I’ve noticed something in men who are mentally unfaithful to their wives; this is more of a spiritual observation and anecdotal so I might be totally off base. Tell me what you think.
Men who mentally cheat on their wives (primarily with pornography as an aide) eventually display anger toward their wives. It may not be right after the moment of their fall, but the reality is that lust eventually casts a wide wake. In time, there will be angry moments. Just as it’s not possible for a boat to go through the water without leaving some kind of wake, so, spiritually, it’s not possible for a man to allow the boat of mental unfaithfulness to course through his soul and not have that affect the way he views and feels toward his wife.
This makes sense spiritually, doesn’t it?
To mentally make love to another woman is, by all accounts, to disrespect your wife. It’s to declare that your wife is not enough. And, naturally, that feeds frustration that your wife isn’t more, that she isn’t someone who can satisfy you.
Thus the anger.
Spiritually speaking, acts shape character. We can repent from the act, but the wake of that act has a momentum that keeps carrying us in the same direction. Giving way to lust is thus giving way to character, it’s to cultivate a certain attitude toward our wives. Of course, there are other reasons for anger—but I do think mental unfaithfulness feeds it, and if a man in counseling displays a good bit of hostility, I’m going to explore this possibility.
“But what if the occasional foray into the illicit ‘spices’ up our marriage and increases my sexual desire for her?” one man might ask. “All in all, I think it can be helpful.”
What do you mean by “help”? Might it make the next sexual encounter more “exciting?” Perhaps. It might, indeed, provide a memorable moment. But a sacred marriage isn’t built on moments; it’s built on character, faith, and a shared history. If one thrilling moment undercuts our character, denies our faith, and pollutes our shared history, it’s like pouring acid on my hand because I happen to be bored. Eventually, I’m going to run out of hands to cure the boredom.
Here’s the true cost of these moments.
If my thesis is true that mental unfaithfulness feeds anger, I don’t believe it’s possible for a mentally unfaithful man to cherish his wife. I certainly doubt that a wife whose husband is regularly imagining himself with other women feels “cherished.” She might, for a moment, feel desired, but not treasured. And not after that moment. If my goal in a sacred marriage is to treasure and cherish my wife, as Christ treasures and cherishes His church, mental unfaithfulness is an enemy that takes me away from my wife, even if it seemingly, for a moment, seems to focus me in on my wife.
Would any wife choose to be sexually enjoyed for a moment at the price of being a disappointment and source of anger the rest of the day? Would any woman sign up for a “prescription” in which the doctor tells her, “This act will make your husband desire you intensely, for half an hour, but afterwards he’ll grow angry and resentful for the rest of the day?”
When Lisa and I have a holy moment of sexual intimacy, I treat her differently afterwards. I do. I’m more attuned to her. I’m more affectionate toward her. My language about her and to her has a different tone. Holy sex also has a wake, but this wake keeps moving me toward my wife rather than away. It leads me to appreciate her, to cherish her, it reminds me how much I need her and am satisfied by her.
If what happens in the bedroom doesn’t serve the way I treat my wife at the grocery store, at church, or in front of the kids; if, indeed, it stains the way I treat my wife in public, then it doesn’t serve my marriage.
Jesus got this when He became the first religious teacher to denounce mental adultery.
He knows our minds. He knows our hearts. He knows the power of corruption. He knows that lust casts a wide wake.
Men, let’s not fool ourselves: we cannot regularly indulge in an act without also nursing a character. Repentance and grace certainly heal, but habitual sin also shapes. It’s just the way it is. If our goal is to love our wives as Christ loves the church, we have to fight our inclination toward wishing we could love a “different” church.
Men, am I on target here? Is the wake of our mental unfaithfulness anger? Women, have you felt this—perhaps not just as a target, but also has ones who have fallen in the same area?