The Double Standard of Some Husbands, Part 1

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Do husbands have a double standard? May I invite you to consider one that I have observed?

Some wives hear from their husbands, “I can look at women because God designed me to look at the female figure, but you must not look at men.”

I am not talking about viewing pornography. That is a different matter. Instead, I am referring to the husband who habitually looks at women around him. At a restaurant he looks at the shapely waitresses as they walk by. At the mall, he checks out the women walking by him as he sits at the bench waiting for his wife. At church, he looks over at the two beautiful blonds talking by the stain-glassed windows.

When his wife looks at him, she sees him looking at the attractive women.

Noticing Versus Gazing

A wife wrote to me, "I am trying to understand my man's need to look at women. I can appreciate God's design in making us different. [However], what do I say when he says to you that he ‘looks at women's breasts and butt because God made them beautiful' and made him to look ‘at them’? . . . What I heard him say is that this behavior should be acceptable to me because this is how God created men."

She continues, "Is this really acceptable behavior? Is this behavior rational and acceptable to God? . . . Where does the sanctity of marriage come into play? . . . Is this God's plan/purpose for married couples? . . . Is this how God designed marriage to be?"

The answer to this wife is no, it is not acceptable for him to look at women the way she describes.

Job said, "I have made a covenant with my eyes, how then could I gaze upon a woman?" (Job 31:1).

It is one thing for any person, male or female, to notice an attractive person from the opposite sex. But noticing differs from gazing. In the case of the woman who wrote me, her husband is staring at the chest and backside of beautiful women.

The Bible is clear in Proverbs 6:25: “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, nor let her capture you with her eyelids.” The Message says, "Don't lustfully fantasize on her beauty, nor be taken in by her bedroom eyes.” In other words, habitual looking leads to lusting, and with some women can lead to the bedroom.

Good for the Goose? Good for the Gander?

Every man needs to ask himself, what would he feel if his wife gazed at men’s bulging arm muscles, huge shoulders, strong buttocks, and huge thighs?

The guys I have met do not want their wives staring out the bedroom window at three bare-chested carpenters putting an addition on the house next door. If their wives were making eyes at these guys, these husbands would go crazy with anger. Just think if she made cat calls!

What if his wife regularly watched men? What would he feel if she confessed to him that every so often she found herself sexually tempted by these other men?

Do Husbands Fear Their Wives Gawking?

But this raises an interesting question: What husband actually finds himself in a situation where his wife is constantly gaping at the bodies of other men? Husbands instinctively know that their wives would not do this, generally speaking.

Though women are attracted to the male body, and find it enjoyable, at the end of the day, wives tell me that they are heart-oriented, not body-oriented. Though the male body does arouse the wife sexually, as God designed, and wives want sex as men want sex, wives want to be aroused by the love in the relationship. The sense of emotional connection is what excites her sexually, and even if she hops in bed with Atlas, she wants to believe he is emotionally captivated with her. She lets that fantasy arouse her, not the idea that he is using her as a live mannequin to release himself.

As has been said, for wives romance is the drama and sex is the intermission. Wives are sentimentalists before they are sensualists. (Hello, does anybody pay attention to chick flicks?) When the romance is there, women respond sexually.

Relationally Oriented or Visually Oriented?

This is why a great deal of sex takes place after the wedding. I am not talking about the bride and groom but about the husbands and wives who attend the wedding. Many wives find their emotions romantically stirred at weddings, especially as they talk at the tables with people about their own romantic journeys and marriages. They love a love story. At such moments, a woman can fall in love with her husband all over again. That night in the hotel they are very excited to be sexually intimate. The romantic relationship rouses the sexual.

Women have a sophisticated view of healthy sex: the body-to-body connection should reflect the heart-to-heart connection. Long term, body to body without the heart to heart is faking for most women. What drives the married women I have studied is the heart, not just the body. Oneness in sex should reflect oneness in heart.

It is his sensitivity to her needs that touches her heart and thus touches her sexual nature. She has a strong sexual nature and wants sex intensely, but the relationship with her husband determines her sexual response, not him flexing his muscles and gyrating his hips. Women have jokingly said that the pin-up that turns them on is a stud of a husband vacuuming the house for her.

Why Do I Talk About What Turns a Wife On?

Why do I address this? As I said earlier, most men instinctively know this about their wives, so they do not have much fear that their wives will be standing at the bedroom window eyeing the three bare-chested carpenters at the neighbor’s house. He knows his wife will not be tempted to give cat calls. For most women that’s disgusting. A group of single college girls will do it out of being silly, but not married women. But if a married man up in the bedroom sees a woman sunbathing at the pool next door, he will look several times at her—until his wife walks into the bedroom.

This then presents a problem. Because women do not struggle with looking in the same way, some men use this as justification for looking. These men say, “This is what men do. No big deal. Chill out.” These men give themselves a pass.

 But husbands need to hear what wives feel and think when they observe their husbands looking at anything in a skirt who strolls by.

What Do Wives Say About What They Feel?

Wives feel inadequate and unloved because they feel their husbands are comparing them to these more attractive women.

Wives are beyond bothered.

Listen to these emails from wives to me.

Emotionally Devastated

"I know it is innate for a man to want to look at women, but it makes me feel so inadequate and devastated and completely hurt. I am afraid to bring this up to him for fear that I will be ‘confronting' him and he will become angry and say I am untrustworthy and over-emotional. How do I get over this?"

Crippled in Heart

"He admitted that he’s been looking at women. He said that forbidden fruit is exciting. This crippled my thoughts and my emotions and my love for him."

Can’t Get Past It

"If I could just get past the way . . . his constant looking at women, or wanting to, makes me feel. I don't know what it's going to take for me to get past it."

Shuts Her Down Sexually

“He still has a tendency to look at women. I am trying hard to respect him as a person in spite of this. But I find that because of this. . . . I cannot feel any emotional connection to him. I used to enjoy sex, but this has turned me off and I just have no interest in sex with him. Is this normal? Should I just let it go and just accept that this will not be a part of our relationship?"

Feel Like He’s Having an Affair

"I am very sensitive when it comes to my husband looking at another woman. For example, if we are on a date and on our way to the mall or movies and some pretty woman walks by he has turned to look at her right after she passes us by, or watching TV and some romantic scene comes on I think he is dreaming the girlfriend was his. I can't seem to shake it. . . . The picture in my mind of him looking at the girl in person with him, does not seem to get out of my mind sometimes. This has been going on for years. The only difference recently is that I have been learning how to incorporate how to love him by respecting him and it has worked to keep us in peace. I am very serious when I say that I feel like he is having an affair every time he looks at another woman."

Feels It Might Be Her Problem

"There are times when I just can't take it. I've had it. Is there a cure for my problem? I try to act as if it’s nothing by telling myself I’m a sinner also. I’m beginning to feel like I should start becoming like him because it might make me feel better that I’m doing it also."

Disillusioned with Men and Her Husband

"For years I sacrificed my stomach and only ate rabbit food in order to keep my figure. I used to lift weights and work in heavy demo as a laborer tearing out the insides of high rises in Seattle and I was in amazing shape. . . . When I had that power . . . I used it to the fullest and many women hated me. I didn't care because I never saw further down the line to this moment . . . deep down I have a hatred for men and find it impossible to trust that ANY man could even remotely be faithful, in word, in deed, with their eyes, their thoughts. . . . I see very godly, committed men checking out the bodies of the less virtuous women at church and these men have praying wives and pray themselves!!!!! I've seen men everywhere I go check out women like they're produce. Sigh . . ."

Fears Never Being Loved for Herself

"He tells me he loves me and I actually believe he does BUT he lusts for whomever he wishes unabashedly. I have gone to him and told him that I don't want to disrespect him by accusing him falsely of anything but that I've noticed him checking out other females and how horrible it makes me feel. He laughs it off and says the world is filled with beautiful women, so how can he but help himself? Awesome, huh? Even if I divorce this man the next would be no better because God hardwired you to find pleasure in looking at women. I'm not much to look at anymore no matter what I do. I was so hoping to enjoy getting older. I have lived a very intense life. I feel extremely tired from all I have had to do. My heart hurts from having to always ‘keep it together.’ Sometimes I fall apart . . . and just wish I could relax . . . and know a man . . . loves me."

***

Clearly, there is a double standard here regarding how men gaze upon other women, knowing that 1) they would absolutely hate it if they caught their wives doing the same, but 2) they never would because they know that is not how God created them. But it’s not enough to simply recognize the double standard and the differences in how God created men and women.

But knowing this double standard exists, what should a husband now do about his looking at other women? We will discuss this in part 2.

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. How do such men justify their looking while condemning their wives looking at men?

  2. Because their wives are not looking at men do these men feel no compelling reason to change? In other words, do you believe they would change if their wives struggled with the same thing? Would men say, “Woah, I need to stop this so she’ll stop this"? Explain.

  3. Emerson wrote that women do not struggle in the same way as men when it comes to gazing upon members of the opposite sex. In what ways does this pose problems for the married woman? How about for the married man?

  4. Wives, which of the e-mails above can you most relate to concerning how your husband’s gazing upon other women makes you feel? Husbands, did any of the above e-mails give you a punch in the gut? Explain.