think we’re enough. But I think the reason that we women often get hurt over things like this is that we honestly don’t understand men.
Men’s sex drives are completely different from women’s sex drives
(I deal with this at length in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex!). They really are primarily visual. If a man sees a pretty woman, his body automatically starts to respond, in the same way that if you were to walk in the front door, even if you weren’t hungry, and you smelled chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven, your mouth would start to water, whether you really wanted them or not. Even if you weren’t seeking it out, you respond. There’s nothing wrong with that.
If they’re admitting to a temptation–remember that it’s just a temptation.
It doesn’t mean that he’s going to do anything (and, in fact, if your hubby or fiance is talking to you about it I’d say you were luckier than 90% of women, because he’s being honest and open). If he’s noticing that a woman is attractive, and then he’s pulling his eyes away, he’s only being tempted. He’s not sinning. He hasn’t decided to do anything; in fact, he’s decided to turn from the temptation, which is exactly what he should be doing.
I would be concerned if he’s actually into pornography, because that’s a huge issue for so many guys today. Every married woman should make sure there are controls on the computer. But what you don’t want to do is make him feel so badly that he can’t come to you when he’s struggling, or that he feels like you really don’t understand him.
We women have our own weaknesses that we struggle with, just in a different way. We’re far more likely to gossip/bad mouth our mates to other women, thinking that we’re just being helpful. We’re far more likely to judge and to nag. We’re far more likely to be selfish in the sexual realm, rather than giving and open as wives, mostly because we don’t understand men.
If you’re married or engaged to a man who really loves God, who is trying to follow Him, who is aware of his own natural weaknesses, who loves you and is trying to be accountable, and is committed to purity, then celebrate! You can’t expect him not to notice an attractive woman, though, any more than you can expect yourself not to water at chocolate chip cookies. But if he doesn’t stare, if he turns away, if he closes his eyes during certain scenes in movies, then he is being pure.
The temptation is not the sin; entertaining the temptation is. And if your husband LOOKS at other women–do something!
On the other hand, if your husband looks at other women in real life–by staring at random strangers, or by looking at porn–then you do need to talk to him. We shouldn’t tolerate our husbands watching porn, because it will just get worse, and it will likely affect his sex drive for the worse, too. It will make real intimacy during sex that much harder to achieve. But even if he doesn’t use porn, if your husband looks at other women, or comments on them, that’s hurtful.
Tell him how you feel. Tell him you understand the temptation to look, but that he promised to love you and you alone. You’re worth it. And he has no right to look at anyone other than you. None of this “all men do it” garbage. We all are tempted towards sin; but we do not have to give into it. If your husband consistently checks out other women while he’s with you, it’s time to talk to a third party, like a mentor couple or a counselor, and make this a big issue. It isn’t right, it’s hurtful, and it needs to stop.
At the same time, make it super fun for your husband at home! Be confident. Dress attractively. Give him something to look at! Buy lingerie and let him see it sometimes. It’s hard to demand that men not look at other women if we simultaneously never really encourage them to look at us.
But remember that even if you are a supermodel, and you do all of these things, it does not guarantee that a man won’t look at other women. It isn’t your fault if he does. In our culture, sex has become so anonymous, and so pornographic, that often it’s the anonymous woman that holds the most attraction, because intimacy doesn’t seem sexy anymore. We need to talk to him about this, work on our friendship so we feel close, and try to reignite the sexiness of real intimacy (my book 31 Days to Great Sex can help that!)
No, you shouldn’t put up with him staring at other women or lusting after other women. But if it’s just a temptation, don’t blow at him. And make sure that you are feeding his visual side at times, too! And if he’s following through–do something. I’m sorry if you’re dealing with this. I know how hard it is. But let’s all draw a distinction between temptation and actually staring–and making sure we’re doing what we can to feed our own marriages at the same time.
I’d love to hear from women who have struggled in their marriages with this. Leave a comment (anonymously if you want) to let me know how you’ve dealt with this.