In this article we are tackling a question we are commonly asked. Is it okay to notice that someone other than your spouse is attractive? Is it realistic to never notice someone from the opposite sex? When a look turns to a linger is this when the boundary line is crossed? These are important questions that need to be addressed by every couple as you begin to place proper boundaries around your marriage to protect it.
We often hear from couples who are having difficulties in their marriage due to the fact that one spouse is consistently looking at pornography on the internet, or a spouse who has ‘wandering eyes’ and makes comments about other people being attractive. Inevitably when this is taking place in the marriage, one spouse begins to feel insecure and some of the marital intimacy is broken.
We want to encourage you to keep your eyes on your mate only and resist any temptation to linger when looking at another. A lingering look gives into a thought and before you know it your mind has carried you further than you want to go. How can you break past some of these issues and experience a great marriage? The answer is to guard your marriage. You can’t often control the images and people that surround you, but you can control your response by staying on your guard. If a stray and suggestive internet ad pops up on your computer, close it. If a person walks by you and catches your eye, look in the other direction and keep your eyes for your spouse only.
What happens when you look…
We’re speaking mostly to the men now since this is typically an issue faced by men (although women who struggle with wandering eyes can apply the same principles). Perhaps you have thought, “Hey it’s no big deal to take a lingering look. It’s not hurting anybody.” But have you ever stopped to consider the cost in trust with your relationship with your spouse and kids? What does “just looking” signal to them when you gaze at someone else.
For a Woman…
She sees you look at another woman and she will automatically study the object of your fixation. Want to know what she says to herself? It all has to do with comparison and she will always feel she falls short. “Am I not attractive enough?” “Does he prefer a stranger over me?” She compares her body type, her weight, and can introduce a whole negative thought process that ultimately can defeat her sense of worth and confidence. She asks, “What is wrong with me?” Her thoughts will continue to breed anxiety instead of living in a trustful relationship with you. This is a vulnerable place for a woman as she is very sensitive to her appearance and feeling exclusive to her husband. Exclusivity is key in understanding your wife. The message she gets when you go fishing in muddy waters is that she isn’t enough and may be wondering if you prefer someone else to her.
For a Child…
Kids catch on much too quickly. They see the way a father may linger in looking. The first thing they think is, “Dad you are looking at that woman that way…isn’t mom the only one in your life?” Most men today can recall a time when they saw their own father’s veneer of respect penetrated by a glance, a hesitation, or a gaze…and it caused them to worry about the safety of their parents’ fidelity. Put a stop to confusing your kids and focus only on your wife.
By not staying guarded, what begins with the eyes can lead a man to stray for more outside of his marriage. When you guard your eyes you are ultimately guarding the boundaries of your marriage and frankly, your wife will know it when you do. Nothing builds a woman’s self-esteem more than when she knows that she is married to a one-woman-man! She longs for your eyes to focus on her, study her, compliment her and as you do she will increasingly give more and more of herself to you. Save it for your wife and get going to a great marriage!
Imagine the peace of never having to confess any mess-ups to your spouse! We’re not talking about being perfect – that’s unachievable. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless against the temptation to let our eyes wander to someone else. Here are 3 vital principles for defending your marriage and family by guarding your own heart.
- Commit to the task of guarding your heart. Your marriage is under attack and you need a battle mentality. You need to make a commitment to guard your heart at all costs. Then you need to live out that commitment on a daily basis. How? Be consistent with the basics. Live in such a way that you never invite accusations or questions. Practically speaking that could mean not riding in the car alone with someone of the opposite sex. It could also mean that you put your computer in the center of a room with your spouse so there are no questions about what you see. Choose to be open with your spouse and actively guard your own heart against any potential pitfalls.
- Keep short accounts. It is important to guard your own heart by keeping short accounts with your spouse. Take responsibility for confessing any wrongs immediately, asking forgiveness, and making amends.
- Be accountable to others. A significant part of guarding your own heart is being accountable to a friend or small group of friends. You need to grant someone access to all your thoughts, decisions and attitudes – not to control you or heap guilt on you, but to encourage you and ask the hard questions when needed. Your spouse is your number one confidant and friend. But you need someone else, someone of your own sex who can identify with your struggles. Find a few trusted friends who know you well and love you unconditionally and share with them information your spouse has allowed you to share. They also have to be willing to ask you the tough questions, like, “What impure thoughts, motives, or attitudes need to be rooted out?” Continue to seek to bring people into your life that will help you guard your heart.
Dr. Gary & Barb Rosberg have written over a dozen resources to strengthen marriages and families.
They focus on the topic of guarding the heart of your marriage in the book Guard Your Heart.