Men, in more than a dozen years of research about how guys privately think about things like sex and porn use, I’ve seen a striking pattern. Although nearly all men are visually tempted today, and many hate and struggle against the temptation, most of those same men also think of it as a private thing that has nothing to do with their wives. They may feel awful about it, but they really don’t understand why their wives would. As one very representative guy told me, “Sometimes I deal with it great. Other times, not so much. But my wife knows I love her, right? She knows that if I look at porn it says nothing about my love for her.”
Guys, I’m here to tell you why you’re wrong. And please know I’m not trying to heap guilt or shame onto the heavy load you’re already carrying. Honestly, given my research with thousands of men for For Women Only and, more recently, Through a Man’s Eyes, I actually have immense compassion for your struggles in today’s culture.
But I’m here as a woman – and as a researcher – to help you understand the truth of what your wife has probably been telling you: that your porn use really does make her feel terrible.
Here are three of the reasons why:
1. To her, your porn use is, by definition, sexual involvement with someone other than her. Women generally aren’t as tempted toward self-stimulation as men are; and even where we are, it is usually around internal fantasies, not via external pictures of a completely different person. So when you’re looking at another woman and having a sexual experience at the same time, we view that as having a sexual experience with another woman. I know many men don’t view it that way. But we do. (And so does God, by the way. When Jesus calls it “committing adultery in your heart” he’s not just laying down a rule of some kind; he’s accurately describing what truly is going on in the hearts of men.)
2. For your wife, sexual attraction/involvement doesn’t happen without emotional connection and love. Our female brains are wired differently than yours. Although there are certainly exceptions, we women aren’t usually sexually tempted by a man unless we’re emotionally attracted to and connected with him. And of course if we’re married, we think there’s no way we would “let” ourselves become emotionally attracted to someone other than the man we love. Thus, if you’re sexually tempted by other women (even images of them), we instinctively feel you must also be “letting yourself” get emotionally attracted and connecting to these other women; you must have some love for them, somehow. And that makes what might otherwise be seen as a purely emotionless sexual, physical experience (see #1) seem like a painful betrayal. The wounded heart cries, But you promised to love me, and me alone!
3. Your wife already feels she cannot measure up to other women… and you just confirmed it. This, oddly enough, is probably the most gut-wrenching feeling underneath the other two. Everyone has different fears and insecurities, but we discovered in our study with women for For Men Only that one of the most common insecurities for us as women is the deep desire to know that we are beautiful to our men – as well as the deep doubt that we are.
You know all those images out there in the world that tempt you to look at them? The cover of the magazine, the girl in the short-shorts, the babe on the TV? Well, we see all those images too. And as they parade by, they tempt you … but they destroy us. They whisper, You’ll never be pretty/thin/tall/well-endowed enough to be attractive to anyone. You’ll never measure up to this. You’re not beautiful; you’re ugly. And once we get married, we think we’ve found someone who does find us beautiful…. But that underlying insecurity is still there. So we subconsciously wonder, “But am I attractive enough for him?” And if your head swivels sideways when the hot girl saunters by, or we discover you’ve been looking at porn, you’ve just confirmed our deepest fears. No. We’re not enough. We’re not beautiful enough for our husband. It can be devastating.
Now, let me reiterate: I do not share those three things to make you feel terrible, or burden you with shame. I don’t even share those to give you more pressure than you may already feel. I trust that if you have read this far, that you deeply love your wife and truly want to be the man she needs. So I share this solely so you can know what is likely going on, deep down, inside the woman you love. She needs your reassurance and your protection.
We are strong, confident women on the outside. But on the inside, most of us are still like those young girls who secretly hope that our Prince Charming will show us, yet again, that he finds us beautiful.
Men, you’ve got a treasure in your hands: your wife’s vulnerable heart. Ask God for what I know you truly do want: the ability to hold and protect that treasure well.
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