Do you struggle with romantic thoughts about other guys–how life would be so romantic with him?
We’ve been talking for the last few days about libido, and how men and women tend to approach sex differently. A number of you wrote to tell me that Monday’s post was a major lightbulb moment for you, as you realized that you were still attracted to your husband, even if those infatuation feelings were gone.
Today’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage. And for Wifey Wednesday today, I invited Kelly Smith, aka Mrs. Disciple, to continue this conversation by looking at it from another angle: if those infatuation feelings are gone in our own marriage, make sure that you don’t feed them towards another guy! You don’t want an emotional affair to develop.
There’s an important warning here for all of us. Here’s Kelly:
As little girls, we have no trouble dreaming up Prince Charming.
We start with a cute guy on television and endow him with the noble character traits they read about in books. During our teen years, we dream about the quarterback or the quiet poet from across the high school classroom. While dating, we measure our prospective partners to our dream guy until we find a man who fits the description. We expect our prince to make all of our dreams come true.
Sometimes our Prince Charming turns into an ugly toad after the nuptials. Endearing quirks become annoying habits. Long talks while cuddling turn into grunts and scratches while flipping through the channels.
Married women sometimes find themselves dreaming about Prince Charming once again.
The space between unmet expectations and reality fills with daydreams about the way it could be with another man. This imaginary boyfriend could be a casual acquaintance, someone from the past, or a vision of the perfect man. Thoughts of him threaten the fidelity and sanctity of marriage.
Men have a reputation for rogue thoughts about runway models and waitresses at the wings joint. Their battle is primarily visual. In her book For Women Only, Shaunti Feldhaun says,
Even happily married men are instinctively pulled to visually ‘consume’ attractive women, and these images can be just as alluring whether they are live or recorded.
They learn to avert their gaze when met with temptation, just as Job declares–“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (Job 31:1, NIV).
Women, on the other hand, are most often drawn into temptation through emotion and thought.
As Shannon Ethridge says,
Men and women struggle in different ways when it comes to sexual integrity. While a man’s battle begins with what he takes in through his eyes, a woman’s begins with her heart and her thoughts. A man must guard his eyes to maintain sexual integrity, but because God made women to be emotionally and mentally stimulated, we must closely guard our hearts and minds as well as our bodies if we want to experience God’s plan for sexual and emotional fulfillment.
We can read a compelling love story, have an interesting conversation with a man, or recall a memory of a past relationship and lose our affection for our husbands in a blink.
This all-too-familiar scenario plays out more often than we’d like to believe. A friend almost lost her marriage over an imagined emotional connection with a co-worker. A cocktail of parenting, careers, and inattention led to an unfulfilling marriage. Her heart became completely dry. It only takes a spark to set dry brush on fire. Such was the case with my friend. A few kind words from a co-worker released a wild blaze in her heart and mind. What he intended as courteous conversation, she interpreted as deepening affection.
Situations like these do not have to end in embarrassing confrontations over misinterpreted signals. Like the men who avert their eyes at the first sight of temptation, we can train our hearts and minds to focus on the covenant we made,
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Stop Comparing Your Husband to Other Men
One of my favorite twists on an old cliche’ is, “The grass may be greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it.” This truth applies to husbands. Your man may leave his dirty socks on the floor by the hamper while my man tends to fall asleep on the sofa during movies. Quirks lead to frustrations after years together. In dry seasons, these frustrations can become unbearable. The perfect man created by a fiction author or portrayed on screen by a chiseled actor never chews his food loudly or comes home late for dinner. His perfection stands in stark contrast to our husbands’ imperfections.
Dr. Juli Slattery warns against comparison in her book Pulling Back the Shades:
The end result of living in fantasy is disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and ungratefulness in reality.
Avoid the comparison trap by emphasizing your husband’s positive traits. Think of the ways he cares for you and your family. Consider the positive things others say about him.
Never before have we had an inside look into the marriages of friends and acquaintances like we now have through social media. I have a friend who regularly posts date night selfies and sweet love notes from her husband. Through these select snapshots, it appears theirs is a marriage made in heaven. What those pictures don’t show is their history of infidelity, the reminders of past sin that will never go away, and the years they spent repairing brokenness. I want their romance without their pain. It is crucial to remember their romance grew from their pain.
Fast from Romance
Because our emotions connect with our minds, monitoring our media consumption is crucial, especially during difficult seasons of marriage. The books, movies, and music we enjoy may tempt us with an unhealthy fantasy life. Dr. Juli Slattery explains,
We know that women aren’t just drawn into books like Fifty Shades of Grey for the entertainment factor. Erotica strategically and masterfully pulls you in by exploiting what your heart secretly longs for.
Escaping an unsatisfying marriage by reading romance novels and erotica only masks our longing for intimacy. Because it cannot meet our needs, we thirst for more. We enter into a vicious, downward spiral.
In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges connects our thought life to external influences.
While the will is the ultimate determiner of all choices, it is influenced in its choices by the strongest forces brought to bear upon it…Therefore we must guard what enters our minds and what influences our emotions.
My children often develop a sassy attitude when they watch programming geared toward tweens. When a disrespectful tone begins to surface, it is my cue to monitor their screen time closely. The same holds true for the part of my mind reserved for romance. I enjoy a good rom-com, but when my marriage is less than its best, these movies feed the discontent. The carefully crafted, playful banter between an on-screen couple is a sharp contrast to our sometimes heated discussions about paying bills and disciplining children. If I am more dissatisfied with my marriage when the credits start rolling, it’s time to take a break from romantic entertainment.
Beware of “What If’s”
While scrolling through her news feed, a friend ran across a picture of her ex-fiancé with his wife and new baby. Although she is happily married, the “what if” thoughts began to invade her mind and attack her emotions. She began to cry.
When [my husband] is unable or unwilling to express love or passion, the struggle is to not go back to that relationship in my mind. To not relive it or to wonder what if I had married him. Would I be more fulfilled? I knew something in my heart was still off because it wasn’t a “how good for him” cry.
We cannot dwell on the perceived perfection of past relationships. That ex is an ex for a reason. We tend to look back with rose-colored glasses, remembering all of the good times. We forget the reasons that relationship ended. While it can be tempting to picture ourselves in that pretty picture, it is important to remember they have issues, too. Instead of imagining the resurrection of a dead relationship, focus on ways to live fully in your marriage.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isa. 43:18-19, NIV)
Stay Grounded in Reality
The imagination can become fertile ground for infidelity to bloom. If like my friend, we allow our minds to dwell on innocent and not-so-innocent conversations with men, we invite inappropriate and sometimes adulterous thoughts.
Shannon Ethridge warns against the power of suggestive thinking in her workbook for Every Woman’s Battle:
We are rehearsing when we think about the conversations we would have with a particular man if we were ever alone with him, when we entertain thoughts of an intimate rendezvous, or wish that a certain man would take special notice of us… Then when Satan lays the trap and leads that man in your direction, guess what? We are more than likely going to play the part exactly the way we have rehearsed it. When we don’t guard our minds in our relationships with men, we weaken our resistance before any encounter takes place.
Our reality is our marriage. Thinking about scenarios other than our reality will either lead us to take action or feed discontent. Both pathways lead to a self-destructive marriage. No real marriage can live up to the relationship we can create in our minds.
Focus, instead, on repairing, reconnecting, and romancing. Repair any brokenness in your heart or in your relationship. Find connecting points with your spouse to build emotional intimacy. Actively pursue romance with your spouse.
The battle for your heart occurs in your mind. Protect your heart by avoiding comparisons, guarding against negative influences, and living in your present reality.
It is time to break up with your imaginary boyfriend and rediscover your husband is the real man of your dreams!
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Kelly R. Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man 17 years ago. They have three energetic children. Her favorite indulgences are coffee, reading, writing, and running. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.
Let’s talk in the comments! When are you most vulnerable to letting your mind wander? What do you do about it?