This is part of a discussion we had on this post by thejoyfilledwife this week. If you are interested, there are more comments – including some by some husbands that I think may be helpful for women to try to begin to understand a masculine point of view on these difficult issues of a man’s experience with visual temptation, lust and pornography. And there are some amazing comments by some other wives who have hashed through these painful issues in a God-honoring way.
FROM A WIFE:
I don’t get the whole “men are visual but they still love you” thing.
- If they love you – WHY are they looking?
- If they love you – even if they can’t help but see the girl walk by – WHY do they need to think about it again?
Basically, what you are saying is – we live in a world full of smut, so there’s no avoiding it, so there’s nothing you can do, so no man can possibly love his wife alone.
I don’t get it.
- If men truly loved their wives – they would not be so visually tempted.
- The love would be stronger, wouldn’t it?
I’m really not trying to be difficult here, I can NOT wrap my brain around this.
- I feel, if I were prettier, or thinner (and I’m not fat and ugly – just an average mom) – THEN my husband wouldn’t notice?
What does it take? My heart absolutely BREAKS for women whose husbands use porn. It would be simply devastating. I really, really cannot understand. So while porn isn’t the issue in my marriage – what is hard for us is:
- If a scantily clad girl walks by and my husband takes notice – how can I believe he loves me?
- How can I believe him when he says he wants to be with ME, when everything I read (even Christian) tells me men cannot get those thoughts out of their minds? IT MAKES NO SENSE.
It’s just easier to believe no man can truly love his wife than to try and compete with every single image in the world. I can’t keep up. It drives my husband crazy that I won’t believe him if he tells me I’m beautiful – but if we look around and be honest – it’s just a losing battle.
I guess what I struggle with is when you read all this stuff, and “they” say – find your true worth in Christ – BUT – your husbands can’t help but fantasize about all the scantily clad women out there – HUH? It’s too many mixed messages.
In my husband’s defense, he does try to avert his eyes, and I love him for that. But if it’s shoved in his face by the world, and from what I’m reading men can’t help but be tempted, then I’m in a losing battle. Why even try?
I think that this wife’s struggle is a common one for us as women. I believe that she is making some wrong assumptions about her husband and men in general that are causing greater confusion, heartache and misunderstanding. I would like for us to attempt to understand more accurately how men actually think and what is involved for them with visual temptation and lust. It is hard for us to understand something we have never experienced ourselves. But my prayer is that God might open our understanding and our spiritual eyes to be able to see this as He does and to see ourselves as He does.
Let me also mention here that porn is an addiction that works in the brain to give the addict a big rush of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, exactly like heroin does. Porn addiction works to alter nerve pathways in the brain permanently. And it is like being addicted to a drug. When young teenage boys get hooked on porn, they deal with this addiction for a lifetime, and their marriages often suffer greatly later. The addiction is about the rush of dopamine. That feels really good. Anyone who had an intense rush of dopamine, is going to be tempted to do whatever it took to get the first rush again. That is what gets people addicted. But praise God, there is victory for all of us over sin through Christ!
The book that helped me understand men much more accurately was For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. Some women get really upset when they get a glimpse into how men think. I didn’t feel upset myself. I was amazed and surprised. I was shocked how differently they think but I also sought to cultivate empathy for their struggles and tried to learn to understand and appreciate their masculine world and perspective, just like I would want my husband to try to understand my weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I wanted to learn all I could about how I could support and bless my husband and make the burdens of temptation lighter. My husband doesn’t struggle as much with these things as some do, but I realize that every man faces visual temptation to some degree. Each husband is different. This is a very difficult topic and I cannot begin to cover everything here. But here is a bit of discussion to get us going. I am not able to be super available on the computer today, but y’all are welcome to respectfully discuss things. I would especially love for wives to share who have learned to approach this from a godly perspective. And maybe some husbands can shed some light on this subject for us, too.
FROM PEACEFULWIFE TO THE WIFE WHO ASKED THESE QUESTIONS:
From what you have described, your husband DOES love you very much. I don’t think anyone here has said, “no man can love his wife alone.” I think most men, especially Christian men, do just love their wives alone and wish they could turn off their visual nature many times when they are not with their wives. But there is not a switch. Kind of like we don’t have a switch that we can just turn off PMS or being hormonal.
From a husband’s perspective, loving their wives has nothing to do with the fact that they face visual temptation constantly in our culture or that attractive women exist in the world.
The problem is not that men are visual, God’s design was good and perfect before the fall. The problem is that the world is saturated with temptation and sin and that all humans are sinners now. That can lead to a man allowing himself to be pulled away by an evil desire and enticed to lust. But it is important for us to note that being tempted isn’t sin. Giving in to temptation is sin.
- Men will notice beautiful women, yes. But that does not mean they automatically fantasize or lust. For a man to be aware that there are other beautiful women in existence on the planet is not sin.
I notice beautiful women, all day every day. I have eyes. I can see people. I don’t lust after them. I notice handsome men, too. I think, “Hmmm. He’s handsome.” But then it stops there. If it begins to go farther, then I know I must take my thoughts captive for Christ. But – I don’t experience temptation visually much at all. Some women do. I have other sins that I am much more vulnerable to that I have to guard myself carefully against – and the sins I am more vulnerable to are not more holy than the sins that our brothers in Christ are more vulnerable to. Sin is all nasty. It all offends God. No sin is justifiable in God’s sight and God cannot ignore sin. He will punish sin. Someone has to die and be separated from Him and someone’s blood has to be shed – whether the sin is lust, resentment, pride, unforgiveness, hatred, idolatry, jealousy or gossip, or any other sin.
We as women who are not tempted visually need to be so careful here. Gary Thomas (Sacred Marriage) says, “We are never more tempted to sin than when we are sinned against.”
It is easy for us to think, “How could my husband be tempted to lust visually? I would NEVER do that! So, he must be a much worse sinner than I am.” And then, we begin to feel self-righteous and prideful, assuming we are much more spiritual and that we are “better than” our husbands because we aren’t tempted by that particular temptation. Then, we may even heap condemnation and contempt on our husbands. Of course, we don’t think about that Jesus condemned self-righteousness and pride vehemently and that we are wretched sinners in our own right with many, many other sins that we struggle with. When we truly begin to grasp the severity of our own sin problem, we will be able to approach our husbands much more humbly, realizing we are fellow travelers on this journey who are on equal footing at the cross of Christ. We are all wretched sinners in desperate need of Christ. (Romans 3)
It would be awesome if husbands would avert their eyes when they do notice a beautiful woman and it would be exceedingly helpful for wives everywhere if husbands didn’t ogle women. Your husband is looking away quickly, that shows a lot of respect for you. I love that! But I don’t think it is healthy or reasonable for us as wives to demand that our husband not ever allow any other woman to cross into his line of sight. He would either have to be blind or be a hermit who never turns on the tv or computer for that to be possible. A man can look at a woman without sinning. I don’t want us to make things even harder on our men and label things as sin that are not actually sin.
Sometimes men may sin in their hearts. Yes. That is true. And it hurts us when they do. Sin hurts people. And sin hurts God. Sometimes we sin in our hearts – maybe in a different way – but our sinful thoughts grieve God’s heart just as much as our husbands’ sinful thoughts. Our sin hurts our husbands, too. Only God knows exactly what goes on in other people’s hearts. But He is much more concerned about our husbands’ hearts, motives and sin than we are. He is concerned with our thoughts, motives, hearts and sin, too! All sin is wrong. All sin causes destruction and eventually, death. (Romans 6:23)
Thankfully, Jesus paid the price for every one of our sins on the cross! More on this tomorrow!
This visual temptation thing is a difficult subject for us as women to “get” because our brains are wired very differently and we have different hormones and different weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I hope you might be able to assume the best about your husband, that he loves you and truly thinks you are beautiful. I doubt that he thinks of you as having to “compete” with anyone. He only wants you. He is with you and honoring you because he loves you. I pray you can rest in that.
I wish we could all experience some time in a man’s brain so we could better understand. I know one husband said a few weeks ago that husbands have “wife goggles” – that other women can’t compete with their wives because they love their wives so much and have so many memories together and a bond together in marriage that they don’t have with any other woman.
Also, please notice, even husbands of models get involved in lust or porn or affairs. Visual temptation for a husband isn’t about his wife at all. It is just about the way his brain is wired and with sin being in the world and the enemy being in the world – he is vulnerable to this kind of temptation. Many times, it becomes an issue in puberty when testosterone really kicks into high gear. So, this begins to be an issue way before our husbands ever meet us. You cannot keep him from facing visual temptation any more than he can keep you from every temptation you face in this fallen world.
Just because he sees temptation or feels a pull of attraction, does not mean he is sinning.
Many Christian men will do things to attempt to keep themselves from crossing over into sin:
- They will try to look away from an immodestly dressed woman.
- They may focus on scripture.
- They may remind themselves something like, “Yes, I am a man. That was a beautiful woman. I’m glad I am a healthy man. Yep, my body works. I can’t wait to be with my wife and think about her, savor and enjoy her. I am going to redirect my attention and focus to my wife where my love is and where my attraction belongs. I’m so glad she is in my life and loves me like she does.”
We must remember, our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6) but against the sinful nature and against the enemy of our souls. Our husbands are NOT the enemy! Let’s be on each other’s team together with God and fight against the real enemy together arm in arm.
FROM THEJOYFILLEDWIFE TO THE WIFE WHO ASKED THE QUESTION AT THE TOP:
I sincerely hope that you are able to see that my heart is in no way prideful about what I am about to say. But you brought something up and I think it’s important to answer in even more depth, since I believe that there are many other women out there who feel the same way you do, yet have not articulated it.
By the world’s standards, I am considered “model material.” I’m frequently stopped and asked if I am a movie star or a model. I could not care less about those things. I simply fit the profile of tall, slim, long flowing hair, feminine, soft facial features, etc. I do not dress immodestly and I never have. So they aren’t asking because I’m walking around in crop tops and shorty shorts and acting like I’m one. I am fully and femininely clothed and I do not act provocative in any way. I am very careful about my interaction with others and the first sentence out of my mouth always include something about my husband.
Visually, I would meet the world’s standards of an attractive female. STILL my husband viewed pornography.
Let’s take this a step further because I know that there may be women out there who think that perhaps the wife is pretty but she’s not “sexy enough” or “good enough in bed” and that’s why her husband “isn’t satisfied with her”.
I will put this plainly without going into unnecessary detail: My husband has NEVER been in want sexually in all 5 years of our marriage. Even through two pregnancies where I was nauseous for all 9 months both times, I never once told my husband, “no,” when he wanted to have sex. Not a single time, even if I was still feeling upset or hurt about something he said or did. The day I found out he was viewing pornography, I didn’t reject him even then.
I also know that no husband wants to feel like his wife is just pacifying him, so I have always made sure I am expressing my desire for him during intimate times and not just being passive and indifferent. My husband knows, to this day, that he never needs to fear being sexually rejected by me. I understand how important this part of marriage is to men and I would never want to emasculate or disrespect him by neglecting him in this area. Although there have been many times when I was exhausted or didn’t feel like being intimate, I have always taken 1 Corinthians 7:5 to heart about not depriving your spouse sexually, lest they become tempted.
STILL he viewed pornography.
I am going to bring up one last point because it is the essence of what this blog is about. Some women may think, “Well, sure, the wife is pretty and fulfills him sexually, but maybe she is very disrespectful or neglectful in other areas and that made him look elsewhere for validation.”
I am married to a strong leader-type. He is very opinionated, very strong in his ideas, and he has absolutely no problem dishing out correction. He is never shy about making his wishes known and I never have to guess where he stands on anything. He is a man who has an opinion about almost everything in our life. He has even told me specific ways he really likes me to do my eye makeup. He doesn’t “demand” that I wear my makeup a certain way, but he has definitely taken a strong stance with my hair. He likes it very long. He said he thinks I look like royalty with my hair that way and I have honored that request.
Our home is kept immaculate because I know that he feels chaotic if our home is a mess (I also like things very clean myself). Although I strongly dislike cooking, I cook him fresh, healthy meals every night and make sure I serve it to him hot whenever possible. No one has ever wondered who the head of our household is. I am gentle and sensitive, but deeply passionate and loving. My husband doesn’t have a doormat for a wife, nor does he have a woman who is hard to live with. He is complimented many times a day, thanked for providing, given affection, prayed for, surprised with little gifts or acts of kindness, texted sweet things while he’s away (he loves this) and I assist him in running our business. Although I have areas I am constantly working to be more respectful and cooperative toward him in all areas, my highly opinionated man, when asked what I could do to bless him more, 9 times out of 10 will tell me that he honestly can’t think of anything.
STILL he became addicted to pornography.
You see, my sweet sister, our husbands are enticed toward sin, not because we aren’t good enough, but because they are sinners.
The same is true with us.
We, as women, are often bent toward unforgiveness, bitterness, gossip, and jealousy, not because our husbands or the people around us aren’t perfect, but because we are sinners.
You could have the perfect body and most beautiful face you could imagine and, yet, your husband will still be tempted. You could serve your husband, honor him behind closed doors and in front of others, and he will still be tempted. It’s not about us, sweet sister. It’s about the trappings that accompany living in a fallen world. There are things about men that we may never comprehend because we are so very different from them. I wrestle with some of the questions you do, sister. But this I have come to know, and now understand it fully…that this is truly not about us. But I know that that fact doesn’t diminish the pain and rejection we feel when we face this kind of betrayal in our marriages. We long for our husbands to only have eyes for us and it is devastating when they don’t. Trust me, I know exactly how you feel.
My husband had his first exposure to pornographic images as a young boy. He was heavily addicted to pornography as an unbelieving adult and then gradually slipped back into it as a believer once he realized that his 4 accountability partners were no longer taking the time to view his online reports and hold him accountable.
How I pray that the Lord will give us strength, as wives, to lean on Him as we face the certain pain of being sinners who are married to sinners.
My dear sister, you are truly beautiful. If your husband tells you that, he means it. And please know that
Your worth and your value as a wife is not diminished by your husband’s struggle.
You are a daughter of the King. I have learned the importance of viewing myself through the eyes of my Lord and not the world. What does it matter what the world thinks or how the sinful world views beauty? A wife who is clothed with strength and dignity is far more rare a woman. May we strive to be THAT woman, and not conform – or try to compete – with the patterns of this world.
Much love to you, dear sister. I hope my heart came through in all of this.
A Husband’s Pain – His Wife’s Body Image Issues
My Journey into Femininity and Modesty
When My Spouse is Wrong
www.desiringgod.org – search “porn”