Q&A with J: A Wife Struggling with Lust

Today’s reader question is from a woman struggling with lust and/or discontentment. Here it is:

I am a woman who considers herself to struggle with thoughts of lust, though many would disguise this cringe-worthy term with simply “discontentment”.

…I never thought of myself as attractive growing up, because my two older brothers were verbally abusive to me, which I believe was an effort in ensuring I wouldn’t be a slut (solely to not make them look bad… not because they cared). My perspective of it, anyway.

So to the point- I am not out looking for guys… but I know that there are men out there with attractive personalities that would be compatible with mine. I sincerely don’t have any attraction to them if they don’t express any interest. However, if some guy who is potentially attractive were to hint at being attracted to me, my mind goes wild. I begin to really wrestle with getting these thoughts out of my head. Essentially I am going insane wondering, “does he think I am attractive? Is this in my head? I don’t think I’m making this up…”, and can go as far as wondering what life would be like if I was married to said guy (my thoughts are thankfully not sexual in nature, but still covetous).

I’ve talked to several close friends and everyone is appalled when I say that I struggle with lust… and then when I explain, they pretty much all admit that they often wonder what life would be like with another man… but never do they consider it to be a real issue in their life… Help!

A wife asks about how to deal with her lust or covetousness toward other men, and J. Parker of Hot, Holy & Humorous answers.

First, let me say what she describes isn’t what some might immediately call “lust.” But if you read my post on What Is Lusting? I think you’ll agree her use of this term is fairly accurate. As she says, “my thoughts are thankfully not sexual in nature, but still covetous,” and the Greek word that gets translated at times as “lust” can also mean “covetousness.”

As to the question itself, I really wanted to answer this one. Partly because I’ve had lust issues too and been in circles with Christian women who act like that’s a shocker. “Seriously?” I want to say, “Have you never taken a longer look at a hot guy than you should have?”

But this really isn’t a problem for me anymore, so I’ll tell you from personal experience what I’ve learned.

1. Attention feels good, but it’s pretty meaningless.

If you grew up thinking you weren’t pretty and then discover some guys think you are really attractive, the attention can be heady. Growing up, I was puny, awkward, and the brainy type. Believe me, the profile photo you see on my website now is so much cooler than the complete dork I was in 8th grade, right when boys were noticing girls — but not me. So I understand that having guys looking, now that you’re an adult, can feed your self-doubt and longing for acceptance.

But this is false attention — it’s pretty meaningless. I’ve concluded that any guy who’s ogling a modestly dressed woman wearing a wedding ring is the kind of guy who ogles a lot of women.

I’m not saying you’re not gorgeous, but I started reminding myself in the moment this guy’s attention didn’t matter. Rather, it was my husband’s desire for me that filled me more and what I thought about myself that really mattered.

2. Instead of looking away, maybe look deeper.

I tried bouncing my eyes, but that didn’t really bounce my mind. What has helped instead is actually looking more closely at guys I find physically attractive.

Is he wearing a wedding ring? Then I think about how he’s probably a family man and at the store shopping for his wife and kids. Is he sporting a tattoo? Then I wonder why he got the tattoo and why that particular image. Is he wearing a T-shirt with a message on it? Then I consider what I think about the message, the team, the image he’s chosen to show to the world.

I take my mind off the man-as-an-image and find ways to see the man-as-a-whole. Then the potential for lust just fizzles. He’s a whole person, I’m a whole person, and we’re just going about life.

3. Maintain reasonable boundaries.

I maintain boundaries about being alone with men. Knowing how my past has been, I have pretty strict rules for myself—no extended or private alone time with a man other than a family member. If I have to meet with another man for professional reasons, I do so in a public place like a restaurant, and that’s rarely the case anyway since I can mostly do those things through other means like email or a phone conversation.

I don’t share any personal information one-on-one with a man. If I feel any spark of attraction to someone, I avoid them. Chemistry is not destiny, and it goes away if you don’t feed it.

In conversations with men, I bring up my husband or his wife positively, giving off the clear indication that I am happily married and he is married and that is that.

4. Focus on gratitude for what you have.

Finally, I think a lot about what’s so great about what I already have. Sure, it’s not perfect—no marriage is—but it’s pretty darn good.

I have a husband who loved me enough to marry me, have kids with me, and keep coming back for 25 years. I think he’s rather hunky too, so I’m certainly attracted to him.

And as others have said: “The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.”

A wife asks about how to deal with her lust or covetousness toward other men, and J. Parker of Hot, Holy & Humorous answers.

I simply want to add here that there’s been a bit of talk in the past on my blog about husbands and lust, but lust happens to women too. It’s our temptation as well. But it can be addressed and quelled by taking intentional steps to lessen the temptation and embrace what we have instead.

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18 thoughts on “Q&A with J: A Wife Struggling with Lust

  1. Cara

    Awesome as always!!! Thanks for honest discussions about things that women aren’t “supposed” to deal with and have no one to talk to about. I pray that young women learn these things in your classroom rather than taking the painful field trips.

    Reply
  2. Lora

    Another thing I do if there’s any attraction with someone I kbow, is get to know their wife. Tge more I know and appreciate his wife, the more I want things to go well for them as a couple.

    Reply
  3. Terry

    Like you J, I think it’s important to bring up my husband/marriage early in a conversation with a man, especially one I’ve just met, so that it’s clear I’m happily married. Even with a man I’ve known for a while I often make a point of asking about his wife, parents, kids etc., again to maintain boundaries and quell any assumptions of “flirtation” by bystanders. Most of the men I know are from church, but of course an affair can begin anywhere – and even appearances matter.

    My husband has said it’s important for men to speak positively in public about their wives, as to do otherwise sends the unspoken message to other women that they’re dissatisfied and perhaps looking to stray. I know this article is about wifely behavior, but this would be one way for men to “help” women keep their thoughts pure.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Thanks, Cassie!

      But what do you mean with “you won’t be tempted if you are committed”? I think you still might be tempted from time to time, but it’s way easier to walk away. I mean, the Bible says Satan tempted Jesus, but He didn’t go for it. So couldn’t a spouse could still have a twinge of chemistry or interest or doubt, but it doesn’t really have the same pull it once had? Just wanting to clarify.

      Reply
  4. John

    I think you have provideded good advice for all married
    Husbands and wives.
    1 Stay away from places that cause you problems.
    2 pretend there is a barbed wire fence around your
    Temptor and the closer you get the bigger the concertina wire
    Stares you in the face .
    3 when you have a taste for ice cream the pleasure from anticipating
    The ice cream is usually much higher pleasure than finally eating the
    Ice cream.
    In an emergency it is always best to grab onto your spouse the sudden physical contact mat lead to an interesting conversation.

    Reply
  5. K J

    My first thought when I read through her question was, “This is stuff I remember struggling/wrestling with in high school” (half my life ago). It sounds like her brothers suppressed her so much during that time that she never considered this, and she’s just now having to come to terms with not only her sexuality but also others’. But the awesome thing is, she has this blog (and you and your podcast family and all your readers) and age/maturity to help her get through this in a way that a high schooler would not.

    I wouldn’t describe myself as boy-crazy or anything, just a normal female. But I just remember always thinking, “Maybe this guy is the one I’ll marry; maybe that one; etc.” And then I’d find myself thinking, “What would it be like if I were with him?” and going into my own mind to make stuff up (good or bad). I was in my 20s before I started looking at guys not as potential husbands but rather as only friends (who might know someone they could introduce me to). It wasn’t an overnight change, but looking back I can see how my mindset changed and how my interactions with others changed. (The book that affected me during that time was “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping” by Henry Cloud.) I was in my mid 30s before I got married, and even when I met my now-husband, the guys around him who knew both of us thought that I was married because of how I interacted with them and carried myself.

    I spent a lot of time running/working out/investing in my girl-friend relationships/reading and memorizing Scripture during that decade-plus, and that left me with little time to occupy my mind with unhealthy things 🙂

    Reply
    1. K

      Oooh J picked my question! Thank you!!

      KJ—

      I have often thought the same thing… that these thoughts are ones girls in high school are battling and my maturity has been stunted in this area. But I will say, that is God’s hand over me, because I surely would have fallen down a dark path if I was in high school dealing with this. I wasn’t yet a Christian then, and I am sure it is much easier to deal with these thoughts now as a married woman surrounded with a wonderful church family.

      Thank you all for your comments and insight on this! I’m reading and gaining wisdom! 🙂👍🏻

      Reply
  6. Keelie Reason

    Brothers just suck sometimes. smh.

    I find it interesting that her friends are taken back that she says she struggles with lust. I find it is much easier to lust after someone when I really know them. This isn’t a big issue I have with guys on the street. Knowing someone really well makes it harder for me. I just have to put limitations in place in those situations.

    Reply
  7. B

    This was an interesting post, and the asker is so brave for asking.
    Men do not find me attractive, so obviously I dont have issues with them being attracted to me. I have never been noticed, looked at, stared at, or flirted with. And now I’m thinking maybe that’s a good thing. My husband says this is completely untrue, that men check me out all the time, but I don’t believe it. I have never noticed it once, and I’m sure if it happened I would have noticed at least once! I notice people, especially women, giving me dirty looks all the time. I think I’d notice if I were being “checked out”.
    My point is, I guess this is a blessing of sorts. Because I already know I’m not attractive, I don’t wonder “is that person attracted to me?” And so I’ve never even entertained the thought. By no means does this make me perfect. I have a ton of issues and one of them is lusting after my husband and his attention, and my burning desire to one day be attractive to him. He is the man I care about.
    I too, was put down relentlessly as a child. Not because my family was verbally abusive (gosh I hate that word abuse) – but because they wanted me to understand who I was and to never get a big ego. And so I learned early on, that I wasn’t attractive. In the long run, I think it helped me be a better person because I focused on other things, not my looks. I wasn’t pretty enough to wear nice clothes or get a professional haircut, and so I never really worried about those things. Don’t get me wrong, I still TRIED to look attractive, but in a natural, low budget way. (Now that I’m an adult I do wear nicer clothes and get my hair cut well. I have learned a little better over the years.)
    Anyhow, for years I have lusted after the idea of my husband being attracted to me. I have longed for him to see me as beautiful as some of the women I’ve seen him notice. At least kind of beautiful, anyway. I’ve lusted after the idea that my husband might find me sexually attractive, or at least as pretty as a regular everyday woman (most of whom are beautiful). I have a very hard time accepting the fact that my husband loves me or is possibly attracted to me. He says he is, but I don’t see it in his actions. I’m trying to learn to believe his words, and as I do, things are getting a little bit better every day.
    I love the saying “the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water it.” That’s great. I think my lust issue is wanting so badly to be loved as much as, or as attractive to my husband, as other wives are. I lust after what they have as far as how their husbands feel about them. Maybe that’s what I need to work on. That and watering my own grass.
    Good post.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Thanks, B!

      And you know what? I never think any guy is ever checking me out…ever. It shocked me to no end one time when I went to a conference, and my friend told me later that this guy was looking at me. I argued with her, and then finally I had to accept that she was telling the truth. You might be selling yourself short on that. BUT I’m not saying I want all of us married women to be checked out by men in public. Eeew! Don’t do that, men. I know you notice, but don’t ogle. Just…don’t. 😀

      Reply
    2. Mark

      B,
      Your husband would know if men are checking you out. So when he proclaims that you are attractive, believe him.

      I experienced certain issues growing up that affected my self esteem. It started from growing up with a single mom. I don’t want to focus on the things that affected my self-esteem other than, that some of it was being forced to wear nerdy 50’s high water era, during the late 70’s. But also not socializing, because of duties that is required by being the eldest and the mental abuse by not being able to keep up with cleaning up after the younger siblings in addition to laundry and dishes, which affected academic studies.

      I was too serious to even know how to flirt or tell when a girl was flirting with me.

      Abuses in our childhood can affect how we think into adulthood. For the longest time I felt ugly. My lovely wife convinced me that I’m not and also proclaiming that she noticed many times of me getting checked out during the course of our marriage.

      So believe your husband what he is saying to you.

      I would say the biggest reason why you aren’t noticing men taking a sneak or why you haven’t experienced flirting, is because most men (including me) are very careful not to stare or flirt for a number of reasons, In my case I’m married so I’m not going to flirt or stare as it isn’t right.

      Married men, (like me) may take a quick peek or take a little glance of appreciation at a woman, but we don’t want to appear disrespectful.

      You may consider that in this day in age, men (single or married) are wise to exercise caution as they talk or admire a woman’s assets or femininity, especially if the attention is unwanted by the woman as it may be interpreted as harassment.

      This is why I think you aren’t noticing men check you out or flirting. You are already taken and men are generally going to be more careful and respectful rather than take the risk of experiencing repercussions looking at another man’s wife.

      Reply
  8. Mark

    This can be an uncomfortable topic, because one thing can lead to another.

    To be totally in love with our spouse and yet have a friendly rapport with someone of the opposite sex can make our minds wander where it shouldn’t, if we allow it to happen.

    Even so, if we channel it back into our own relationship and realize that it is our spouse that we truly hunger to be with, it doesn’t take long to come back down to earth.

    I think sometimes we also need to remind ourselves that “harmless” wandering of the mind with someone of the opposite sex and then discovering that the feeling is mutual can lead to mentally cheating or worse turn into a full blown emotional affair.

    Then if intimate tension develops, it can become unbearable and turn into an emotional and physical drain and destroy marriages.

    If we remind ourselves that we don’t want to crush our spouse and we don’t want the same thing to happen to us, then it will be easier in keeping our marriage sacred.

    We try to avoid traveling without each other, though sometimes life circumstances makes that difficult. I even changed my profession so I wouldn’t have to travel without her.

    Reply

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