“I often notice my husband checking out other women. When I confront him about it, he says that there’s nothing wrong with looking and he has no intention of doing anything more. Am I right to be concerned, or am I overreacting?”
Many women share this concern. Dave and Donalyn Currie, founders of Doing Family Right, offer their thoughts on the subject.
Dave: Early in our relationship, it came as a real surprise to me to discover that I could still be attracted to another person even though I was newly and happily married. I felt perplexed and besieged by guilt when I found myself noticing other women during that first year of marriage. I had a gorgeous wife and we had a great sex life together. So, I wondered, "What’s the problem here?"
Donalyn: As wives, we need to remember that we often don’t see things they way our men do. A great first step is to have an honest conversation with your husband and attempt to discover how he thinks. How do you think, Dave?
Dave: I learned early on that, like most men, I tend to be visually stimulated and an therefore easily drawn to notice femine shapes and be enticed by them. I needed to learn how to control my eyes and focus on a woman’s face and not on her body. I had to treat women who were not my wife as sisters, and avoid storing up sexual data that I could review mentally later.
Donalyn: This can be hard for a woman to hear, because it’s so foreign to our own thinking. This fixation on looks can seem so shallow to us. But just because it’s different doesn’t mean it is bad. It’s how most men are wired. In fact, it can be a very good thing – it’s probably one of the things that attracted your husband to you in the first place. But you still have to share your concerns with him.
Dave: You need to let him see how this is affecting you. Rather than coming at him with guns blazing, which would push him away, open up your heart and tell him how it makes you feel when you see him looking at other women.
Donalyn: To do this well, you first need to explore your own feelings. It may help to write down the emotions you experience when you notice him doing this, so you can sort through them and decide what needs to be shared with your husband. And go beyond your surface feelings to see if there are deeper issues underneath. Ask yourself why this really bothers you. Are you insecure with how you look? Are you uncertain about your friendship with your husband? Do you question his faithfulness? If you have underlying insecurities, you will need to work through them even as your husband deals with his issues.
This is a difficult, private matter for most men - approach the topic carefully.
Dave: The way in which you confront your husband on this is critical. This is a difficult, private matter for most men, and if you approach it the wrong way, he will probably shut right down.
Donalyn: So because this will be difficult, start by trying to understand where he’s coming from on this. Reassure him of your love and commitment to him, and then have the courage to ask clarifying questions. Ask him why he looks at other women. What does he notice most? Does he think about them later? Does he feel he can control what and who he looks at? Does he have a problem with second looks and scoping out the whole package? While you need honest answers to these questions if you’re going to work through this together, be patient and as supportive as you can be throughout the process.
Dave: Let me be clear that the fact that men are visually drawn to women does not make it OK to engage in lust. It is not a wise practice for any man who wants to protect his marriage. So while your husband is likely being honest when he says he has no intention of doing anything beyond looking, the act of looking can still be a problem, especially if he is replaying certain images in his mind later. In the situation described above, he is not even trying to be discreet about it when you’re around, and that could be cause for concern. If he freely looks at other women when you are with him, how bold is he when you are not present?
Donalyn: Ask your husband what needs he is seeking to meet when he looks at other women. The truth is, his behaviour could be a sign of other issues: his dissatisfaction with you and the marriage, a problem with pornography, or fantasies about being with other women. Hopefully this is not the case with your husband, but it is better to address such issues now rathen than later.
Dave: There are also some steps you can take individually or as a couple to reduce the temptations for your husband. Work together to ensure that you have a regular and mutually-fulfilling sex life. Meet one another’s emotional and physical needs so that neither one of you is tempted to have them met elsewhere. I know that when Donalyn and I are not sexually intimate for a period of time, I find it easier to let my mind and eyes carelessly and inappropriately wander. It doesn’t excuse my behavior, of course, but the more you invest in your relationship together, the better it will be for both of you.
If he freely looks when you are with him, how bold is he when you are not present?
Donalyn: Take advantage of your husband’s visual orientation by making yourself as appealing to him as you can. It’s so easy to seek to look good for other people while failing to make it a priority for our spouse. They are the ones we should be trying to impress! And we all feel better about ourselves when we look our best.
Dave: It would also be helpful to get an outside perspective. With your husband’s permission, ask some other men whom you both respect what they think about the issue. In fact, if your husband is open to it, encourage him to ask another man to hold him accountable in this area. When two men encourage one another to love their wives and honour them, it’s a powerful thing.
Donalyn: A great marriage is built on a foundation of transparency. These issues are not easy to discuss, but be patient. Focus on working together to face the issue without excusing it or condemning it. When a husband and wife drop their guards and begin to really deal with sticky subjects like this one, it leads to an amazing level of intimacy. It may be difficult to begin the conversation, but the result is well worth the risk.
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This article was written by: Dr. Dave CurriePhoto Credit: David