Battling the Temptation of the Eyes
- 2006 17 Jun
"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.
Red Light: Stop! Don’t even think about it. I’m taken and I will guard my boundaries vigorously.
Too many married men think they can flirt with danger, sending out yellow and green lights. They may even think their behavior is innocent when it is anything but that. We’re flirting with danger when we allow ourselves to take a second and third look at a beautiful woman. In the "yellow zone" we allow ourselves to be playful with women, talking flirtatiously. Taking the "look" further into the realm of pornography is particularly damaging to the "looker" and to their mate.
The Apostle James warns us about temptations.
"Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1: 14-15)
Stephen Arteburn, in his book Everyman’s Battle, offers several lines of defense from temptation of the eyes. First, recognize that this attraction threatens everything I hold dear. Again, there is nothing innocent about flirting with danger. It leads to greater temptation and hurts your mate, damaging your marriage. Second, recognize I have no right to this. Other women are off limits. You are taken and belong to someone else. Third, heighten the red alert. See the dangers in this "innocent activity," and treat it like you would treat any dangerous situation.
What does this mean practically? It means that like John, we must learn to bounce our eyes off attractive women. We cannot afford our glances to become stares. We must avoid dangerous, flirtatious situations. Conversations with women can be friendly, but must give the distinct message, "This relationship can go no further, not now, not ever!"
Finally, we must honor and cherish our wives by letting them know they are who we want to be with. They are the one that excite us and our marriages are dear and valuable to us. Our energies, emotions and eyes are focused on them. We choose chastity -- to focus our affections and intentions on our mate with purity.
Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest book is titled When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives with his wife on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.