Do I have reason to feel hurt and upset when I see my husband turn his head and look at other women? He has always been faithful to and affirming of me. I trust him, and he's the last guy I'd characterize as a womanizer. Still, it bothers me to see him react this way when he's out in public. Am I too sensitive about this?
There really isn't much point in wondering whether you're being too sensitive. Emotions are what they are. The fact of the matter is that your husband's behavior does bother you, and if you're feeling hurt, this is an issue that needs to be addressed on its own account. A good rule of thumb in marriage is that if something is a problem for one spouse, it's a problem for both. Remember, you and your husband have been joined together in a one-flesh union. Part of what this implies is that you need to do the hard work required to understand each other and get on the same page mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We suggest that you sit down with your spouse and have a heart-to-heart talk about his propensity for turning and looking at other women.
Before taking this step, however, it might help to prepare by asking yourself some basic questions. Exactly how long has this been going on? Is it something you were aware of even prior to marrying your husband? If so, has it ever come up between you in the past? How was it resolved? If it's a new pattern, is there anything going on in your spouse's life at present that might account for the sudden change? Have you been experiencing difficulties in any other areas of your marriage? Is there any reason to suppose that he feels his needs aren't being met?
We have a good reason for raising these questions: for our part, we simply don't have enough information about you, your husband, or your relationship even to hazard a guess as to whether his behavior constitutes a serious problem or not. You're in the best position to know, so we want to encourage you to talk things out with him and do the investigative work necessary to arrive at a mutually satisfying solution.
As you approach this conversation, you should bear in mind that, sexually, men and women are wired differently. It's also worth remembering that, biblically speaking, there's an important distinction to be made between merely "looking" and "looking with lust" (Matthew 5:28). Sexual attraction is normal and natural. When a good-looking female walks by and a man "takes note" - a routine occurrence that takes place with a fair degree of regularity - this is not necessarily the same thing as " lusting after a woman." That's because true lust involves a choice and an act of the will. To a certain extent it's a conscious decision to pursue the desirable object instead of simply allowing it to pass on by. It's a willingness to give in to the natural impulse. That's what happened when David, after seeing Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop, went the next step by sending messengers to inquire after her and bring her to his palace (2 Samuel 11:3, 4). Where your husband is concerned, the issue that needs to be resolved is whether his "turning and looking" represents such a conscious "decision to pursue," or whether it's simply an unconscious "knee-jerk" reaction to a stimulus.
That's not to say that the "turning and looking" can simply be dismissed as a matter of no consequence. We live in a sex-saturated, sex-crazed society, and any Christian man who desires to follow Jesus needs to give some serious thought to learning how to control his reactions to the seductive cultural messages with which he is constantly being bombarded. The Bible makes it clear that there is such a thing as personal self-control. That's the good news here. A man can learn to allow such sensory stimuli to bounce off him without taking root in his mind and heart. In other words, he can practice the principle expressed in Martin Luther's maxim that "it's one thing to have a bird land on your head, but quite another to let it build a nest in your hair." That's what it means to overcome lust. Naturally, this requires a certain degree of commitment and discipline - perhaps more in the case of the male than in the female. But then struggle, discipline, commitment, and growth in the virtue of self-control are all part of what it means to live as a Christian in this world. This is what the process of sanctification is all about.
All of these ideas, then, should inform the discussion you're going to have with your husband. We want to encourage you to have that conversation as soon as possible. That's because we firmly believe that in this case, as everywhere else in marriage, communication is an essential aspect of a healthy relationship. If you don't feel you can approach your husband with your concerns, or if you do approach him and he proves unwilling to talk, we'd suggest that there may be deeper issues in your marriage that need to be dealt with in the context of counseling with a trained marital therapist. An inability to open up with each other on a sensitive topic of this nature constitutes a relational red flag that should be addressed without delay.
If you'd like to discuss this question at greater length with a member of our staff, feel free to give our Counseling Department a call. We have a number of trained family therapists available to speak with you over the phone. They can also refer you to reputable and qualified family counselors working in your area. If this option appeals to you, you can reach our counselors for a free consultation at this number.
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The Battle to Destroy Lust (broadcast)
When Good Men Are Tempted (book)