September 17, 2016

What Your Husband May Never Tell You (and one thing every husband needs to do accordingly)

Gary Thomas — 


What Your Husband May Never Tell You

Wives, there’s something you need to know about your husbands that many women don’t know. Your husbands aren’t likely to tell you about it, because they fear it might sound self-serving or perhaps that it might terrify you. So let me be your husband’s advocate and tell you something that you need to know if you want to truly understand your husband:

Sexual struggles are different for men than they are for women.

They just are.

Wives, if you want a connected marriage, an intimate marriage, a marriage based on understanding, a marriage in which your husband is so grateful to you for “getting” him and knowing him, you have to avoid comparing your sexual struggles and temptations with his.

They’re not the same.

They will never be the same.

They’re just not.

Yes, women struggle with porn as do men. Women have affairs, as do men. Women struggle with same-gender sexuality, as do men. But the underlying causes are usually very different.

For example: it is rare that a happily married woman will have an affair, while many men who say they are very happy in their marriage end up in an affair. Why do you think this is?

And while it isn’t universally true, many women who desire lesbian experiences have had horrendous experiences with men, including sexual abuse. Many didn’t start off with lesbian desires. They just got fed up with how they were treated by men and women were the only option left. That’s not generally true—and in fact is probably rarely true—of male homosexual desire.

Dr. Al Mohler helped me understand the importance of making the distinction between male and female sexual desires when he contributed a chapter to the book Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, published over a decade ago. In that chapter, Dr. Mohler talks about how we must be honest with scriptural condemnations of homosexual behavior while also being sympathetic toward the temptation to do wrong, as some form of sexual sin is a universal struggle among all men. There isn’t a man alive who isn’t bent in his sexual desires. While the vast majority of us do not have homosexual desires, we have other desires that do not honor God. That’s the burden of being a man. Women have untoward desires as well, but they are different.

Here’s what Dr. Mohler writes: “No man, not even the most committed heterosexual husband, will be able to say on the Day of Judgment, ‘My sexual affections, my sexual arousal, was always, from the very beginning, only directly toward that which was holy—the covenant of marriage and the wife that I was given.’ Every man struggles with a corrupted affection, and that corrupted affection, given the reality of the male sex drive, is often directed toward a desire for fulfillment entirely at odds with the glory of God. Every man bears a different sexual struggle, but every man is engaged in a sexual struggle, and this should give us an attitude of sympathy as we address homosexuals with the truth.”

I particularly appreciate that line, every man bears a different sexual struggle, but every man is engaged in a sexual struggle. If wives don’t understand this, they will never understand their husbands. Though sexual temptation often comes upon women, for men it will usually be an ever present struggle in more intense ways. Few men can forget about it.

Speaking as a man in his fifties, I do think the battle changes somewhat as we get older, but it doesn’t end. As a pastor who has had many men openly share their struggles with him, I have developed an ever deeper compassion for this universal struggle. As a man who has faced and still faces the constant stream of his own sexual temptation, the form sexual temptation takes doesn’t interest me as much because we all are tempted to go wrong in some way, and most of us will occasionally fall in some way. (I’m not, by any means, suggesting we will all be physically unfaithful to our wives or look at porn. But if we accept Christ’s definition of sexual purity, few men will be one-hundred percent “successful.”)

I am not excusing sexual sin. A wife should not just “accept” ongoing, unrepentant, sexual sin. Any form of sexual sin will destroy marital intimacy, assault our integrity, diminish our worship, handicap our ministry, detract us from our parenting, and sap our spiritual energy and desire. Every form of sexual sin should be confronted, and if the man doesn’t repent, the church needs to support the wife, not imprison her with an unrepentant and increasingly bent husband. She should never be asked or guilted into just “going along” or putting up with shameful treatment to “keep the peace.”

This post is rather all about pleading with women married to common struggling sinners, helping them to understand that they are not doing their husband justice if they think, “Because sexual temptation is, for me, a two on a scale of one to ten, then it shouldn’t be higher than a three or a four for my husband.”

That’s not a fair comparison. That would be like a weight-lifting husband saying to his wife, “Because I can bench press three hundred pounds, you ought to be able to push up two hundred fifty pounds.”

I don’t want you to excuse your husband or conspire with his sexual sin or accommodate sinful sexual desires. I just want you to understand him, to realize that it is different for him, to pray for him, to be watchful for him in a caring, cherishing way, rather than with a judgmental condemning attitude.

Fire Ant Therapyfire-ants

While I love many things about Texas, what I like least (and even hate) are fire ants. They’re not native to Texas, so when I want to kill them all I’m merely cooperating with God’s creative intentions. Fire ants are tiny, but their bites are brutal. It takes a couple hours to feel them, but then the burn and the itch are with you for days.

Some of these insects invaded our house recently and assaulted my wife. She was bitten all over her body, at least in a dozen different places. She was miserable. I felt sorry for her, but not sorry enough. It wasn’t until one of them got me a few days later, on one of my hands, that I was reminded of the intensity of their devilish assault.

When I faced my own struggle (one bite kept me from sleeping one night) and then tried to multiply it by ten, I realized just how awful the struggle must have been for Lisa, and how I should have had one hundred times the empathy and compassion that I demonstrated. I had one bite; she had a dozen. I knew what a little sting was like, but she had to live with multiple stings. That made me more sensitive not less.

Can you have that attitude with your husband? You know what sexual temptation and bent desires are like. Multiply that struggle by a dozen and you’ll begin to understand what it’s like for your husband.

Most of us Christian men want to love our wives with purity and walk with our God with integrity. We want to let the light and life of Jesus Christ change not just our actions, but our very desires.  But all this takes time. Sanctification is a process. You don’t help us by ignoring sin or accommodating sin, but you also don’t help by shaming us or by acting as if your relative lack of struggle is proof that we shouldn’t struggle as well.

Of course, whenever a writer makes generalizations there will be exceptions. I am sure there are some marriages where the wife struggles with sinful sexual desires more than does her husband. But I do believe these are exceptions more than the rule.

Which means, wives, if you happen to be married to a man who takes his sexual integrity seriously; who fights to save all his sexual interest and desire for you; who makes himself accountable to rein in his untoward desires; who is committed to being faithful and true, please don’t take him for granted. Sadly, that’s not “normal.” It’s becoming something of an exception.

And to the husbands: we have to understand that when we fight sexual desires that do not honor God, we’re not just fighting for our integrity, we’re fighting for our wives. Help your wives understand what it’s like for you in particular. Years ago, knowing the vulnerability I have as a man, I gave Lisa three names. “If I start misbehaving in any way and won’t listen to your appeals, go to one of these men and tell them what’s going on.”

These aren’t the kind of men who will tell Lisa to “settle down.” They’ll call me that day and force the issue. I did this because I know the heart is deceitful, and men much better and stronger and godlier than me have fallen. Lisa as my accountability partner is a comfort to me, not a threat, because I know in my brain that there is no ultimate satisfaction in any sexual activity outside God’s will. So I want her to “save” me if I become spiritually delusional or just self-indulgently weak.

Our wives are so vulnerable to our sexual sin. I urge every man reading this to give your wife the names of at least two men she can appeal to if you won’t listen. Lisa hasn’t had to make that call, but knowing that she could significantly alters the battle for me. It’s actually a comfort.

And to all you wives who show understanding, encouragement, and generosity in this regard: thank you. You are a true treasure, gifts from God himself. Your husband is immensely blessed. I write this as one married to such a woman.

Let me end by re-stating the main point: wives, you will never truly understand your husband until you understand that his sexual temptations and struggles are fundamentally different than yours. They just are. While this should not lead you to excuse or accept your husband’s sin, I hope it will help you understand him and pray for him and appreciate his struggles in a new way, as well as motivate you to keep pursuing a healthy and generous marital sexual relationship.

Women: does this surprise you?

Men: do you think I’m being fair? Am I overstating the case?


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126 responses to What Your Husband May Never Tell You (and one thing every husband needs to do accordingly)

  1. Bring God’s light into the situation. Men need groups in the church that help them to embarrass the sin not the struggle. Make it harder for them to sin to the point of putting Scripture tattoed below their navel, and according to the Bible they should continually have the Word before their eyes, coming out of their mouth and getting into their hearts to renew their minds. Also, they should be taught to hate sin. They should be taught to view prostitutes, and porn actors as potential brothers and sisters in Christ. Women and men who have been enslaved in sin and need Jesus.
    Perhaps there is a hint of truth in what the women are crying out for… Perhaps as strong as a man’s desire to pursue lust is a woman’s desire to be the sole affection for her man. Do not tar and feather me. I watched, prayed for, cried with a friend who went through a husband’s affair and it was horrible. I felt physically ill and emotionally drained just comforting her. However the Bible says we will desire to control our husband. No excuse whatsoever for a wandering husband. I believe Matthew 18 clearly tells wives what they need to do to help a spouse in sin. Corinthians also where a man was turned over to the devil in order to repent (taken out of church and out of fellowship.) I realize this article is to open women’s eyes. It has. But the Bible says God provides a way out every time we are tempted… And Christ was tempted in every way, but without sin. It is not sin to be tempted. It is sin to consider that temptation and act. So shouldn’t our men be asked to rise above the norm and wholeheartedly die to self so Christ can live in them? Shouldn’t the women die to their self and let God bring their wayward husband back? This life will bring tribulation but Christ has overcome the world. Neither sex should give up on the fight. 🙂
    Peace and blessings to all of you!

  2. My husband has given me red flags to look for and a process to walk through if I see them. It includes people I can reach out to if I feel he isn’t listening to me. I believe this shows honest vulnerability and depth of commitment so I appreciate the suggestion.

    I feel that women are repeatedly asked to have empathy for men’s struggles but little help is provided for what to do with our broken hearts. I would ask men to have empathy as well. Do you have any idea the self sacrifice it takes to be intimate when we feel like we will never be enough for you? So many of us have been told by the church to be available, lose weight, keep up our appearance, be exciting and creative, and so on…. Then you fall, we feel like failures, and we are told to be more understanding.

  3. Hi Gary,
    Great post. My husband cheated on me while we were engaged to be married (I didn’t know). After a year of marriage I found an email from an Internet dating website and logged in to find him talking with other women. Anyway good news is we’re still married 11 year later! It came down to… get help or I leave. We did two years of intense counselling. Hardest time of my life but I’m happy to say I am now married to a man that fights the good fight everyday. Interesting our counsellor wanted to know why I wanted to work things out. He told me only 9 out of 10 women that he sees leave. After some discussion it was clear to him that my upbringing had a major influence. I was use to a lot of disappointment growing up. What Devil had designed to break me as a child helped save my marriage. God is great like that! Anyway if I hadn’t of given him the chance to fight for me/change i would have missed out on who he has become today! Truly the best man I know.

  4. I really like this article and I thank you for being honest. Could you please give me some specific prayer points that I could continue to pray for my husband in this area so I know what to pray? Thanks alot bless you all
    PS. This article reminds me of how my father had an affair and it ruined our family this is a serious issue and not one to take lightly. I have also been tempted but growing up in the family I did has made me realise how much I would lose and all the damage I would cause which always makes me think no amount of lust is ever worth it. When I am put in a situation I tell my husband straight away and pull away from that scenario. I also advise him to do the same. Especially when you are in ministry people can look to you instead of Christ and develop inappropriate feelings. A united front is best. Being honest with each other about other feelings or sexual attractions helps to keep us accountable to each other. It doesn’t mean I love my husband any less and he doesn’t love me any less. In fact it helps us to look out for each other. We are in this together, one in Christ and can be each other’s best support system.

    • Sheree,

      Pray for him to desire you more and more. Pray for him to be convicted in a powerful way whenever his eyes start to stray. Pray that God would destroy any inappropriate relationship he may be building. Pray that God will surround him with friends who inspire him toward purity rather than jest about impurity. Pray that the Scriptures he has learned and heard will be implanted in his brain and come back at the appropriate time. Pray that he will have an increased affection and desire for you, and a burning in his soul to protect the security of his children’s home. Pray he will be so involved in making a difference for God (going on the offense) that he won’t have time to stray by indulging lustful desires.

      In addition to prayer, consider bringing up the topic of sex now and then–ask him how things are going, what makes him feel fulfilled, when does he feel most tempted (when he’s tired? Discouraged? when it’s been a certain number of days since the two of you have been intimate?), how the two of you can build the kind of marriage where he doesn’t want to stray. (This is NOT NOT NOT to suggest any wife is ever at fault when her husband strays; no man has an excuse to be unfaithful–I’m just trying to answer an honest inquiry here).

      A man has to decide for himself to be completely faithful; but a supportive wife can certainly make it easier. Though, of course, even the most generous and understanding of wives have sometimes had their hearts broken when a husband strays in spite of their best efforts.

  5. Hi , as much as I want to be able to understand. The elements of the Gospel truth,yet my hurting heart struggles with in , where I can’t digest my husband infidelity. Yes I have forgiven him and it’s was a hard call and crash after 24 yrs and with 5 lovely children and my marriage trust just flush out of the drain. Gray am trying hard so God help me

  6. The key for me regarding sexual temptation has been to not look lustfully with my eyes and hard my heart.
    But like Gary alluded to, I have not arrived.

  7. I struggle with the above. If men were desiring God & pleasing Him, putting the fruit of the Spirit into action their flesh wouldn’t win. If men were putting Christ 1st rather than their own physical neediness, porn and affairs could stop. If men were working rather than pursuing pleasures of this world – their temptations would lessen. When we are weak or tempted that when God wants to be our strength.When the enemy comes to fight for our souls why give in? In my 55 years, I’ve witnessed more women attending church, more women in special prayer services, more women’s Bible studies and more women truly hungry and seeking Christ. What would happen if men saw their true NEED is only fulfilled by the God Who created them?

  8. Gary, I would love to know what you think of Gary Smalley’s book, Change Your Heart, Change Your Life. In it, he points out that scripture says out of the heart flow our words and actions — and of course our thoughts. He candidly talks of his own struggles with lust, and how he eventually learned the importance of filling his mind with scripture which completely helped him to change his heart and thoughts. That book makes so much sense to me, as do his applications of scripture to this problem. He renewed his mind, which of course is what we are told we are to do, and (not-surprisingly) it worked.

  9. Dear Gary,
    Thank you for your post. I believe you are trying to help both wives and husbands with a very delicate subject. My husband and I have recently been reading For Men Only and For Women Only by Jeff and Shaunti Felhahn. They express the same suggestions you do here based on numerous statistics. We’re finding it helpful…and difficult to navigate. When one in four women has been sexually assaulted in some way (those statistics only by report), and often by an abusive family member, boyfriend or husband it is very difficult to ask those women to have empathy toward the struggle men have with sexual temptation. I believe this is what you are seeing here in the responses. Having been a victim of such abuse, I can understand how many women feel the weight of responsibility and need to feel vindicated rather than told to “understand.” I do agree with you, but I also understand how these women may view your advice. They can’t hear you because they live a reality in which men are excused, the women are blamed and told to submit and God doesn’t seem to be present or helping in their situation. I’ve asked many of these same questions over my lifetime. There must be a way to bridge the gap. You suggest a wonderful thing to be accountable and give your wife names. I’m sure she is so blessed by that and even more able, because of your willingness to work at purity, to empathize with your struggles. But the truth is, many men (in my experience) don’t want to be accountable, they want an excuse or someone to blame for their sin. If that can be a wife who doesn’t “understand his struggles”… perhaps you can see the challenge here. I’m very grateful that my godly husband is willing to work through his struggles and include me, but my previous two were not. Your content is great, but there has to be a different way to reach the millions who have been so hurt and traumatized that they simply can’t embrace this. It’s too beyond their realities. Praying for you, your family and your ministry as God leads you in these very volatile and tricky areas!

  10. Because women typically cheat when they are not happy and men just want sex (just what most people say anyway).

  11. Looks like you have a lot of material for your next book! Since I have read them all, I am looking forward to it. Once Satan knows you have a weakness, he doesn’t let up. And if you have had success in giving up that sin and have repented, he is even more persistent. Love your plan for if you ever indulge in sinful behavior and become blind to it. Very smart.

  12. truth knoble-Argos September 17, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Having been on the otherside, as one whose husband has cheated on her. I fo find the article quite hard to stomach. My husbands Bishop chastsed me for kicking him out of tje marital home. His parents, siblings and church demonised me, spread rumours, gossip and treated me abdominably. All the time I was pregnant with our 3rd child. I was totally demonised and treated awful at my most vunerable state. Because I would not stand for or accept the disgusting/hypocritical life my husband was leading. What made it worse, was it was on my doorstep – I couldn’t even cry away from it. Or move away from it. My husband only came to repentance when 1 pastor – the only pastor (it seemed) in his church who truly seemed to know right from wrong, or what the Bible said about such things. Counselled us and actually explained to my husband the damage he had done was doing to his family and he was ending his own marriage, and also what the Bible said on such issues. Before that my husband honestly believed the lies and dsyfunction his family and church family were feeding him. He believed he did nothing wrong , there was no issue in his eyes, it was all my fault. He had looked down on me with scorn and disgust. He really believed all the upset was my fault. He had taken no responsibility. When it finally hit him, the accetance of his behaviourl, conduct and the way he allowed ‘his tribe’ to treat me. He repented, I recieved a true apology. And after 2 years out of the home, he was allowed back. I was not prepared to put and shut up. I had left the world, been rejected by family when I chose to follow Christ. I was not prepared to accept hypocrisy and a life contrary to Word of God, as my norm. To say ‘I do not really have a great relationship’ with his immediate family – would be right. They remain the same. But my husband and I do not. If I excused him then, I’d be looking after his ‘other children’ born within our union of marriage. Something I would never wish on any wife.

  13. This read was enlightening for me and your ant bite analogy put your point in perspective. I haven’t thought about my husband’s sexual struggles being so much more intense than mine. This idea makes me want to take some pressures off of him, give him a back massage, and do something I know that will make him laugh. My husband is my best friend…life is tough enough without pesky distractions like inappropriate images popping up in our minds. I want my best friend to know that I am on his side! Maybe today, I will work to be his “distractions”

    Gary, you always point your readers right where we need to go, straight to the Heart of God! His banner over us is Love…always love!

    Thank you and bless you!

  14. This is one of the worst thing I have ever read. Of course the men like and agree with your post, while I am to lovingly accept being treated like trash because my husband has these struggles which are so much worse for him than me (agree with Allie’s comment). And to say that for a man to take his sexual integrity seriously or to be committed to being faithful and true is not the norm, what message are you trying to send here?! What a load of bull. Shame on you.

    • Tracey, I don’t believe you should “lovingly accept being treated like trash.” I thought I had gone out of my way to make that clear in the post but it’s clearly not getting through to everyone who reads it. And I may have over-stated it when I say a man taking his sexual integrity seriously isn’t the norm. I hope I’m wrong about that! But the many replies to this blog show that many men haven’t, and the hurt they have caused their wives would, I hope, help other wives to at least be appreciative of their victorious husband’s efforts..

      Is it so wrong to ask wives to have empathy for the struggle (not empathy for the sin, but empathy for the struggle) and appreciation for the hard-won victories? Is that really a “shameful” message?

      • I will never accept that it’s not normal, as you stated, for men to be committed to being faithful and true to their wives. That idea says, as wives we will never be good enough and we have to just be understanding of our husbands being tempted to want every little short skirted thing that walks by, because that’s “normal” and because what, men are wired that way? That is sick. I refuse to believe God wired men that way. Yes, my husband is in a group of sex addicts whose “leader” just today pointed them to this very article, which makes me want to VOMIT. This group of men has gone far far down the path of sexual sin against their wives and this is what they are discussing and focusing on?? That their wives should be more understanding of their sleeping around. I am repulsed. And yes, I’ve shown grace… A grace that’s only credited to Christ in me. And I’ve been fighting for 14 months for redemption. But this article, combined with the fact that extremely sexually sick men are being pointed here. Like hey, we’ve really messed up our marriages through the many sexual sins we’ve committed, but our wives just need to be understanding. Sick.

        • Tracey, the last thing I want to do is argue with you. What you’ve gone through is something no woman should ever have to go through and I don’t want to add to your pain. I get your resentment, especially if you think I’m excusing sexual sin. I just don’t think this post does that. I repeat twice in it that what I’m saying doesn’t mean women should just “accept” their husband’s failings. This is a direct quote from the post you have such a problem with, yet it seems to say exactly what you want me to say: “Every form of sexual sin should be confronted, and if the man doesn’t repent, the church needs to support the wife, not imprison her with an unrepentant and increasingly bent husband. She should never be asked or guilted into just “going along” or putting up with shameful treatment to “keep the peace.”

          And I HAVE challenged men, and will continue to do so, like in one of our most popular posts, “Christian husbands suffer first” (there’s also a link under the “most popular posts” button

          That’s another reason why I don’t want to argue. I think we agree on so much, but I think in this case you’ve read something into the post that I don’t think is there. Having said that, you’re not the only one, which points back to me as the communicator, that there must have been a way for me to say it better and more clearly and with more compassion. And for that I’m sorry.

          When Sacred Marriage took off and I heard, years later, that a few misguided people were using it to keep women in abusive marriages, my heart grieved. That’s why, when A Lifelong Love came out, I added an appendix, “God Hates Domestic Violence.” I can’t stop people from misapplying truth. I still believe Sacred Marriage is true. I hate that its truth was bent to mislead. I tried so hard on this post (and even had two women read it beforehand) to make sure I was stressing empathy for the struggle (not the sin, the struggle) and appreciation for the victory, and to make sure I wasn’t leaving any woman vulnerable to the charge of just “putting up” with neglect or abuse. In your mind, clearly, I’ve failed. I’ll try to do better next time. But I’m going to leave this post up, because I do believe there’s a lot of truth in it. I still believe marriages will be served by empathy and understanding, particularly as it relates to a man’s sexual temptations.

          • Gary…for women that have been betrayed by men that PROMISED to protect them…it’s really hard to hear the things you’ve said in your article. I’m sorry if you feel attacked because I know you are committed to promoting men to protect their wives in marriage. I’ve read enough of your articles to know that. I think you’re hearing from the wounded.

            What can also be taken away from this article is that you’re calling your wife a blessing (I’m sure she is and is blessed to have a husband that appreciates her and recognizes her as such) & any woman that gives her husband empathy is a blessing for understanding the struggle. Because I was betrayed (even though my husband is currently repentant and getting help, so I’m not suffering in a continuiation of the affair with pornography/fantasizing about other women while completely neglecting me) it hurts too much to even consider. What kind of wife does that make me? Am I NOT a blessing? I think some women are tired of being the “blessing” and too hurt to have the ability to care to be. Sometimes the only blessing we can give is one more day. Some are too tired and need to be considered and a break from considering. Does that make sense? Does that explain the outrage?

          • Gary, it’s just that there are a thousand articles or books or whatever telling us we need to understand, accept, be more loving, more available, etc. For every thousand articles like yours, there is one that says basically, ‘ok, behave boys’. The problem is, there has been too much understanding! It’s time to get tough. It’s time to put a stop to the ‘good ole boys’ network. If you could actually sit down face to face and talk with Tracey and myself and other women who have been through this hell, maybe you would see differently. Maybe there would be some righteous anger and indignation. You said you had this article proof read by 2 women. Well, I don’t know them, but maybe they haven’t been through anything near what we have. Again, I am not trying to be disrespectful, but I really do wish that you would realize the bias that has always been shown and that is still being shown.

          • I agree with Jen, Gary. Women are so deeply wounded by this particular form of sexual abuse — and it strikes at a place of great insecurity in their tender hearts (Am I good enough? Am I beautiful? Am I cherished?) Your words are true and full of grace and many of these angry and defensive reactions just highlight the terrible consequences for women. They should move us to be filled with compassion for these ladies. (As I know you are.)

            By the way, I was one of them. Abused for many years by neglect and rejection and the presence of pornography and adultery throughout my marriage. And as a Christian wife, I generally did all that you recommend in this post (and many others). Unfortunately, you cannot love a person into kind, compassionate, and holy behavior. (Think about that — even GOD’S amazing love doesn’t compel everyone to turn to Him, and He won’t thwart their free will.) And so every woman has to listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading to determine when Enough Is Enough. And may every one be so blessed to be surrounded by loved ones who support her decision as I was.

            Gary, you knew that this post would be a lightning rod. Good for you for still speaking the truth in love! Praying for you as you respond to all of these precious, hurting ladies.

      • Gary Thomas….your last paragraph…..”Is it so wrong to ask wives to have empathy for the struggle…etc.” No, I don’t have a lot of empathy. There are men “in the world” who never claim to have a Christian commitment, and they don’t cheat on their wives. Why is it so hard to Christian men?” The same goes for temper, road rage, porn, unreasonableness, etc.

    • Tracey, I can tell from your reply that you’ve been deeply hurt. There is absolutely no excuse for the men in our lives to betray us. I have been betrayed too, and I desperately need a miracle in my marriage. But there is still a great deal of truth to this post. It’s possible to accept that men have more sexual temptation than we do WITHOUT excusing their sin.

      • Hi Ashley! I disagree. I am surrounded by good looking, well educated men on a daily basis- my husband is not surrounded by women. how is it harder for him than for me?

        • Why is it easier for women to gossip or judge than men? What is it in women that drives them to that sin more than men? Men and women struggle with different sins more than the other. If you did have a real struggle with gossip or maybe telling lies and its something your husband couldn’t really relate to, would you want him to be angry with you? Would you want him to say because he doesn’t have a struggle with it, you shouldn’t either? How is that fair? You won’t validate his struggle with sin but you expect endless understanding and grace for yours. Seems very hypocritical to me. I’ve been in bad relationships myself. I didn’t justify the sin but I’m not going to be the pot calling the kettle black. There are people that struggle with gambling and drugs….people who were neither poor or grew up in a bad home. Why was their urge so much greater and I myself have never been tempeted by either?

  15. Gary,

    I enjoy reading your posts, but I am confused by this one. My Christian husband has used porn on and off again over the years (I recently caught him). He of course blames me. I beg for physical attention and sex and get zero. He says ALL men like porn and that is that.

    He is very active in church and yet never touches me. I watch the other men touch their wives during church and hold their hands and I am angry beyond measure. I have no understanding or support for “his struggle” since he has a wife at home willing to be intimate with him. So I am supposed to understand when he makes the free choice to sin?? This is not a sin that anybody wants to talk about.

    • T, No, you should NOT be “understanding” that he’s going to look at porn. That’s not what I’m asking at all. All men do NOT use porn and many men aren’t even interested in it. Please, re-read the post. I think you’ll realize I make that distinction carefully.

      A cold marriage is a really sad marriage. I can’t, as a blogger/writer, offer “three simple steps” that will instantly make things better. That kind of attitude–which you shouldn’t put up with–will require much relational work and counseling. Your husband obviously isn’t listening to you and he sounds dismissive, so you’ll need an objective third voice to help him see the light.

      • Thanks Gary for the advice but that is just not going to happen. He is well liked and I am the one who is always to blame. I was diagnosed with major depression 4 years ago and now I can say after a lot of hard work I am functioning very well. Everybody always thinks any relationship problems we have are because of “my mental Heath issue”, because as you know Christians who have depression are not living up to God’s expectations (sarcasm).

        I am fine now- he likes porn instead of me. Sad for me to have to live this way. There are MANY CHRISTIAN women in my boat. so many who won’t talk about it. I am only one.

        • You are not alone. I was in a marriage where my husband viewed porn secretively for years until I discovered him doing so. I also struggled with debilitating depression prior to ever knowing and, yes, like you HE received sympathy for HIS struggle (wife with depression=his cross to bear). It is THE most backwards thing I have EVER experienced. What came first? The depression or the subtle (like in my case), or not so subtle (like in many others’) emotional abuse from a man choosing sin? You.are.not.alone!

        • My heart hurts for you. I have no wisdom to impart. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

      • Gary,

        If you could write a post about the “cold marriage” that you described above, that could be very helpful to many wives – and husbands.

        What can a wife do when she is more anxious, desires an intimate, loving relationship, to be touched affectionately by her husband, to be open and emotionally intimate but her husband is dismissive, avoidant, puts up emotional walls and is afraid to be vulnerable and open himself to her – or to anyone.

        What can the wife do? What can the husband do? If you would consider this it could be helpful to many marriages.

    • T, I’m so very sorry for the pain you’re going through. I found porn on our computer history last year. I’ve never been through anything like this before. Such hurt, such anger, insomnia. It’s a horrible place.

      You need to establish firm boundaries. Have you talked to a pastor or anyone yet? You need support! And you’ve got to get a filter/accountability in place on all devices. Don’t let your husband convince you he doesn’t need it. We use Covenant Eyes in our home.

      Lastly, I want to say this post really has some valid points. I think it’s possible to say that yes, men have super-strong sexual temptations, WITHOUT condoning any sin. I think that’s what this article is trying to do.

      I really hope you find the healing you need.

      • Ashley, thank you for understanding. The thing that I see is that we are supposed to understand their need for sex and the battle they are under emotionally. I get that it is wrong to look at porn. I get that men have a hard time with sexual urges. We are all human.

        I even had an old boy friend from high school/college that I have been close friends with for several years. He started talking about how much he “wanted me again”. Made me sick in my stomach. I told him that just as my husband likes to look at porn he was using me as “his porn” and that I wanted nothing to do with it. Now I am ending the friendship that I really needed.

        So when I read posts like this one about how I should be more understanding about my husband it makes me angry. I hope to get past it.

        So I am stuck. Can’t get a divorce because porn is not adultery. It just isn’t right in my book. Thanks for the words of encouragement.

        • T, biblically I don’t think you are stuck. Obviously you have to go with what you feel God is telling you, but porn is cheating. No way around it. It’s a form of adultery. I don’t think any woman should rush into a divorce, but if a husband is unrepentant, even after a long period of time and trying every which way to reason with him and set boundaries?

          • I agree with Ashley here. Unrepentant and persistent use of porn can, in many situations, reach the level of an affair. If a man is “replacing” his wife with electronic satisfaction; if he continues to neglect her, and deny her the fulfillment of being desired because he has rewired his brain, you could make a strong case that this constitutes an affair.

          • Ashley is absolutely right. Jesus talked about the pure in heart in the beatitudes. The porn industry is of the enemy. It’s evil. Consuming lust for someone other than a spouse is infidelity/unfaithfulness!

        • T…..Think again, my dear. I have no problem saying that porn is adultery.

    • T…..May I weep with you? Read between the lines….and, yes, nobody wants to talk about us.

    • I wish I had read all the comments section sooner because ALL men do not like porn T, only selfish men consumed with their own lies and conceit. That is why pornography abuse, not use, is such a rising problem, especially in young teens,and why their attitudes towards sex and women are turning so violent and disparaging. These are learned traits. There are several avenues a man trapped in sexual sin can take, Pure Desire courses for one are held in churches and groups throughout the country. Any man who takes a vow of marriage does so to that one woman, not to any others live or online, and any Christian man who argues otherwise has broken his vow with God as well. This lifestyle leads to fantasy and often into affairs as a way to feed the growing arousal hunger. I lead a group of men who have battled sexual sin in the past and have chosen to work to lead a different life, and it is work. Your husband will not change overnight and most likely will have to face deep-rooted problems to overcome this addiction, but I hear the pain from all the women in this list just the same as the wives of my group members. We have all hurt someone along the way, we just choose to right the ship by addressing ourselves first and getting that connection with God rebuilt. If that relationship is broken, yours will be too.

  16. I have heard this idea many times before, from both Christian and secular sources. I’ve even seen a letter written by Tolkien explaining how men are not by nature monogamous, that it is a struggle for them to be so.

    What I don’t understand is, why? Why would God give men such a strong and wild sexual desire and then expect them to be “good” and stay happy with just one wife? Are human beings not really meant to be monogamous? The kings in the Old Testament had hundreds of wives, a sickening idea to any modern woman, but is this actually how it is meant to be? What is the point of all this struggle? Sorry if this sounds like I am challenging you, I don’t mean to sound that way but this is an issue I’ve wondered about for many years and I just can’t figure it out.

    • Jane, when a man pursues purity and faithfulness the strength of his desire keeps moving him toward his wife. It’s a good and holy thing. It’s only when the focus turns away from one lifelong mate that it becomes destructive. The creational purpose of a strong sexual desire can cement a man’s affections to his wife. The danger of going outside that purpose is that the same desire will pull us away. Desire isn’t the problem–focus (or a lack there of) is

    • This is exactly my point also, Jane. I believe men have bought into the lie that they cannot help themselves, that they are just ‘visual’- I mean, if someone tells you something enough, and makes excuses for you, will you not believe it and live it? Of course you would.

    • Jane, you are not alone in your questions. I have already left a reply, but it has not been approved. When you make excuses for someone, tell them they can’t help it because of the way they are wired (which is a LIE)- it is an endorsement of their behavior. Men are no more visual than women. There are so many of these lies that have been circulating for years upon years that hold people in bondage. The question I kept hearing in my heart is just say God made men visual from the beginning. Just say sin never entered in- how would each man only have sexual desire for their wife? It would be impossible. No one wants to tackle your question, or my question or thousands of others like this because then the ‘free pass’ for men would be taken away- no excuses. The fact is, both men and women struggle with temptation. Period.

      • Allie, totally agree with you that telling someone they can’t help it because of the way they are wired is a lie. We’re in complete agreement there. I’ve re-read my post and can’t find anything that suggests I would disagree with that.

        We’re going to have to disagree about the “lie” that men are more visual. You can check out the neuroscience on that one.

        • Science can ‘prove’ anything you want it to prove. Where does that leave us? To me, that would leave men in a state that could NOT be changed- if it was just scientifically the way they are wired. I obviously do not know what it is like to be a man, but I do know many who I have listened to, books I have read on the subject. Again, my question still stands- if God made man ‘visual’ how could/would he expect a man to be faithful/honorable with his eyes/thoughts? Also, I feel I need to say this. In your post you mentioned men that are ‘happily married’ having affairs or cheating. I think we need to look at the heart of that. Gary, we are ALL sinners, but there are just some flat-out sociopaths in this world who obtain pleasure from using or hurting other people with no remorse, no second thought. I believe some of the men you are referring to would come under that category. As a friend once told me, there’s a huge difference between a starving refugee stealing food and a millionaire. If you haven’t already, read Without Conscience- a book about such people. Bold Love by Dan Allender- or The Sociopath Next Door. Please be aware that these types of people are out there and they LOVE AND THRIVE on other people’s EMPATHY!

          • Allie,
            I am one of the women who read Gary’s post prior to posting. My background played a huge part in why I encouraged Gary to run this post.
            I was betrayed and left by my x-husband. I lived a life of manipulation that I couldn’t see but everyone else did. When he walked away, I had two choices, be bitter or move on. I chose to move on. I chose to pick myself up and let the Lord refresh my spirit and heal my heart. It isn’t easy. It’s a daily choice on what and how to think. I can’t live in the bitterness that my flesh wants me to.
            This post was written as a note to women on how to help their husbands. It isn’t written to excuse the husband’s behavior.
            Quote from the post…
            “I am not excusing sexual sin. A wife should not just “accept” ongoing, unrepentant, sexual sin. Any form of sexual sin will destroy marital intimacy, assault our integrity, diminish our worship, handicap our ministry, detract us from our parenting, and sap our spiritual energy and desire. Every form of sexual sin should be confronted, and if the man doesn’t repent, the church needs to support the wife, not imprison her with an unrepentant and increasingly bent husband. She should never be asked or guilted into just “going along” or putting up with shameful treatment to “keep the peace.”
            This was purely meant as a help to wives understand the day to day struggle men have. With the existence of sin, man has to fight every day to resist. Why not do everything we can to help the man we love? Men are not getting a free pass here, Gary states that they must be held accountable.
            I am very sorry that this post struck a nerve and hurt you. Knowing Gary, the last thing he wants to do is bring more hurt to anyone reading his blog.
            Blessings to you.

      • I hear ya, Allie!!!

    • What’s the point of any struggle against our sinful nature? What is the point against the stuggle against hunger, poverty, disease, exploitation, corruption, environmental destruction? What’s the point of anything really? Everything is struggle.

      I imagine men’s strong sex drives was meant to help them cherish, love and protect their wives and help motivate him to work hard to provide for her. That’s what is does (by grace and under the influence of the Holy spirit) even in it’s fallen state. Men were definitely not “meant” to be polygamous. Any more than man was meant to be evil and live far from God.

      We have sinned and in so doing corrupted nature (our own and Nature at large). We created a schism between us and our Creator. Our natures is such that there is nothing in them that have not been twisted and used for evil, destruction and to sow misery and despair. Jesus came to rescue us from that, but that does not rid us from our fallen natures. It sets us at war with it. “But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.… ” Romans 7:23-25.
      Why it pleases God to have sanctification be a lifelong business is not something He decided to reveal to us. Maybe so we may learn to trust Him. We’ll have to wait till heaven for the answer.

  17. Gary,

    I don’t agree wholeheartedly with everything you write, but on the whole, It has been extremely beneficial for me to read and consider what you write about. I think you knocked this one out of the park. As a man who struggled for years(Half truth, because there was no struggle, I wasn’t even in the fight) with a porn addiction, giving up porn was pretty easy, and it is just the day to day battles in the supermarket, and just existing in a co-ed world, that are often humbling to me. Temptation is out there every minute of every day, whether or not I ever look at another illicit image.

    I am clean now for a little over a year, I have accountability for myself, and it is effective. On the other hand, I have had some failures lately with my temper, and the men I had holding me accountable, while supportive, were not as robust as they should have been in taking me to task for it. It was a real struggle to get clear of my anger, and it once it got free, it started taking over. It seems I need a talk with my accountability team, or even to pick one who I am not so close to.

  18. This does surprise me some but only because I like to be in a bubble of denial that my husband might really struggle with sexual desires. Not that he would mean to hurt me but it’s almost too hurtful for me to be knowledgeable of what those desires are. Like I’m not good enough. I feel like that knowledge might consume me. But I should be praying for him, praying for protection of his heart, everyday. You might have already said this, but would you suggest I ask him what kind of temptations he might face?

    • Shannon, I think a better approach is to focus on the positive–ask him how he feels strongest and seek to create that kind of environment. When it feels this hurtful it might be best for him to share the what with a brother in Christ

    • I totally agree with Shannon, as I too do NOT want to know exactly what it is that strays his thoughts and desires from me. It is hurtful and I am really thinking that this is cultural conditioning ( as polygamy is in other cultures) , more than ” hard wiring” . I am also at the extreme disadvantage of having been a very high sex drive woman who instantly lost my attraction to other men the minute my husband ( my second) kissed me. I’m talking no attraction to other men AT ALL since 1994. Makes it all the more difficult to ” understand” . But I’m trying.

  19. And what are the differences? You repeat that phrase over and over, but just say it! Oh, we’ve all heard or read different opinions, but break it down for us women, if we need to understand. I have always liked your writings, and have one of your books. But this post seems troubling and lopsided. I feel like I am reading ‘Love and Respect’- which went in the trash, btw. Please help me understand how I as a wife am supposed to lovingly accept being treated like trash, like a second class human being, because my husband has these ‘struggles’ which are so much worse for him than for me. And please don’t give me the ‘men are visual’ thing- women are too. Humans are visual. Men have just been given a get -out-of-jail-free card on THAT!

    • Allie, I repeated several times for emphasis I’m not giving men a free pass. And there is never an excuse to treat a wife like trash or a second class human being. I totally failed with this post if you think I’m saying that. I’m just saying the struggle is likely stronger, more intense, and more persistent for men. Not to excuse failure but to increase empathy

      • I wrote a reply on my phone, but I’m not sure it was sent successfully. Gary, there are so many things I could say. My main point is this- these types of messages are ALL women get. All the time. Do more, be more, be different, and it’s never enough, and will never be enough. WHERE is the post to men asking them to empathize for us? Asking them to ‘get’ the anguish and pain and heartache they put us through? I have been sexually assaulted, left by my husband when I was 3 months pregnant to carry his child as he slept with several people, and suffered subsequent abuse for years. All the time his claim was ‘this is just men’ and the men of the church- even pastors covered for him! You tell me- if that was your daughter in my shoes- would you tell her to have empathy for ‘men’s struggles’? I really respect your ministry- your books and your posts. I think you are most of the time very balanced. But you just don’t know the damage to a man can inflict on a woman’s heart and soul. Please don’t give them any more excuses not to change!

        • Well spoken. Thank you Allie.

        • Hi Allie, I watched Shaunti Feldhahn and Craig Gross explain the visual nature of men.. basically they have this part of the brain that “lights up” when they see a sexual image, and it causes them to want to keep seeing more because it is like a reward centre.. the more they view it, the more they want to see more. (This is not an excuse for them.. but what was meant to be something that would create a bond between man and wife .. since she’s the only naked body he is suppose to see.. has become a landmine in a sexually abnormal culture where it is everywhere.) They are born with this. Women, on the other hand, have the “thinking” part of the brain light up when aroused… we respond differently to sexual images etc. Completely different. That’s why it is also difficult for us when we have a 1000 things on our to-do list to get in the mood, whereas men can literally be ready at the drop of a hat.. exceptions do exist. The video was better at explaining it.. sorry if I only add confusion

        • Allie, not that long ago I posted a blog with the title, “Christian Husbands Suffer First.” I wrote a blog about viewing your wife as “The Only Woman in the World.” I wrote a blog for women to help them deal with men who don’t/won’t change. I’ve written two recent blogs about the spiritual destruction of porn. But I can’t make every post a challenge for men, just as I can’t make every post a challenge for women. Please don’t color me with what other blogs write. I have no control over what other bloggers focus on.

          The one critique I heard about Sacred Marriage when it first came out it that it was much tougher on men than women–which I think is a fair critique, and intentional. I trust you won’t allow one blog post to be my “last word” on anything.

          Many women could tell you that I have “backed them” in the face of their husbands’ abuse. Of course, I can never and will never recount those details/stories. This is just one blog post, and it’s not fair to ask me to give a “but” in every circumstance, or each post would have to be a book. Which sort of defeats the purpose of a blog…

          But I am grateful that your many comments are making me newly sensitive to the level of anguish and anger out there. I appreciate that.

        • Allie….YES!!!

        • Allie, as a married Christian man, I read your post with a broken heart. This is not how it should be, and there is no excuse for the type of treatment you suffered. I would never want my wife to endure what you have, and I don’t know where to start with what I would do if my daughter ever found herself in such a tragic situation. Your husband was WRONG. Other men should have called him on the carpet and confronted his behavior.

          But if you would indulge me for a moment, I don’t think your husband was the subject of this article. I think Gary made pretty clear he was speaking about Christian men who want to walk with Christ, who want to love and honor their wives. “Most of us Christian men want to love our wives with purity and walk with our God with integrity.”

          I am not sure where you are hearing the message “be more” – is it coming from the church? – but I can tell you that is the message that we Christian men hear quite a bit. I have been a very involved father, and during years when my wife was depressed with little ones at home, I worked full time and gave them as much or more care and attention than she was able to. I can’t tell you how many church services I have attended – in a variety of denominations – where there were comments about how much women do, how we need to honor them, how they keep the church alive, how they raise our kids and work hard and don’t complain when they’re sick and how just by the fact that they are women they deserve high honor. Women, because they were women, seemed to be intrinsically good. This would happen on Mother’s Day, baby dedications, around women’s conferences, or any number of occasions throughout the year.

          Then on Father’s Day, men would get their turn. “Men, you’ve got to do better. You’re not leading. You’re not godly. The women are putting you to shame. Step up and be better. Happy Father’s Day.” For a man who desperately wants to do what is right, this is deflating. We are told to do more at work, do more around the house, do more with the kids, be strong but sensitive, be consistent when our wives go through ups and downs, shower our wives with nonsexual touch (which for a man is painfully arousing), ask politely for intimacy, and be perfectly content to wait a day, a week, a month, or whatever is called for with understanding and compassion. We are told to understand and respect women’s hormonal struggles but we are not allowed to have our own.

          It took my wife about 20 years before she began to understand my sexual struggles – this is by her own admission. (When I say “sexual struggles, I’m not talking about having affairs or using porn. Just the daily battles that go on in the mind to bring every thought captive to Christ.) I’m sure she still doesn’t completely understand them, but to know that she’s trying means everything. We have a better marriage than ever. I want to be a godly man, a faithful husband, and a good father. I want to walk in sexual purity. I count it a privilege. But it is also a marathon which is simultaneously a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. So when someone writes words that invite my spouse to understand my struggle I am grateful, just as I am grateful when someone helps me understand her better.

    • I can tell from your post that you must be in a difficult relationship. But Gary clearly stated this was not an excuse for sinful behavior. He is not giving anyone a “get out of jail free” card. I believe he is delivering God’s message to us as best he can. The sexual desires and struggles vary from person to person so it’s impossible to make a list and call it the rule for every man or every woman. If you wish to find out what that is for your husband so you can be praying about that or helping with avoiding certain situations, maybe you should ask him. I know of a woman that prayed for her husband everyday and served him even though he was openly cheating on her. He later came to Christ through her actions. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her and I think even God would’ve understood if she divorced him, but the point is there is a lot of power in prayer. And sometimes you have to do a lot of waiting to get there. People waited years and years in the Bible. Nothing came instantly.
      I don’t know why men are wired to struggle with this so intensely. But have you thought that maybe there is a sin you struggle with more than men? Gossip possibly? Slander? Maybe you don’t think it’s as bad of a sin but sin is sin and will be dealt with accordingly. I’m not saying it’s easy or it doesn’t hurt, but Jesus teaches us to have compassion and understanding.

    • Allie,
      I know you’re directing your comments to Gary, I just wanted to pop in and “say” that I can tell you’re hurting and I hate that for you.

      A paragraph from this article which stands out for me is:
      “I am not excusing sexual sin. A wife should not just “accept” ongoing, unrepentant, sexual sin. Any form of sexual sin will destroy marital intimacy, assault our integrity, diminish our worship, handicap our ministry, detract us from our parenting, and sap our spiritual energy and desire. Every form of sexual sin should be confronted, and if the man doesn’t repent, the church needs to support the wife, not imprison her with an unrepentant and increasingly bent husband. She should never be asked or guilted into just “going along” or putting up with shameful treatment to “keep the peace.” Gary would never suggest we just sit back and be abused, and even more so, neither would the Lord. Our Heavenly Father is not happy about the way you are being treated!

      If you are interested, I found Gary’s book, Sacred Influence, to be extremely helpful in understanding my role as a wife. We are God’s daughter before we are wives. Sacred Influence taught me the power of not only being a wife to my husband, but that I am also his sister in Christ. I highly recommend this book along with the workbook!

      Allie, I am praying for you and with you, sister!

    • Agree!! Just what ARE the differences? I understand the differences between any various groups of people, male or female, but what ARE the differences the writer is speaking of? I need a mental picture, a this-is-what-happens-when…….(fill in the blank) example. And what about this “permission” to have the husband’s sexual temptation scale as high as 3 or 4 on a scale of 1-10 (3 paragraphs about the fire ant section). I know the writer doesn’t mean it as “permission” but I do hear him say I need to “understand” it. No, I don’t understand it. Need more information and explanation.

    • I totally agree! I’m sick to death hearing this phrase. Men need to grow up, quit being weak minded! I can see a man noticing a beautiful woman walk by (that’s natural) but to continue to wonder in his mind what he would like to do to get sexually later long after he saw her walk by him is disgusting! Men have a choice to continue to think about her or not. Men make the decision when they are feeling that “tingle” to turn to a porn site, find a Facebook page with sexy women! They need to grow up and resist and not give in because they have heard “it’s so hard for men”. That’s ridiculous! Have some self control! When men do this, they are disrespecting their wives and daughters! Men do not realize how much they are hurting us and our self confidence. I do not want to ever hear “all guys do it”. That’s a cop out! And men know it!

  20. Accountability is always a good way to keep situations in context.