Should a wife be offended if her husband notices another woman is attractive?
To defeat an enemy, we have to understand and know the enemy. Sometimes this may mean a husband knowing the enemy even better than he knows himself. Moroni in the Book of Mormon, and Joshua in the Old Testament, used spies to gain information about the movements of the enemy and plan a strategy for success.[i]
I hope that I can be a spy for my readers in the battle of good and evil in this regard, to help your marriages succeed eternally by defeating the enemy of our souls and eternal marriages.
Yes, men notice women, even when the most faithful of men are married . To understand why men do this, we have to take a closer look at the differences between women’s and men’s genetic and biological make-up. Although women are not immune from their procreative powers start tingling when it senses a good genetic match passing by.
Women have a limited number of eggs for reproduction within her lifetime.[ii] In addition, through natural biological processes, she loses them rapidly. For this reason, she is bodily inclined to be selective about who she chooses as a mate. She is also generally inclined to bond to and stay faithful to one man her whole life. However, even this has its own set of rules that can create exceptions to the rule. For example, cultural upbringing and exposure can also make a woman override these feelings according to the norms of her particular ethnic group.
In contrast, men produce billions of sperm in their lifetime and can father children until the day they die. According to Dr. Helen Fisher[iii], ancestrally, men were never inclined to be monogamous. For this reason, men are genetically and biologically inclined to reproduce with as many females as possible. Just as cultural exposure and training can change how a woman responds, a man can also learn to override these natural impulses and live a monogamous life if he chooses.
The prevalent cultural belief that, a man only loves one woman his whole life and if he doesn’t, he never truly loved her…is romantic nonsense.
It comes from the idea that men share the same natural inclinations as women. Stereotypically, this idea can be found in romance novels. Many of these novels are written by women, who project their own female perspectives to create their idea of the “perfect man”. This “perfect man” can sometimes seem more like a woman in how he thinks and responds than does an actual man. If a woman chooses to indulge in romance stories, it would benefit her to understand that this dynamic exists, and be careful not to compare actual men to fictional characters.
Men can also get caught in this problematic assumption, when he thinks a woman shares the same sex drives and desires as he does. In most cases, she does not, and popular stories or films designed to appeal to men can exacerbate this perception by portraying women that respond to sexual stimuli the same way he would, have the same sex drive he does, have the same focused goal oriented drive he does, and respond to a males advances in the way he would wish.
Both of these entertainments only lead to frustration when faced with a “real” person of the opposite sex and witness them respond as they are each biologically and spiritually designed to.
So what is the truth?
From the tips of our toes to the hair on our head, our bodies are organic reproduction machines. Our sexuality and sexual drives are not isolated to just our genitals. Our brain and all of our nerves and organs work in unison to push us to find and select a mate.
This includes our eyes. When a man “sees” a woman, before he can even consciously think about it, the image is sent immediately to the limbic system in his brain.
Here the image is processed, to begin determining whether or not that female would be good to reproduce with. In addition, this same limbic system gives him a shot of reward chemicals to keep him looking.
According to a study performed by Dr. Vladas Griskevicious, when a man sees an attractive woman, it takes an average of 3.2 seconds for that image to pass through the limbic system of the brain and be processed by the higher decision-making part of the brain.[iv]
From there, he has to consciously decide each and every time if he will or won’t follow through on the reproduction prompting given by his limbic brain.
This means that he has to consciously choose to abandon the thought of going after that woman and to stay faithful to his wife. This is a constant struggle for most men their whole lives.
This is another reason we are stressed to stay away from profane erotic videos and images. These are designed to appeal to the natural inclinations of men to constantly find a new mate and spread his DNA (Fisher, 2009) Staying away from “profane” erotica helps him stay focused on you – his “sacred” erotica.[v]
How should a wife best respond when she sees her husband’s eyes wander?
Be honest with him if this hurts your feelings, but also keep in mind that we are bombarded with many such thoughts every day, and men tend to be more sensitive to sexual stimuli around them than women are, due to their higher levels of testosterone.
Encourage him to talk about the temptations he’s experiencing. It helps to release the temptation, and make it easier to bear, when spouses bear it together. It’s no secret that when we bring dark things into the light, they lose their power.
Most of all, when you see him notice another woman, count four seconds. This is how long his initial instincts take to get to the executive or decision making part of his brain. When his decision-making part of his brain kicks in, does he come back to you after that? If he does, congratulate him for making good decisions. Know in your heart that he still chooses you every day.
What could be more romantic than that?
How can a husband respond when he finds himself with wandering eyes and heart?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Temptations enter our minds all the time, but temptation should not be entertained for long.[vi] If your wife is able, share what you’re feeling. Don’t try to hide it. Honesty will help her trust that you’re going to stick around.
When you experience a temptation, go out of your way to show some extra love to your wife. What is her love language? [vii] If you know what her love language is, do something that makes her feel particularly loved and cared for. If you don’t know, hit them all until something works.
Make sure you’re still dating each other every week, even when you don’t feel like it. Building those memories will strengthen you both against temptations. Being married is no guarantee against temptation by itself. You must still woo and win your wife, even after the ceremony, if you want love to last.
Continuing to deliberately put energy into your marriage instead of dissipating your emotional energy with many strangers will pay off in great dividends, and help temptations to lessen somewhat over time.
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” Eph. 5:25
[i] Joshua 2:1; Alma 43:28
[ii] Warner, Jennifer (2004), Animal Study Shows Mammals Have a Reserve of Egg-Producing Follicles. Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD, http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/news/20040310/women-not-born-lifetime-eggs
[iii] Andreae, Simon, Younger, James, Winslow, Susan, The Science of sex Appeal (2009), Production company The Incubator, Distributed by The Discovery Channel (2008)
[iv] Production Company: The Incubator; Distributor: The Discovery Channel, The Science of Lust (2011)
[v] Zaragoza, Samuel, Mormon’s Take Pleasure In Sacred Erotica, http://ldsmarriagebed.blogspot.com/2013/09/mormons-take-pleasure-in-sacred-erotica.html
[vi] Maxwell, Neal A. (April 1987), Overcome, Even As I Also Overcame.
[vii] Chapman, Gary D., The Five Love Languages, Northfield Publishing; Reprint edition (January 1, 2015)