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. Gary, I do not often follow the comments to messages such as yours above. It seems to me that any message will fall on the ears of people in varying circumstances and those people will hear the message and understand it from the context of their own experience. I think something that can help is for the message bearer to be clear in the beginning the audience to whom the message is directed. For instance, if you are writing to encourage women to understand the struggles their husbands are facing, it would be a good idea to be clear up front that your message is not directed to women in marriages where abuse, sexual addiction, pornography, a husband’s persistence in sin, etc. are present. Good messages can wound when absorbed by those for which they are not intended. If you let your audience knows who might benefit and who might not then readers can decide if they want to continue reading. It’s like the nutritional information on food packaging – if the food is high in sugar and I am diabetic, I can use that information to decide what/how much I can consume.

    I do want to say two other things. 1. As you likely know, some people will object to messages they don’t like whether or not the message is personally wounding. 2. I am glad I read the comments this time. I am impressed with your responses to critical remarks here. You have been persistent in making caring and kind remarks to women who are hurting, clarifying your intent and restating your message. Thank you.

    • I agree. Gary is supportive and has educated ne today. Now i understand after 33 years of marraige. 2 years of seperation has brought me much peace. We as wives must tune into the Holy Spirit for direction.. He promised to send the comforter…blessed are you who mourn for you will be comforted. But if you take matters into your own hands…doubt…you cant and wont listen to Gods answer…you will fight a battle you cant win….the enemy will use u to add to the struggle….trust in God. Follow him explicitly…
      Even if it means you may have to leave…i am friends with my husband and care for him very much. If we get back together it will be what God decides…not me or family.

  2. As a wife currently trying to rebuild my marriage after my husband’s infidelity. This message is hard to hear and difficult to swallow but it is also a blessing. Holding our husbands accountable and letting them face the consequences is necessary, but love and compassion also necessary. I’m learning a little more each day about how a men and women struggle differently in this area. I appreciate Gary for sharing this message. It, at least for me, helps me realize that I may not be the cause of the infidelity which is something I have been struggling with lately.

    • Thank you, Melody, and may God pour out His grace on you and your husband as you seek healing in this situation. And I’m particularly grateful for your last line. It is NOT the wife’s fault when the husband falls. A husband can never biblically blame his infidelity on his wife.

  3. Gary, what do you say to a wife who doesn’t want to be the accountability partner anymore because it has never worked except to stir up volatile and abusive situations? Because she is exhausted. Because she doesn’t want to be responsible anymore? What do you say to women who are wives of pastors, whose financial existence is tied to theirs, and who really are, in many ways, trapped, because they don’t have the energy anymore to confront all of the problems? Although I can tell you are a person of grace who supports women, I also empathize with these women who are just sick of having to make excuses. You say there is no excuse, but then you ask for understanding for these men. Are you saying that men have a harder time with self control? Isn’t the same Holy Spirit available to all of us to give us self control? Isn’t the bottom line sin, sin, and sin? That they are looking for something to fill their need and the only thing that can fill it is Jesus Christ? NOT their wives? I think that’s one of the biggest issues that is not talked about. AND the issue of husbands who won’t repent, won’t admit there is anything wrong. I personally have decided that our family unity (we have grown kids and grandchildren) is worth staying in this marriage, but my husband is angry all of the time and has more issues than the New York Times. Although we are intimate, there is no intimacy. I finally realized that I CANNOT be responsible for him anymore. That is what some of these women are hearing in this blog and other blogs and books: that we are responsible for our husbands on some level. And we want THEM to take responsibility for their own actions. Isn’t that what God expects?

    • Anne, I am reading an excellent book by Leslie Vernick, (a Christian counselor) called, How to Act Right When Your Husband Acts Wrong. The message of the book is not “Try harder to meet his needs,” but how to walk in truth, grace, and strength, while confronting and dealing with a spouse’s indifference, emotional abuse, etc. Unfortunately, in my opinion, most church leadership has enabled domestic abuse (of many kinds, not just physical) by encouraging women to ” try harder,” when they should be requiring the husband to repent and love and cherish his wife, as he promised. The church needs to start ministering to men in a way that confronts the heart of pride many men have, teaching them to lay it at the foot of the cross where it belongs, and walk in the love, humility, and freedom of Christ. I believe Gary teaches this well. I have also been helped greatly by Leslie Vernick’s website and blog, and Pastor Chris Mole’s website PeaceWorks.

    • Yes, God expects the husband to take responsibility for his own actions. And frankly, I recommend wives NOT be the accountability partner for their husbands in most circumstances. I’d prefer the couple be able to focus on delighting each other rather than falling into police mode.

      Yes, I believe the Holy Spirit is available to give us self-control–and that He does for many, many men who receive it.

      As for your own situation, that’s a tough road to walk, but I’m not going to question you on that one. It breaks my heart though. Even more, I think it saddens God.

  4. So what would you say to a woman who is in a young marriage with a husband who has little interest in intimacy? Who is willing, but rarely initiates or seems excited when his wife does? I believe a big part of it results from his being out of work and having to fully depend on me as his provider, driver etc for his first year in a new country. I’ve been told that if he doesn’t feel like man in that aspect, he doesn’t in the bedroom either. He has also commented that he feels I am acting more like a Mom, than his wife and that I don’t motivate him to want to be intimate but that it isn’t what I’m doing in the bedroom. It’s my serious personality…trying to control things or acting like an older woman (I’m 30). We have talked about pornography and I know that isn’t the issue. Im thinner than I used to be and work to keep myself attractive, while trying to love and serve hI’m well in all areas.. This has been very difficult for me iand I feel rejected. When I bring it up, he thinks all I care about is sex…but that isn’t the case…I just know it means something bigger is wrong. I feel like a failure as a wife, amd don’t want to be the only one initiating/pursuing, but am still making intimacy a priority because I know we both need that connection. Could it simply be the weight of all the adjustments (new country, language, going from being a professional with a good job to being unemployed and then working low-wage manual labor, thus relying on his wife) and him feeling that I’m acting like a Mom?

    • Amelia, there are a lot of possibilities. You really need a pastor or counselor to sort this out. It’s not healthy to just put up with it, however. He owes it to you to address the lack of desire. You deserve to be cherished. And are you sure porn isn’t an issue? His desire would have nothing to do with you getting thinner. As I understand the literature and neurological findings, porn doesn’t train a man to desire thinner women; it works to make a man desire DIFFERENT women. Especially because he’s young, I’d work with him to seek help. He’s not holding up a normal expectation of marriage. .

  5. Gary, I think most of what you said in your article is good, and I know your heart and intentions are good, too.

    But I think there is a troubling, subtle, and unwittingly destructive element to one aspect in this article on asking women to have compassion for men in this struggle. Because we have seen our compassion and patience and understanding used as a highway for lust to drive right on down the road to fulfill itself.

    The nature of sexual lust is so uniquely destructive, to self and relationships (as you said very well, Gary) that it led Jesus to speak in extremely stark, harsh, shocking terms: “If your right hand (or eye) offends you, cut it off…” (Matt. 5:28-30) This is language that can only be interpreted as, “This is a deadly threat! Kill it before it kills you! Show no mercy and no compassion to this weakness in yourself. Deal decisively and quickly!”

    Therefore, while I think compassion should always be felt for any sinner, clearly the kind of compassion needed is: “I know it’s hard. Kill it. Do what it takes, and do it NOW.”

    We need to stop accommodating this sin in our homes. Men need to stop being victimized by porn and lust. Yeah. It’s hard. It’s way harder for most men than most women. So what?! Be strong and courageous! You can kill it! The same power that raised Christ from the dead is in you. Engage your will, pick up your sword, and fight! And I will fight with you and for you. If you are too weak, I will drag this ugly wicked thing into the light. I will expose. I will tell. I will get help and reinforcements until you are free. Hiding in darkness feeds the beast. Exposing if to the light takes away its power.

    Let’s stop being victimized and fight like men and women of God!

    • T.L., I don’t disagree with anything you said. The only thing I’d add is that I was very careful to distinguish between compassion for the struggle and compassion for the failure. And now I wish I would have been stronger about urging men to stand up and fight, as you did, so eloquently. Your comment is a welcome addition. Thank you for sharing it.

  6. In God’s original plan, men and women were to worship God, and be utterly entralled with each other sexually. Now, it is a war of words, power struggles, and both men and women are internally wrecked … and then try to relate with one another. There is much more going on than just sexual needs and sins.

    I have heard that over one half of the women in the USA are currently on drugs for things like depression and anxiety … basically, not trusting God and their men, not finding the Biblical place of rest. And men? Idolatry is rampant, prestege, power…. Men are built, in a good way, to conquer and bring order, but that gets warped, and in turn this impacts sexual needs in multiple ways. Sex isn’t about sex, for either side.

    Sexuality is not something that can be debated alone. It is primarily a consequence of many other factors. It isn’t just a struggle over sin, but over mindset issues far more reaching than the physical temptation. Identity issues, rest/trust issues, finding your place in society, bad things taught and caught by parents, and on and on.

    Sexual temptation is the fruit, not the root.

    • Forgot to mention bad doctrinal extremes. On one side, barefoot and pregnant anti-women teachings. On the other, anti-male other extremes.

      The Bible celebrates difference and fitting together, this world and the mysogynist “modern feminist movement” celebrates competition and constant power struggles. Men can’t be men without rebuke, women can’t be women without other women shaming them for it.

      Sex is the canary in the mine. Sexual problems tell you something is wrong, the very air is bad.

  7. This not uniquely a husband vs. wife issue. The premise is applicable to any one and any sin. I may struggle with x. You may struggle with x. Struggling with x may be tougher for me than for you. Gender may play a role in that experience, but so, too, may childhood experiences, adult traumas, certain illnesses, etc.

    If your point is to say, don’t assume any one’s sin struggle is as easily handled as your own, then, yes, right on. Anything else pigeon holes every man’s struggle and every woman’s struggle, which is the opposite of what I think your premise is.

  8. I’ve written several brief comments, now I’m going to comment just for myself! My pastor covered for my ex who was having an affair with one of his employees. She was also in the same church. She was in my Bible study class, and we were in the choir together. Cozy, huh? The pastor and several other people in the church KNEW it, by their own admission. Did they do anything? Not a single one of them. Not one. When I went to a ‘Christian’ counselor (and I use that term loosely), he said the first thing was that I had to get rid of my anger. Me? Angry? Oh, surely not. I was having such empathy for his struggles, don’t ya know. And the second thing was that I had to figure out what I was doing to drive him to the other woman. I left after the 3rd totally unfruitful session. And you don’t even want to know the entire story. I have HUGE empathy for many of the women who have posted here. Gary, I respect your credentials, but you’ve missed the mark in several places.

    • Carolyn, the scenario you describe is appalling to me. However, I don’t have any idea how what I’ve written could lead someone to believe I’d do the same or support someone else doing the same. Having empathy for a husband’s struggles is not the same as excusing or overlooking sin. The two are completely different. How does what you THINK I said square with what I actually wrote? This is from the blog:

      “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.”

      • My “issue” with what you said is that it is seldom reality. I have closely observed my own situation played out probably 10 times. It preaches well from the pulpit (and the blog page), but I don’t see it happening in real life. There were probably a dozen people who knew of my ex’s infidelity before I exposed him. The pastor and a deacon said they’d known for 18 months, but did or said nothing. Maybe a heavy-handed approach to those in ministry leadership should be the next step, because I don’t see it happening now. K?

        • This sounds like a colossal failure of application that is truly sad. But, again, I went out of my way to say I wasn’t defending this kind of situation. I don’t think a poor application of it undercuts the truth.

  9. I understand that you are trying to give wives some helpful information and encouragement, but I think that you are assuming an ideal situation and failing to take some real-life situations into account:

    You are making sweeping statements about men and women that aren’t always true. And you haven’t really backed them up – you say “it’s different,” but don’t explain how or why. Men and women may generally be different in this area, but I don’t think it’s a set in stone as you suggest. And I wonder how much of it is cultural, as opposed to “just the way men are.” In some cultures people wear very little clothing. Do men in those cultures walk around in a constant state of arousal?

    The objectification of women in our culture (including in the church) is a very big problem. The whole “Christian modesty” movement promotes and capitalizes on the idea that women’s bodies are a problem that needs to be “dealt with” by covering them in baggy jumpers. And I think that your take on this issue plays into that problem. The real problem is not the women and the bodies God has given them, but the hearts of people who are lusting at the mere sight of them.

    You aren’t taking into account how poorly the church deals with these issues. Women hear from church leaders and members every day – “That’s just the way men are.” “You should have had sex with him more often.” “It’s just porn.” “You need to keep up your appearance.” “You should win him over with a gentle and submissive spirit.” Etc, etc. It is always the woman’s fault.

    You are contributing to the idea, so prevalent in the church, that men are sexual and women are not. This idea is disastrous to individuals and marriages and robs both men and women of the true joy of their God-given sexuality. Again, the church has utterly failed to deal with this in a helpful way, often promoting the message that sex is primarily for and about husbands.

    • GC, I’ve done a deplorably poor job of communication if this is your takeaway. I mention in the post that I’m making generalizations, but I wasn’t addressing at all the modesty culture. My daughter wrote a blog post for this blog (A Daughter Talks to Her Dad About Modesty) that sounds like something you’d agree with. You’re making her point.

      If you notice one of my responses to an earlier comment on this blog post (it’s up above), I mention it’s possible to appreciate beauty without sexualizing women. I don’t think women’s bodies are the problem; I’m thankful God has designed women just the way they are. Beauty is a blessing, and historical and cultural appreciation for beauty takes many forms; it’s not narrow.

      I don’t know how this post suggests “men are sexual and women are not.” I don’t believe that, I’ve never believed that and I’ve never taught it. if I’ve implied that in some way I just don’t understand, I’m glad you caught it because I’d want to clear it up.What I said is that sexual temptation and the intensity of the struggle is different. Testosterone does make a difference; that’s just a medical fact.

      If you read my chapter on sex in A Lifelong Love, and if you’ve ever attended a Lifelong Love or Sacred Marriage seminar, when I have 75 minutes to talk about sex, you’d never think I’m “promoting the message that sex is primarily for and about the husbands.” I specifically go out of my way to dispel that myth.

      What I think keeps happening with several commenters on this post is because I’m raising what I believe is a valid point, I’m being marked as a guy who is teaching all the other stuff out there that people assume I MUST believe because I also believe this. Many of you are dumping your frustration for poor teaching on this regard onto me.

      Everyone, please understand: I will own up to deficiencies in my teaching and a lack of understanding, but please don’t make big assumptions based on this one blog post. That’s just not fair. In a book and in an hour long talk, I can give context and fuller explanation. I do not own the opinions of others, however. Even if I REMIND you of other’s opinions, please read my words at face value. I’m being challenged on this blog post for many things I don’t believe the blog post says and many things I simply don’t believe at all.

      I will try to do my best to be a more conscientious writer; but I’m asking the readers here to also make a commitment to be more conscientious readers. Thank you

      • Gary, thank you for your response. Yes, I am sure that my comments are in response to the things I know about the terrible ways that churches deal with this issue (and related issues). I am very sensitive to anything that even hints that women are to blame for their husband’s sexual sins, but I realize that is not what you are saying. You are correct that wives and husbands should be sensitive to and address areas where their spouse struggles, and I recognize that in this article you were making that point specifically to wives. I think that the strong responses to this article are an indicator of two things – how badly many women have been hurt by their husband’s sexual sins and how poorly the church addresses issue related to sex, lust, porn, adultery and related issues. Thank you.

      • “What I think keeps happening with several commenters on this post is because I’m raising what I believe is a valid point, I’m being marked as a guy who is teaching all the other stuff out there that people assume I MUST believe because I also believe this. Many of you are dumping your frustration for poor teaching on this regard onto me.”

        Thank you for this post. I am not surprised at the response you have received, as I have often seen the same with similar material. It does seem that those who have experienced the pain quite often become unable to recognize truth, much less distinguish it from the lies. I believe that Satan uses this opportunity to tempt the wife to sin, too. I can only imagine Satan’s joy at seeing the many who do sin, the marriages that are destroyed, and the families that are decimated.

        Please continue with your teaching. I pray that you will be able to make a positive impact on a multitude of marriages and families. God bless your efforts.

  10. Gary..explain to me how a man can say that he doesn’t struggle with looking at women the wrong way yet when he goes out all he does is sit and watch women and he also had an affair..can you explain

    • Alma, the only explanation I’d have is that he’s lying to you. He DOES struggle. Actions speak louder than words.

      • Thanks Gary..I always knew he was lying but every time I confront him I’m wrong..so my next question is how does a man get to the point where he realizes he has a problem?

        • Alma, you may be the only one who can help him see, by making it clear that you, as a worthy woman of God, are not going to accommodate and enable his ungodly behavior. Reach out to wise others for help and support to be strong and courageous. He is supposed to be loving, cherishing, serving, and protecting you. Instead he is inviting evil into his life and thereby yours. You can’t change or control him. But you can decide what you will and won’t allow in your life. He’ll realize he has a problem when you begin to do things like go to your pastor, get a counselor to help you grow stronger, and tell him you are leaving unless he gets appropriate and serious help.

          • Oh we’ve been going to counseling since the affair, he always says if he sits and watches people that it’s not that he’s looking at them the wrong way, but I’ve seen him look women up and down as they walk past him and I’ve openly said something about it at that moment and he denies that he did, so I sometimes give him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn’t realize that he’s doing it, but then again a man knows when he’s doing it , men are not that dumb,,right?

  11. I can accept that men are struggling with sexual sin issues. Between their natural drive, natural visual nature, and the availability of unbidden material, I get that it can be a daily struggle, even for the happiest and most sexually fullfilled of married men.

    The difference is the justification, the deliberate seeking it out, the explaining it away, the dismissing how much it hurts his wife, the I’m just a guy excuses.

    I don’t need my husband to grovel every time he gets a tingle in his pants when a shapely form walks by, but I wish he would put more effort into honoring women and God. Instead of opening YouTube and watching videos of almost naked barely legals gyrating and fondling each other to rock music, he ought to be opening his Bible app.

  12. Allie, I have heard/read that the male brain is constantly bathed in testosterone, making it, generally, constantly alerted to sexual images/temptation. So a man with normal testosterone levels who lacks self-control will have a very hard time. Since we can’t change the biology, then the self-control is what is at issue. This is a fruit of the Spirit and so seeking more of God is key.

    It’s good to understand how men are wired. It helps us understand how fierce the battle is for them. But it does not excuse the sin. And we are not called to the kind of understanding that enables the sin. We are called to the kind of understanding that comes alongside, if welcomed, or confronts, if not. We are called to say, “I understand this is hard. But you must fight, and you must deal a death blow to your sin! No more ‘trying,’ just do it! Do whatever it takes to kill this Satanic thing that is trying to destroy our marriage and your soul.” How hard is he fighting? Hard enough to lay down his pride, bare his soul, openly confess sin, get counseling and accountability? Put an accountability program on his computer? Join a 12-step program like SAA or Celebrate Recovery to get free? Or is he just pretending, to himself and you, that he wants to be free? Is it just a wish that it would magically happen? He’ll say things like, “I’m praying about it. Please pray for me!” Or is he laying down his pride, exposing his sin to the light and allowing others to join him in the process of recovery?

    If he’s doing the former and not the latter, stop enabling him as he destroys God’s image in your marriage. Get the support you need and make boundaries, enforce consequences. No, you do not have to stay in a marriage to a man who is not fully engaging in all out warfare against this form of adultery in marriage. And it is adultery. And it kills many marriages.

    The kind of “understanding” that enables is not love. The kind of understanding that sizes up the foe, and deals with it accordingly is love. Help him get free by insisting he gets immediate help! If he doesn’t, you need to get support and make tough choices.

  13. I came across this quote from J.R.R. Tolkien and thought it was timely for this post and subsequent comment thread.

    “Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him–as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.”

    • Ryan, what a great quote, so much more articulate than my own ramblings! And if J.R.R. Tolkien agreed with me, I’m feeling even more encouraged… Thanks for sharing.

  14. Thank you for expressing this wonderful viewpoint! So much insight here. I really believe giving our spouses grace goes a long way toward nurturing our marriage and pursuing the path God wants us to be on.

  15. Looks like you hit on an important topic that needs more exploration, Gary. Thanks for you work!

  16. Gary, is there somewhere I can ask a question without posting here?

  17. Perhaps the exhortation and the article could have been rooted and grounded in the statistic that transcends time and culture; that Christ as the faithful and merciful High Priest has empathy and understands the struggle of men in general and a specific man in particular.

    This Christ embraces men and supplies them with grace and mercy to work through their struggle to victory.

    This same Christ understands the struggles of women who seek to live with and love men who struggle within the bondaries of a holy love.

  18. Gary, I’m a wife of 20 years, and this article was incredibly helpful to me.

    I’ve been struggling trying to understand this for several years. I read a popular book by a “Christian” woman that speaks to this topic, and it destroyed me. The way she explained everything was dreadful. It made me feel like I’d never be enough for my husband and that he only used me, there was no actual love. I put Christian in quotes because I suspect (and I may be wrong) that she intended to make wives insecure and/or to ruin marriages in order to make a buck. Her book is the worst thing I’ve ever read. She wrote a follow up book that makes wives feel even more devastated, but thankfully I read enough reviews to know to stay far away from that book. It almost ruined my marriage. I withdrew from my husband, stopped trusting him, completely doubted he felt any love for me, and didn’t want to be intimate with him if he was only thinking of others. The lies I absorbed from that book caused me to lose all hope, feel worthless, and my husband was at a loss how to fix it (and he is not a porn user, his main offense was staring too long at other women in front of me.) But it was still painful, and seemed to confirm this woman’s points. (I’ll admit this book along with my insecurities allowed my thoughts to run amok).

    Anyhow, I WISH I’d read this post before (and INSTEAD of) that book. Your explanation was much more clear and gave me a better understanding of what my husband may be struggling with at times. It’s still hurtful, and as a woman I can certainly understand why some of the other women commenters mention feeling like they’ll never be good enough. I often feel that way. I wonder if men would feel any sadness at all if they knew how devastated this issue causes their wives to feel, how badly they hurt the woman they vowed to love and protect. Do they even care? What I wish my husband would understand is, if I need to understand his struggle with sexual temptation, I would like him to understand my struggle with insecurity.

    One thing I’d really like to know and understand. My husband really wants me to believe he loves me. But how can he? How can any man love any wife, when they desire so many other women? Even if they can’t help it, if their desires are for lots of other women, how can they claim to love their wives? Why do men get married, pledging themselves to one woman, if there’s no true love there? And how can there be true love if they are so easily sexually tempted by other women. I really don’t get it. I really wish I could. It’s very upsetting, this whole mess.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this post.

    • B, your last paragraph, the question you asked, is a question I ask, and every woman I know asks. But it seems no man or theologian, or pastor wants to tackle it. Nevertheless, it is one that NEEDS to be asked, and confronted. I’m with you-

    • B, I tried to address this possibility in the blog post, The Only Woman in the World http://www.garythomas.com/theonlywomanintheworld/

      I flesh it out even more in the upcoming book, “Cherish.”

      Look, I’m a man, and I adore my wife and desire her in a way I don’t allow myself to desire any other woman. I don’t ever think of other women when I’m with my wife. And I know I’m not alone. Just as repeated fantasies pull you away from your wife, repeated faithfulness can pull you toward your wife. The oxytocin that floods a man’s brain during lovemaking neurologically makes him find his wife more attractive while correspondingly finding other women less attractive. Which means that faithfulness makes us love our wives more and more, and find other women less and less attractive. Just as unfaithfulness assaults our desire for our wives and makes us desire other women.

      Of course, I know there are many beautiful women in the world, just as there are many intelligent women, funny women, godly women. It’s not wrong to appreciate that or even notice it. But it IS possible to notice and appreciate a woman’s beauty without sexualizing her, or going into a fantasy.

      Lisa feels comfortable enough with me sometimes to bring it up: “She looked gorgeous in that dress, didn’t she?” without worrying that I’m imagining what she’d look like outside the dress, or without worrying that me noticing makes me desire Lisa less. She knows I desire her. She knows I’m enthralled by her, in a way I wouldn’t be by any other woman.

      That’s just to say, a man can cherish his wife. He will still struggle because he’s a man. But he can have many more victories than defeats, to the point at which his heart and soul is set on his wife and his wife feels secure in his love.

  19. Oh man, this is such a great article. I know it’s a hard topic for us wives, but it’s an important one. I can remember first reading about this struggle in the book For Women Only. Before that, I had no idea that men struggled so much in this area. That chapter of the book was very painful and eye-opening for me. I don’t want my husband to look at other women. I don’t want him to want to look at other women. But I have to recognize that we live in a sinful, fallen world. God’s plan for male and female sexuality and the marital relationship have been twisted and distorted in every possible way. I hear the questions about “why did God make men this way?” and my response is God did make men differently than women, but it was The Fall that distorted everything. I absolutely believe that men’s strong sexual desires were meant only for their wives at Creation. Then sin entered the world.

    When this subject starts to hurt too much, I try to remember that if my husband sins sexually then the primary relationship he is harming is not with me, it is with God. I want to do everything I can to help protect this most important relationship both for my husband and for myself. Our marriage, though beautiful and important, is just a drop in the bucket compared to our eternity in Christ. I want to be close to my husband but much, much more importantly I want him to be close to God, not isolated by sin. So for that reason, I feel I can confront the temptations around us together and head-on, rather than ignore them and hope they don’t cause too many problems. We openly talk about our temptations, our accountability, and where we need to work harder. These conversations are often painful, but I believe they’ve made a difference in our relationships with God and each other.

    That’s not to say I don’t get frustrated. Just a little bit ago, I was working out in the living room. Of course, the woman leading the exercise video was gorgeous and fit. My husband walked in the room and immediately looked away from the ipad screen. Stuff like that annoys me at first. I want say, “why do you have to look away? Is she that much prettier than me?” But I realize that ALL men would struggle with that visual temptation, it’s not specifically about me or my husband, and I’m thankful I have a husband so willing to look away.

    Gary, my husband and I studied Sacred Marriage over 12 weeks during our pre-marital counseling, and it has played a huge part in the success of our marriage. Thanks for writing about the tough things that many people don’t necessarily want to read! I don’t want to read it sometimes, but I’m always glad I do! 🙂

  20. Maybe a man does need a wife to understand his struggle…however it is just as vital that a man understands the equally as challenging struggle for his wife to feel like the only one he desires. How can the two coincide? Temptation feels like rejection.