Battling the Temptation of the Eyes
- Saturday, June 17, 2006
"It’s okay to shop, as long as you don’t buy," I overheard a man say, chatting with one of his buddies at the gym.
"My wife gets a little rattled when I look at women," the second man continued, "but that’s her insecurity coming out."
"I don’t understand the big deal. I don’t see why they get so upset," the first added. "It’s all innocent fun."
Is that true? Are women fine with their husband’s ogling other women? Is it all innocent fun? Who’s having the fun, and how is it innocent?
My counseling experience reveals women hate it when their men look at other women on the street, on television, in magazines, or even on Internet pornography sites. Here’s a recent example from my counseling practice.
Beverly and John have been married twenty years, with three children in late adolescence. Their difficulties stem primarily from her increasing lack of security in their marriage, which is part of a vicious cycle involving John’s "innocent" interest in other women.
John describes himself as "a looker," but this has created greater insecurity for Beverly and has added to tension in their physical relationship.
John, feeling deprived and entitled to sex any time he wanted, has became resentful when Beverly insisted that their emotional relationship be strong in order to enjoy a strong sexual relationship. While she has never deprived James of a sexual relationship, the frequency has not been what he wanted, and he let her know he resented her for it. She has pleaded for him to stop watching other women, which he has continued to minimize.
They came to counseling hoping to end their vicious cycle, hoping to create a more intimate relationship, something they seem to have lost.
Beverly has tried to share her sadness and resentment about John’s behavior. She has explained to him that looking at other women was not innocent to her. James offered this response.
"Everyone knows men are visual, and it’s only natural for men to look. I’ve never cheated on Beverly. Guys will be guys. I don’t think she has any right to be upset about this. It’s not like it is our only problem."
Beverly countered, obviously exasperated and deeply hurt.
"I can’t believe he can say these things, and do these things, knowing how hurtful it is to me. I feel betrayed every time he leers at women on the street. I can’t compete with some of those women, and I’m not going to try. It just opens the wound back up again, and I want to push away from him even more. We’re caught in a vicious cycle."
Some time ago, in my book When Pleasing Others is Hurting You, I wrote about an old-fashioned concept -- chastity, and it is a concept we seem to have lost. Consider how this word and meaning may apply to men today:
Chastity—simplicity of affections, purity of intentions.
Can men "shop" as long as they don’t buy? No, because our affections need to be kept simple—on our wife. Can men look at the merchandise as long as they don’t touch? Of course not. Our intentions are not pure. Our fantasies are not pure.
In fact, I teach men that when meeting others of the opposite sex we send out a signal:
Green Light: Body stance is open, eyes are direct, conversation is engaging. We are available for a relationship.
Yellow Light: Caution—however, let’s talk, flirt a little, and possibly even move into a closer relationship.
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