Welcome (back) to Q&A with J. Let’s look at today’s reader question:
My husband gets erections when he sees other women. Is this normal? It’s messing with my self esteem in ways I can’t describe.
When I first got this question, my instinctive reaction was yeah, that’s normal — certainly for younger guys. But as I thought about it more and more, I wondered how I reached that conclusion. It’s not as if I gazed at previous boyfriends’ or my husband’s groin area when we crossed the paths of other women to check for reactions. Most of the time, whatever my guy was wearing would mask anything but a very strong erection, and I wouldn’t know without being physically close enough to detect what was happening.
Maybe it’s because I’m the mother of two boys, and as they grew up, I realized how quickly and somewhat randomly a boy can get an erection. It can certainly be a sexual thing, but it can also happen for other reasons. Frankly, that whole area is a bit of a mystery in how active it all is.
I don’t have that equipment, so I can’t say for certain. Which is why I turned to a wonderful marriage blogging colleague, Paul Byerly of The Generous Husband (for husbands), The XY Code (for wives), and The Marriage Bed (for couples). I wanted a trusted guy’s perspective on what’s happening with this reader’s husband.
Here’s Paul’s response:
Is it normal? It is certainly common, especially for young men. Starting at puberty, we find ourselves with erections all the time. Often there is some sexual thought or sight, possibly very minor, to blame, but sometimes it just seems to be random and without any cause. These erections are swift to happen and can be very, very slow to go away. Thinking about them makes it worse, and not thinking about them is rather difficult.
With age, a man develops some degree of control over this. Basically, we learn to suppress “inappropriate erections.” Suppress can mean not getting them, or it can mean getting only partly erect — we feel it, but it don’t show. Some men develop this ability very quickly, some take far longer. I’ve had emails from men in their mid 20s who still struggle with this. There are actually web pages devoted to telling men how to dress to hide undesired erections.
The bigger question is what his erections mean. I’d say it means his body works and his mind has not yet become able to suppress the reaction. It does not mean he is sexually unsatisfied, and it does not mean he is tempted to cheat.
[By the way], women do the same thing, but their bodies don’t advertise it. In fact, it can be subtle enough for a woman to ignore, which is pretty common given how uptight many women are about sex. If you fitted this woman with a device that beeped when she got mildly aroused I suspect she would learn things about herself she could not handle.
Good point, Paul. For many women, certain times of the month, thoughts, or sights can cause arousal and lubrication. Thank goodness none of that is on display, or people might draw erroneous conclusions about our sexuality. A woman getting “wet” around some guy doesn’t mean she wants him; it could mean she’s hitting the fertile part of her cycle or a stray thought about her husband entered her mind.
Of course, if a wife knows her man is regularly getting a “hard-on” in the presence of other women, I can imagine how that could mess with self-esteem. It could be interpreted that he was interested, or at least intrigued, by other women. I have great compassion for this wife’s emotional response. Like all of us wives, she wants to be the focus of her beloved’s eyes, mind, and heart.
But here are a few things to consider:
Look at the totality of how he treats you and your marriage. You cannot conclude how he feels about you and other women based on one aspect. If he gets erections now and then around other women, but he doesn’t pursue their attention, keeps his commitment to you, and prioritizes your marriage bed, it’s very likely not what you’re thinking. And he may also be bothered that this is happening.
We cannot read each other’s minds. Yes, we look for clues about what someone’s thinking, but sometimes we’re just wrong. We think his tone is angry when he’s really just stressed, or we think her falling asleep means she’s refusing sex when it’s just been an exhausting day. We tend to personalize things in a relationship: If we’re interacting with someone, and they display certain signals, we think it’s about us — when it might not be at all. The only way to know what your husband’s thinking is for him to tell you what he’ s thinking.
If you need to, have a conversation. Personally, I’m pretty bold about stuff like this, because if I were facing this scenario, I’d simply ask my husband: “Hey, I noticed had a reaction around that woman, and I felt hurt when that happened. Can you tell me what’s going on?” Then he’d answer: “It’s cold in here” or “I don’t know. It was weird. But it wasn’t about her and when it happened, I immediately thought about you and how much I want to . . .” And then he’d whispered suggestions, and I’d forget about it. At least, knowing me and my husband, I expect that’s how this conversation would go. But whatever that would look like in your case, talk about it. And be willing to ask for what you need, whether it’s reassurance or to see him turn away from looking at a woman when that happens. We can calmly ask our husbands for what would help us feel better about our marriage and intimacy.
Work on your own self-confidence. My husband’s opinion of me certainly plays into how I feel about myself and my appearance, but it’s not as important as how I independently view myself and how much I trust God’s view of me. We can more easily approach situations like these from a place of confidence and calm than if we’re doubting ourselves all the time or expecting our husbands to be our self-esteem heroes. Cultivate those feelings that you are a woman of beauty and value.
I hope something here helps! And thanks again to Paul for generously offering his man-wisdom.
35 thoughts on “Q&A with J: “He Gets Erections When He Sees Other Women””
Love the idea of having a device that beeps whenever someone becomes aroused. There’s a way to liven up a scripture study group. Seriously though… no wait. That’s just funny — no need to inject a serious comment.
What a great conversation! Thank you for bringing greater attention and understanding to the mysterious workings of male erections. It seems both men and women often believe an erection = a desire for sex, and many times it is just not that simple. As your post highlighted, the challenge is not assuming, but rather figuring out what the erection means for this man, in this situation, at this time, and, how to best respond.
Your post reminds me of a young man who contacted me also worried about his spontaneous erections in the presence of women, even when he was not thinking sexual thoughts. In addition to the possibility of being a simple physical reflex, the point was also made that sometimes erections are a response to being in the presence of God-reflective Beauty (which comes through but is not focused on or attached to the other person).
I decided to write a bit on it as well: http://coreycarlisle.org/q-a-with-dr-corey-spontaneous-erections/
I believe having these conversation will help men and women with shame and self-esteem issues.
Thank you again!
I love you J, and I love your blog. You have helped me so much. Im going to have to say this one frustrated me. How about if he quits looking at other women? Where is that suggestion? I don’t know, I guess I just feel like this one said “oh yeah it’s ok to be attracted to someone other than your spouse. That’s normal.”
Nope. Not at all! Just talking about body reactions, not choices. If he keeps looking? Stokes that arousal? Oh yeah, totally not okay. Matthew 5:28 still stands: No lusting after other women. I’ve taken a strong stance on that overall. It’s just that when I receive a specific question, I answer that question. Hope that makes sense!
Then we walk into things because we have to keep our eyes closed.
You know how fast you respond to something on a path that looks even remotely like a snake? It can be that fast.
Not seeing is often not possible. Looking away is always the right thing to do.
I love your column. As a married male, I enjoy seeing females and that is as far as it goes. My wife knows I am faithful and I put my sexual energy into her! Thank you.
I have had spontaneous erections for many years. While in grade school it had nothing to do with sexual thoughts. As a teen and college student, many were not related to seeing women, especially in my sleep. As a married man I still had non-sexual spontaneous erections. The only way I could get rid of them was to push down into my groin area by concentrating and forcing my penis down. I love to see God’s creation of beautiful women, but I do not have erections when I see them.
And FWIW, the older men get, the less likely they are to have erections (esp. spontaneously)–mostly due to waning testosterone levels (men’s testosterone level declines by ~1% every year after the age of 30 or 40–source: mayoclinic.org)
So yes, at 15, with the flood of teen hormones, they can be very frequent (a real pest at times, actually), but hit your mid-30s and into your 40s, and it’s virtually a thing of the past–even if the man has good overall health. Stress and anxiety are two additional factors that will all but eradicate them.
For all the women reading this, count yourself blessed to not have to worry about any visible sign(s) of arousal like men have to contend with…
One of the hardest things for me to accept is that my husband finds other women attractive…even more attractive than me. He finds other women sexually appealing. None of that negates how he sees and feels about me, but unless we move to a deserted island with no outside contact, he has eyes and there are other women in the world.
It still hurts like heck.
I think the point is so long as he isn’t ENTERTAINING thoughts about other women, it’s all just normal stuff I ought not to worry about.. Unfortunately, he has said enough about other women to really make me lack trust that he takes his thoughts captive.
If I may, I think this is a task of helping to be done. I don’t take this very seriously. I help my husband get his mind or eyes back where he wants them to be or where they should be through directness and humor.
1. Husband’s head twists as a pretty woman walks by.
2. “Are you doing your owl impersonation again?”
3. Husband’s head snaps back. “I wasn’t looking.”
4. “I know. You were seeing. Besides, she’s not your type. And the brunette last time was much prettier.”
5. Husband notices reaction and adjusts how he’s sitting.
6. “And once again, I get the best of all worlds. She spends thousands on the clothes, makeup and lipo, but I’m the one who gets the fantastic lover AND saves all that money. What do you want to do when we get home? Tell you what. I’ll drive while you think about it and plan it out.”
7. Husband’s holds my hand and gazes at me all the way home while I wink at him or tell him, “Plan more. Don’t disappoint me. You never have yet. Don’t let today be the day.”
I can guarantee you that the blonde doesn’t get a second thought.
And if it happens where she’s distracting him but we have to stay there, I comment on some buff guy or talk about the guys lifting at the gym. I have his immediate attention. “Why are you bringing them up again? What’s going on?”
“Nothing. I was just thinking how funny it is that they do nothing for me, but even after 15 years, I still get excited just sitting here with you. Should we hide over there and make out? Why aren’t you holding me?”
“Seriously. Are you attracted to them? Are they bothering you?”
“Oh, no. Having gorgeous, buff guys who can bench press 300 pounds help me with the weight equipment is never a bother. Really. I’m very self-sacrficing that way. If men want to be gallant, I think it’s best to let them. I am being polite.”
Grinning husband replies, “Oh, good. If you are getting all the help you need, I don’t have to kill myself to impress you. Tell them you’re really impressed by men who do yard work. For free. Give them our address. They can come do it.”
“Oh, yes. Sure. Fine with me.”
“AFTER I get home from work. With his shirt ON.”
Teasing conversation continues…
Libl, I feel your pain just as it sounds like you do. I’m so tired of this ‘men are visual’ thing. My husband has destroyed our marriage with porn & lust. It went on many years behind my back. He claims he has completely changed but for me its too late. It hurts like heck for me too. It has completely killed off any feelings I have for him. He has admitted he finds some other women more attractive than me. This is a really traumatic topic for me. J, I love your blog & don’t want to sound negative!… But did feel to reach out to someone & empathise.
I actually appreciate you reaching out. I certainly hope you understand that this question-and-answer is not the same as “He has admitted he finds some other women more attractive than me.” And of course, a man who pursues pornography is tearing himself and his family apart.
One of the goals I have on my blog, however, is to promote understanding one another (gender, personality, perspective, etc.), so that we can work together to fight against the enemy and pursue God’s higher design for our marriage. That’s why I embrace the opportunities to explain how men and women can be different and the challenges we each face. It’s not an excuse, but it can help to understand what’s going on in your spouse’s head and heart.
Thanks for speaking up, Olivia! My heart goes out to you. Saying a prayer for you now.
My husband does find other women more attractive than me. He has told me that I am not the prettiest woman in the world, but that I can hold my head up among them. He admits Game of Thrones (loathe that show) wouldn’t hire me for a nude scene, but he loves seeing me nude. He enjoys my breasts, but he likes breasts in general. He thinks my hair is beautiful and asks me not to dye it, but he prefers redheads. Red hair will crank his neck out of joint every time.
All of this kills me, but objectively what is there to do about it? It is all fact. I am not the most beautiful woman in the world. I am not big boobed. I do not have red hair. Other women fulfill these criteria and catch his eye. He’s a man. He sees. Heck, I see. Women are very beautiful and Hollywood exploits and plays that up. Other women have more money or great genetics.
But favor is deceitful and beauty is vain…..there is more than meets the eye.
I also do not believe in soul mates. I believe that we choose our spouses out of possible candidates of many. But it hurts that hubby has mentioned other women he might have married. Recently, a new aquaintence entered my circle and she “qualifies” (figure, red hair, she looks like me and has similar character qualities, and did I mention red head) and he out loud wondered why he didn’t meet her when he was looking to get married. Ouch!
I think as women our desire to be “enough” is extremely strong. And sometimes we wonder if hubby just settled with us because we were good enough. Would hubby have married me if he knew he had a chance with someone else?
I hear men say, “just because I own a minivan doesn’t mean I can’t look at a Porsche and dream of owning one.” Wives wish their husbands thought of them as the Porsche. He might say, “but I like our minivan. It has great gas mileage and lots of space. Plus, it is paid for and easy to work on.” But we don’t want to be the minivan. The practical. The comfy pair of jeans or favorite holey stained t shirt. We want to be the freaking Porsche!!!!
I can honestly say that I never think this anymore: “And sometimes we wonder if hubby just settled with us because we were good enough.” I sometimes wonder how he sees past the inner tube that is my stomach, but I don’t feel like I’m not good enough. Frankly, my self-confidence was something I intentionally fostered, not waited on him to give me. If I let my feelings about myself be determined by whether some sexy cover model or actress (both of whom have personal trainers, fashion stylists, makeup artists, and more) catches my husband’s eye for a moment, I’m in trouble. But if I believe that God made me beautiful (and He did), that I am a good wife (which I try hard to be), and that my husband loves me (which he does), then I don’t fall into that trap of feeling like I’m in competition with some unrealistic. The standard is my beauty, God’s blessing, and my husband’s commitment to me. That’s it.
And by the way, I know many wives completely in love with their husbands who happened to have noticed that Sean Connery or Hugh Jackman or Chris Hemsworth or whoever are good-looking men. Doesn’t mean that my guy isn’t absolutely The One I adore and want to be with. Hugh could knock on my door, and I would not be interested. I already have the man I want. (Besides, he has a wife he seems to like pretty well. Good for him.)
I know that my husband likes and appreciates women. It’s one of the things I liked about him. I’m not saying I’m totally unmoved by his seeing movies with gorgeous unclad women (he teaches film), but he’s very honest that he doesn’t get turned on by ‘fake’ stuff in movies. However, he often tells me that he saw a romantic scene and thought of me.
It really helps to be able to talk, and joke, about things with one another. To get that going, we have to be able to hear and to listen without making the other person feel like they are walking into a mine field.
First, I am a man, father of three sons, grandfather of three more. And I’ve been a public school teacher, so I’m well aware of the issues re boys with embarrassing erections (mostly grades 7 through 10). I know, too, that sometimes when a teen in a classroom is trying to adjust his penis so that it won’t be obvious, he’ll get caught by a girl with a smart mouth who may openly accuse him of “playing with himself.” I can’t help but wonder how such a girl, years later, relates to her own husband and sons!
Paul Byerly’s comments were spot on (as his usually are). I must say, too, that I’m surprised at the many positive comments from women. Apparently there are many wives who comment on this blog who have healthy attitudes about the normal response of the male body, even when it happens outside the bedroom.
May I say that no wise and godly man would inform his wife that this has happened when he noticed a young woman, perhaps on the beach. And wives who obsess over this may be dealing with an issue mentioned in an old (1950s) C &W song, that “Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue.” If that’s the case, take it to Jesus and forgive whoever it was who hurt you.
Then there’s the Matthew 5:28 issue, which is often read out of context (see verses 29-32, in which Jesus addresses covetousness–the lust of the eye rather than the lust of the flesh). The issue here is the man who wants to replace his wife with the new one he’s coveting. The Greek word translated “lust” is rendered “covet” in other places, as Romans 7:7. So seeing a pretty woman clothed or nude isn’t sinful, per se, even if it results in an erection. I think this was addressed by Lynn in her post, in which she mentioned that her husband teaches film.
But I Thessalonians 4:3-4 does address this issue, though Bible translators have obfuscated it. The KJV of v. 4 reads that every man should “possess his vessel.” Some commentators believe this is a “to men only” passage warning a man to “control his penis,” though one commentator said he’d found it embarrassing to admit it.
Happy is the man whose wife understands that a moral sexual response, female or male, is an act of the will, motivated by the heart, as Jesus said in Matthew 15:18-19. Unlike other mammals, who respond to the other sex only during estrus, and are then unable to control themselves, men do get spontaneous erections, and women often spontaneously get “wet,” entirely apart from any desire of the heart.
Thanks for another male perspective! I truly appreciate it.
Although I have to say I cringed with “seeing a pretty woman clothed or nude isn’t sinful.” I’m not saying it’s sinful just to see that, but I don’t want my husband looking at any other naked women. (And he wouldn’t.) But I suspect you’d agree that pursuing that is a very bad idea.
In response to your comment re my comment, J, you have raised an issue that needs to be addressed, and another issue comes to mind that needs to be clarified.
First, I do agree with you that “pursuing that is a very bad idea.” We wear clothes for much the same reason we lock our homes and cars when we leave. Not everyone can be trusted to not abuse what belongs to others. But some can, within limits. Having recently survived two major surgeries (heart; stomach), I found myself in the care of nurses, some of them young and pretty, doing things with my body that under ordinary circumstances I could not allow for the sake of morality, my love for Jesus and for my wife. Or, to turn this thing around, years ago I was on a tour of Africa with a missionary organization that took me there to write magazine reports about their ministry. We were taken on a tour of a hospital in Niger, and in one ward a strikingly beautiful Black girl, of perhaps 17 to 29, lay naked on a bed with her newborn. I clapped my hand over the lens cap of my camera, as she glared into my eyes with a look that said “Don’t take my picture.” Yet she made no move to cover up. My inward reaction was that she was my sister, and that, circumstances permitting, I should grab the sheet and cover her. I saw, but I had not sinned. Nor, more recently, had my nurses here in America, I don’t believe. It’s not what a man sees; it’s what he imagines in his heart.
This leads to the second issue, which I’m asking you to clarify. In several recent blog posts, you have addressed pornography. In my thinking, porn is photos or lewd drawings or paintings depicting couples engaged in sex, or individuals lewdly and provocatively posed. But what about an artistic nude? E.g. “September Morn,” by Paul Chavas, circa. 1913, that depicts a willowy, naked girl–the model was a teen–wading in a lake at sunrise. This painting was displayed in a Chicago store window 100 years ago, and the storekeeper was summonsed into court for indecency.
I do see problems with such paintings (or photos), by the way. They easily become idolatry (primarily to men, but also to women–who sometimes also worship their own bodies). I think this is one reason why the 10 Commandments forbids “graven images”; and ancient peoples did make images (both lewd and non-lewd) of both males and females, which they worshipped. I don’t mean to say that it’s always idolatry to enjoy the beauty of such a photo or painting; only that it easily BECOMES idolatry. Possibly this is why men are drawn to view such art. Maybe what the wives who’ve responded to your posts have complained that their hubbies were addicted to isn’t really porn addiction, but an addiction to idols. For myself, what is usually termed “porn” (the lewd stuff) is disgusting.
Idolatry in any form, of course, is something to be repented of and forsaken. Psychology is of little help in this.
And BTW, the cover of the first edition of Elizabeth Elliot’s PASSION AND PURITY features a painting of the nude Venus. I own a copy. Elliot’s writings on marriage and Christian morality have made her possibly the leading writer on these issues of the past 100 years.
What does J think?
“What does J think?” J thinks she’s been seen naked by male doctors and never felt ogled for a moment. So yeah, I think there’s “naked” and then there’s “naked.” Also, one of my best friends in life is an artist, and we have toured art museums together and seen beautiful, artistic nudes that clearly did not aim to arouse. But we’ve seen other paintings or photographs that clearly did intend to arouse the viewer.
I’ll give you a movie example. One of my very favorite movies is A Room with a View, and there’s a scene in that film that shows men skinny dipping. There is absolutely nothing sexual about it, but if you took those same guys and posed them in a different setting and a different way, the impression could well be sexual. Even so, do I think they could have filmed that scene without showing all they showed? Yep, I do…and wish they had. I certainly would never want anyone in my family showing off their body that way.
So yes, I think that nudity itself isn’t the issue, but we have to look at intent, presentation, and consequences of what we view. Two wonderful Christians might draw the line in different place, but we all pretty much know when an image is meant to titillate. And truth be told, most people aren’t struggling so much with the gray areas — they’re struggling with outright sin.
This is a bone of contention between hubby and I. He sees nothing wrong with flipping through a playboy, watching Game of Thrones, or watching movies with nudity and sex in it so long as you aren’t doing any of these things to actively lust and masturbate. I would get stuck because, yes, I do believe you can see nudity and not be aroused (Schindler’s List concentration camps, National Geographic, Venus de Milo, a doctor and patient), but I inherently know that grabbing a Playboy or indulging in graphic TV shows is wrong.
Someone helped me clarify this confusion I had by stating that SEEING nudity isn’t automatically a sin. It is LEWDNESS. Playboy, Game of Thrones, Wolf of Wall Street are LEWD. Can a man go to a strip club for drinks and not lust after the stripper trying to give him a lap dance? Yes, but I still believe he is in sin to be there participating in and contributing to lewdness.
If my husband sees the breasts of a woman nursing her baby, I wouldn’t be upset. But if he goes to topless hour at the local bar, I would be LIVID.
I agree with Libl, too, J. I also believe that habitual viewing of non-pornographic nudes (the kind that aren’t lewd) can and does lead to idolatry. I think calling this “porn addiction” is missing the point.
Libl made a good point re her husband noticing a woman nursing a baby. Like the woman I caught by surprise in Africa, a woman nursing (or taking a bath, for that matter) has a soul; and souls do interact and react, and normal men respond to this interaction from a woman’s soul by a desire to protect that woman, rather than seeing her as entertainment or an object of worship. We Americans are so uptight about this that most boys grow to maturity without seeing their moms, aunts or older sister nurse a baby. Then we wonder why teen boys are so fixated on breasts.
Well, nuff said by me. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and it’s two days from my 77th birthday, so I’d better get some sleep if I’m gonna enjoy the celebrating.
I was right with you until the idea of people seeing me breastfeed. 🙂 Yeah, not happening. I still believe that’s a private area, and while I did nurse in public, I did so discreetly.
And wow, 77! Go you.
Maybe some clarification is in order here. I did not mean to imply that public breastfeeding is either good or bad. I meant only that growing boys should not be shielded from seeing close family members (their mothers, older sisters, aunts) nurse AT HOME.
As for public nursing . . . well, I don’t really have an opinion. I did once teach an adult SS class for six months in which two young mothers in the back row nursed their infants; and only this past march I attended a SS worker’s convention at a very conservative church where there were mothers doing the same. In both cases, they used towels, blankets, or a long blouse, which the mother simply stuck her kid under to nurse.
I do believe that rules re proper modesty are partially cultural and are also hinted at in the Bible. I also suspect that the naked young mother I saw in the African hospital may have been responding to a sudden hormonal imbalance caused by childbirth so that (given that her culture is also more open) she may have not had any urge to cover up. But she obviously didn’t want her picture taken!
“I meant only that growing boys should not be shielded from seeing close family members (their mothers, older sisters, aunts) nurse AT HOME.”
Okay, I have had a long discussion with my husband about this post, and I still don’t understand this very well at all. I understand that men can get erections for no reason at all, but she specifically stated in her question that her husband is getting erections “looking at other women”. That seems clearly wrong to me! Now, I also understand that there are pictures of women and actual women all over the place dressed and/or behaving inappropriately in order to get men’s attention. It can’t really be avoided. But I think there’s a difference in “seeing” and “looking”. Paul byerly seems to be saying that it’s just a sign his body is working. I quit following his blog for comments such as this. I did however follow the link to see what he’s saying lately and the first article seemed to be saying the same stuff. God made men to enjoy looking at women and its normal and healthy, just don’t lust. I do NOT agree with this. These kinds of comments are the kind that give fuel to husbands like libl’s. They tell themselves it’s okay because they’re just enjoying the beauty God created them to enjoy. To me, it’s dangerous ground for a blogger to be implying to other men that this behavior is okay. It’s appalling to me that there are men who think this way. As my husband said when I told him about it, why would anyone want to live so close to the line of what is appropriate and what is not? Living a life that close to the line insures that at some point, he will cross over it, In this case, into lust. These men are telling themselves they can look without lusting. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not, but at some point if he continues to excuse this behavior he will lust.
Actually, the question said this (verbatim): “My husband gets erections when he sees other women.” If a reader said, “My husband gets erections while thumbing through the Victoria’s Secret catalog” or “My husband gets erections while scanning the beach of bikini-clad women,” of course I would be screaming about his pursuing eye candy because that’s not okay! I am entirely in agreement with you and your husband that we shouldn’t live close to that line. Too often we ask, “How far is too far?” when the question should be “What honors my spouse and God?”
But I try to address these questions with an attitude of compassion and grace. That is, I’m not going to assume this guy is ogling women lustfully if there isn’t evidence in that regard. Which is how I treat my husband and, I believe, a good way for us to approach our spouses generally.
By the way, I love that you had a conversation about this with your husband. Ideally, that’s how marriages should work, as you share your own perspectives, talk about what God desires, and feel reassured that your spouse is pursuing the best for your marriage. Blessings!
Oh my goodness you’re right!!! I totally read the question “looking” at other women! That explains why I was so confused with some of what was said here and some of what my husband was trying to say LOL!
And I know you would never condone a husband checking out other women. 🙂 I was speaking to what I thought Paul byerly was saying here, in addition to his latest blog post which seemed to go hand in hand with this question to me.
And about having this conversation with my husband, I just wanted to say that he and I have always had a great relationship, but since I discovered your blog and your books, we have gone to a whole new level of intimacy! It’s just blown us both away the freedom I feel in discussing anything now, and he is always so open with me to answer my questions and calm my fears. Our sex life has just been getting better and better, and I am so thankful to you and for all you do! Your ministry has truly blessed our marriage!
Thanks, Momtomany! And I get what you’re saying. Just so you know, I sent this question to Paul a couple of weeks ago, and he responded right away. Then I held it until I could fill in the rest of what I wanted to say.
There are bodily reactions that are visceral, quite apart from lust. The New Testament Greek word for lust is epithumia. It is a strong word. To lust is to deliberately continue to desire something–usually something that we should not want. I don’t even believe that it is lust for an inappropriate thought to pop into one’s mind. It becomes lust when we continue to dwell on it. It is very possible for a man that is trying to do the right thing to appreciate female beauty without lusting. Especially if he is young, it is possible for him to get an erection without lusting. There are erections for which a man is responsible, and there are those that arise unbidden. Ladies, a suspicious woman cannot remain a woman of goodwill, and when goodwill dies in a marriage, nothing good can come of it. Try very hard to give your husband the benefit of the doubt until it becomes obvious that you should do otherwise. A good husband struggles in this area of life; he doesn’t reach perfection. Maybe you can’t understand. The female gender is prone to sins that men don’t understand. Understand?
First of all, I know I’m late coming into this conversation, but I stumbled upon it today and I’m grateful for this fantastic blog and the opportunity to get the writer’s opinion, which I’ve come to respect after reading her comments.
I’m a young married man and I firmly believe in what you said about not lusting after other women, however, how do we identify the manifestations of that act? Is it looking at a woman too long, experiencing an erection, have sexual thoughts of her?
The reason I ask this is because I’ve trained myself to always respect women. For example, today, one of my co-workers boarded the elevator I was in. I couldn’t help but notice how pretty she looked (hair, makeup, overall attractiveness) and that she was wearing a low cut dress and high-heel sandals that accentuated her legs and feet. I admired her for how much care she took in her presentability and how stunning she looked as a result. I did not look at her more than the visual observation I made when she entered the elevator and perhaps glanced quickly to acknowledge her as I waited for her to exit the elevator first.
Even though I admittedly found her sexy, I purposefully refrained from having any inappropriate sexual thoughts of her out of respect to both her and to my wife. Don’t get me wrong, I have a high sex drive and I’m extremely attracted to women, but I’ve trained myself to always view, interact, and think of women in a respectful manner. I’ve trained myself to respect a woman’s choice of clothing and to never judge her for it or use it as an excuse for my shortcoming. I’ve trained myself to admire the hard work that women put into their beauty and appearance, to pay compliment to only where appropriate, and to always treat them with respect.
What’s helped me do this is refraining from sexual thoughts about a woman. For example, I recently pointed out to my wife at the mall a pretty woman that walked nearby us. I told my wife that I really like the shoes that woman was wearing (I honestly did) and my wife agreed and wanted me to buy her a pair, but she didn’t like the idea that the woman had even caught my attention. I kept reassuring her that I simply noticed the woman and admired her shoes (they were cool gladiator sandals that went all the way up to her knees by the way) and outfit, but I didn’t stare or have impure thoughts about her. I told her that I can’t pretend that women don’t exist around us, as that in itself would also be a form of disrespect, but I can control my reaction.
I never get erections to other women because no matter how sexy I find them or how sexy they’re dressed, I don’t believe I have the right to have lustful thoughts of them. I think it’s inappropriate and highly disrespectful. Believe me, this is not easy for a man with a high sex drive who only gets sex once a week and nothing in-between. I accept my wife’s lower sex drive and her choice to refrain from other forms of sexual activity (oral, hand, etc) and do not pressure her or use it as an excuse for lust/porn/masturbation, as she would also strongly object to this as well. I truly believe that if I treat women, regardless of the circumstance, with the utmost respect, then I am also in effect treating my wife with that same level of respect.
Is my behavior is appropriate here? Is it wrong of me to point out a woman that is walked past us and tell my wife that she has nice shoes or great hair in a respectful manner, even if the woman was wearing a short skirt or tight jeans, just as I point out men to her wearing cool jackets or pants? Where does one draw the line of being respectful of women and not treating them like they don’t exist or body shaming them for finding them attractive. I think I’m handling it as appropriately as humanly possible, but I wanted to hear your thoughts on this.
I think you’re drawing great boundaries for yourself in how you look and think about women. I also notice attractive men, but I’m not sexually interested in them. The only guy for me is the one who put the ring on my finger. I believe lusting is when your thoughts linger, dwell, or take a turn into sexual territory. But noticing a person of the opposite sex is appealing? I don’t think that’s wrong, as the Bible describes the attractiveness of several people (see Permission to Feel Beautiful with Bonny Logsdon Burns).
But a word to the wise: I think if you notice someone of the opposite sex who’s attractive, keep it to yourself. Now I know some marriages where they actually bring it out in the open, and they want to discuss it. But most spouses don’t want to hear that you noticed someone else’s looks. I’m well-aware my husband has eyes and is not dead — the man sees pretty women — but I personally wouldn’t like him saying, “Hey, look at her…and her shoes.” Not that I’d think he’s lusting (of course not!); I just want his attention fixed on me.
Thank you for the honest response and woman’s perspective on the matter. I’m glad to see that you believe I am setting appropriate boundaries for myself in how I view and think about women. It’s a little relieving to hear you say that it’s normal for me as a man to notice an attractive woman and even find her appealing so long as my behavior is appropriate and my thoughts of her remain non-sexual and respectful. I know it’s easier said than done, but your words of encouragement are very appreciated and make me want to stay the course.
I’m going to take your advice and refrain from pointing out other women to my wife. If you also find it undeseriable then there must be something to it and I need to correct that piece. I guess I just hadn’t fully understood the wife’s perspective. Other than that, is my behavior when it comes to women appropriate? I think this is an issue that many men struggle with, there are too many men that look at inappropriate images and masturbate behind their wife’s back. It’s something I did before marriage and I came to realize it wasn’t an innocent act, it was wrong, immoral, and disrespectful to women. I would love to see a follow-up to this issue written and discussed, I think it’s important and often overlooked.
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