The Double Standard of Some Husbands, Part 2

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Don't miss our blog post series, The Double Standard of Some Wives

In part 1, we laid out in detail the clear double standard that many husbands hold that tells them they are allowed to gaze upon other women since God made them visually oriented, but that their wives are not to do the same.

No doubt this is a common struggle in marriages across the land and throughout time, but it’s not enough to just admit the double standard. What can we do about it?

What Should a Husband Do About His Looking at Women?

A. Every husband must hear what his wife expresses about her pain and hopelessness over his looking at the chests and backsides of women.

Every honorable man must realize his wife is not alone in how this threatens, deflates, and defeats her.

(By the way, will our daughters feel the same way about their husbands, and will the looking of our sons-in-law trouble us as they stare at the chests and backsides of other women? Is this the father you want for your grandchildren?)

Which of the following might be true of your wife because of your habitual looking at other women?

  • Is she emotionally devastated?

  • Is she crippled in heart?

  • Can she not get past it?

  • Does she shut down sexually?

  • Does she feel like you are having an affair?

  • Does she feel like it is her problem?

  • Is she disillusioned with men?

  • Does she fear never being loved?

An honorable husband will cease telling his wife this is no big deal. He will stop justifying looking (and lusting?) at other women.

B. Every husband needs to appreciate two moral equivalencies when it comes to looking at women.

To help men understand what wives feel when their husbands look at other women, staring at their chests and backsides, two moral equivalencies can ignite some empathy.

I will offer two.

One, Sarah and I share at our Love and Respect Conferences what a wife feels when her husband looks at other women. "How would you feel if your wife said to you, 'Joe down the street looks like Hercules, makes three times as much money as you do, coaches all three of his kids’ soccer teams, which were national champions, and has men always looking to him for counsel. Why can't you be more like Joe?'"

Most men would be devastated by this comparison. Well, wives feel compared to these other women that her husband gazes at.

There is another moral equivalence. The wife I quoted in part 1 of this blog said that her husband told her that God designed him to look at other women. She then asked, "Why can I not say 'God created women to be naturally nurturing, caring, loving. . . . Should I then be nurturing and caring and loving to other men, not my own husband?”

She makes a profound point. What if she told her husband, “Look, because I naturally nurture, I will make a sandwich for the handsome carpenter who I learn had no breakfast because he took his daughter to a doctor’s appointment, which is the kind of thing he must do since his wife died three years ago. I will be calling him to ‘see' how he is doing. I will ‘look’ in on him. I offered to help him with his daughter. By the way, this is who God designed me to be. You like to look at women, I like to look in on men"?

I think we would all agree that a husband would find this unacceptable!

But do husbands get it? Do they believe that their looking at women differs from their wives looking in on a man?

Take for example this husband who had been looking at women in inappropriate ways, which rocked his wife’s world. She in turn bonded with one of her son’s coaches. The husband was infuriated at her behavior but not at his own.

He wrote, "One thing that really bothers me is that she has allowed herself to become friends with my son's basketball coaches which maddens me. I saw one put his arms around her and hug her and then I saw her throw her hip into the other one as his back was to her. I don't think anything has happened but she told me she has ‘bonded' with one of them and they 'have become friends but there is nothing to worry about.' This infuriates me because she's playing with fire. And her hipping the other coach comes across as flirting, maybe not to her, but it does to a man."

This raises the question, will a husband conclude that his looking at women pales in comparison to his wife befriending a man? Or, will he be humble and realize that the pain he feels over her playing with fire is the pain his wife feels when he habitually looks at other women since that too is playing with fire?

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

Why? He knew the potential danger. Looking leads to lusting. This is why Proverbs 6:25 states, “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, nor let her capture you with her eyelids.” It can lead to the bedroom.

C. We must not deny the unique struggle men have because of their visual orientation; the female figure attracts the male eye.

On the CNN special "Love, Sex and the Male Brain,” Louann Brizendine said, "we can't really blame a guy for being a guy. And this is especially true now that we know that the male and female brains have some profound differences. Our brains are mostly alike. We are the same species, after all. But the differences can sometimes make it seem like we are worlds apart. . . . Perhaps the biggest difference between the male and female brain is that men have a sexual pursuit area that is 2.5 times larger than the one in the female brain. Not only that, but beginning in their teens, they produce 20- to 25-fold more testosterone than they did during pre-adolescence. If testosterone were beer, a 9-year-old boy would be getting the equivalent of a cup a day. But a 15-year-old would be getting the equivalent of nearly two gallons a day. This fuels their sexual engines and makes it impossible for them to stop thinking about female body parts and sex. And so begins the 'Man Trance.’ All that testosterone drives the 'Man Trance'—that glazed-eye look a man gets when he sees breasts. As a woman who was among the ranks of the early feminists, I wish I could say that men can stop themselves from entering this trance. But the truth is, they can't. Their visual brain circuits are always on the lookout for fertile mates. Whether or not they intend to pursue a visual enticement, they have to check out the goods. To a man, this is the most natural response in the world, so he's dismayed by how betrayed his wife or girlfriend feels when she sees him eyeing another woman. Men look at attractive women the way we look at pretty butterflies. They catch the male brain's attention for a second, but then they flit out of his mind. Five minutes later, while we're still fuming, he's deciding whether he wants ribs or chicken for dinner. He asks us, ‘What's wrong?’ We say, ‘Nothing.’ He shrugs and turns on the TV. We smolder and fear that he'll leave us for another woman.”

But does this give justification to the husband to look upon any woman he desires?

We must distinguish the first look from the second. What man can help the first look? Every man notices the beautiful woman boarding the plane and walking down the aisle. However, he need not rubberneck. He need not turn and gape, goggle, glare, and gaze. The second look is his choice.

Martin Luther said, "You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair.”

We must also distinguish looking from lusting. Just because a guy looks does not mean he lusts, even on the second and third look. However, the corporate godly advice of every wise man I have met is that when we start looking the second and third times, we are putting our minds in a situation that is not spiritually healthy, and can give way to fantasy.   

D. We must focus our attention on the tasks before us.

When I tell you to stop thinking of the number “9,” can you? If you do, you will need to think of something else, like the number “3.” When told not to think of the number “9” we think of the number “9”! So, too, when told to stop looking at women you will want to look at women. For this reason, we must relax and commit ourselves more fully to daily tasks that bring us and others value. Staying centered on the work to which God calls us is the best way to deal with this. On a construction sight? Keep hammering while the two women walk by. In the office when two women walk by? Keep typing away at the computer. In a park with the kids when two young mothers stroll by? Come around the other side of the swing and push your child from there. Taking small actions like this has a way of turning the tide. Be proactive and relax.

When a wife knows her husband seeks to do this, she will respond with respect, love, and trust. It just works!

And, remember, if you have a daughter, you want to be the kind of model that provides an incentive to your future son-in-law to keep his eyes for your daughter, and if you have a son, be the model to him so that he does not bring intense pain to your sweet daughter-in-law.

Do we have a word for the wife?

Sarah says, "Looking at women is not necessarily a sin; it is why we are looking and what we do with it that is the sin. I would encourage you to say to your husband, 'It feels so unloving to me when I see you look at other women. I want you to have eyes for only me. I want you to be strong for me. It makes me feel I am not good enough for you. Can you help me with my feelings?'"

The important thing for a wife is to remember not to shame her husband. He is hardwired to see the female figure—the first time. Proverbs 12:4 says, "she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” As threatening as his looking is to you, he struggles with this differently than you do. Do not lose your dignity while addressing this concern with him. Respectfully ask him to listen to this podcast and read these blogs so you can have him help you better understand his heart as a man.

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. Husbands, in section A, what did you answer concerning what may be true of your wife due to your habitual looking at other women? How will you address this?

  2. Being completely honest with yourself here, how do you as a husband differentiate between looking and lusting? Do you have lusting to repent of and to address in your day-to-day life?

  3. In what environments and situations do you find yourself struggling the most with lusting at other women? What will you do to distract yourself and refocus on something different the next time temptation walks by you in the form of breasts and backsides?

  4. Wives, as threatened as you are, how have you learned to deliver your message as a dignified and respectful woman who has no intentions of shaming her husband who is hardwired to look at the female figure—the first time?