My husband checks out other women
I often notice my husband checking out other women. When I confront him about it, he says that there’s nothing wrong with looking, and he has no intention to do anything more. Am I right to be concerned, or am I overreacting?
Dave: Early in our marriage, it came as a real surprise to me to discover that I could still be attracted to another person, even though I was newly and happily married. I felt perplexed and besieged by guilt when I found myself noticing other women during that first year of marriage. I had a gorgeous wife and we had a great sex life together, so it was like, what’s the problem here?
Donalyn: As wives, we need to remember that we don’t think like our men on most things. A great first step is to have an honest conversation with your husband and attempt to discover how he thinks. How do you think, Dave?
Dave: I learned early on that, like most men, I tend to be visually stimulated and thus easily drawn to notice and be enticed by feminine shapes. I had no issues with pornography, but I needed to learn how to manage my eyes and focus on a woman’s countenance, and not on her body. I had to treat her as a sister, and not store up sexual data that I could use mentally later.
Donalyn: This can be hard for a woman to hear, because it’s so foreign to our own thinking. This fixation on looks can seem so shallow to us. But just because it’s different doesn’t mean this visual attraction is bad. It’s how men are wired. In fact, it can be a very good thing – it’s probably one of the things that attracted your husband to you in the first place. But you still have to share your concerns.
Dave: You need to let him see how this is affecting you. Rather than coming at him with guns blazing, which would push him away, open up your heart and tell him how it makes you feel when you see him looking at other women.
Donalyn: First you need to come to grips with your own feelings. It may help to write down the emotions you experience when you notice him doing this, so you can sort through it and decide what needs to be shared with your husband. And go beyond your surface feelings to see if there are deeper issues underneath. Ask yourself why this really bothers you. Are you insecure with how you look? Are you uncertain about your friendship with your husband? Do you question his faithfulness? If you have underlying insecurities, you will need to work through that even as your husband deals with his issues.
Dave: The way in which you confront your husband on this is critical. This is a difficult, private matter for most men, and if you approach it from the wrong direction, he will probably shut right down.
Donalyn: So because this will be difficult, start by trying to understand where he’s coming from on this. Reassure him of your love and commitment to him, and then have the courage to ask clarifying questions. Ask him why he looks at other women. What does he notice most? Does he think about them later? Does he feel in control over what and who he looks at? Does he have a problem with second looks and having to scope out the whole package? While you need honest answers to these questions if you’re going to work through this together, be patient and as supportive as you can be throughout the process.
Dave: Let me be clear that the fact that men are visually drawn to women does not make it okay to engage in lustful looks. It is not a wise practice for any man who wants to protect his marriage, and in many cases it can be an issue of sin. Jesus said that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28). So while your husband is likely being honest when he says he has no intention of doing anything beyond looking, the act of looking can still be a problem, especially if he is replaying it in his mind later. Not only that, but in this situation he is not even trying to be discreet about it when you’re around, and that is cause for concern. If he freely looks when you are with him, how bold is he when you are not present?
Donalyn: Ask your husband what needs are being met in him as he looks at other women. The truth is, this behaviour could be a sign of other issues: his dissatisfaction with you and the marriage, a problem with pornography, or fantasies about being with other women. Hopefully this is not the case with your husband, but it is better to address it now than to wish you had later.
Dave: There are also some steps you can take individually or as a couple to reduce the temptations for your husband going forward. Work together to ensure that you have a regular and mutually-fulfilling sex life. Meet one another’s needs so that neither one of you is tempted to have them met elsewhere. I know that when Donalyn and I are not sexually intimate for a period of time, I find it easier to have my mind and eyes carelessly and inappropriately wander. It doesn’t excuse it, of course, but the easier you can make it on your husband, the better it will be for both of you.
Donalyn: Take advantage of your husband’s visual orientation by making yourself as appealing to him as you can. It’s so easy to put the effort in to look good for other people, while failing to make it a priority for our spouse. They are the ones we should be trying to impress! And we all feel better about ourselves when we look our best.
Dave: It would also be helpful to get an outside perspective. With your husband’s permission, ask some other men whom you both respect what they think about the issue. In fact, if your husband is open to it, encourage him to get into an accountability relationship with another man. When two men spur one another to love their wives and honour God, it’s a powerful thing. Iron sharpens iron!
Donalyn: A great marriage is built on a foundation of transparency. These issues are not easy to discuss, but be patient. Be less threatened, and more focused on working with him to face the issue, without excusing it. As a husband and wife drop their guards and begin to really deal with sticky subjects like this one, it leads to an amazing level of intimacy. It may be difficult, but the result is well worth the risk.