Summer is here, and many of us are heading to the beach! But what do you do if the beach is a minefield because your husband checks out other women?
Some women have written in having this problem. Here’s one woman who says that whenever they’re in public (even at the beach!), her husband looks at other women:
I have not noticed any signs that my husband is still doing porn. My problem is that he still has a wandering eye for beautiful women when we go out. My self esteem was not good before I found out about the porn and after that it was in the negative so say the least! I have told him how much his looking bothers and hurts me. I know this is a difficult thing for men and his comeback was that all men do it! We can go out on a nice date and I come home feeling like crap about myself because he’s checking out other women and then wants sex when we get home, while I’m crushed and angry. Do I say something to him when I notice it? What should I say? I want to be loving and not angry and start a fight everytime we go out (which doesn’t happen right now because I just stew and cry in silence). I love the beach, but last summer I could barely take it and silently cried the whole time (sunglasses help alot). We had a marriage speaker at church last week and we went for a date night and of course there was a beautiful woman to the side and behind us and he turned around 7-8 times to get a look. I try so hard to ignore it, but when he’s actually turning his body to get a look, it’s hard to ignore!
Another long-time reader commented a while back, saying this:
My husband says that he can’t go to the beach because there are too many scantily-clad women there who would cause him to lust. But that means that we can’t go camping (where there are always beaches) or go to the beach together as a family. I feel like my kids miss out on summer because my husband can’t handle himself in public. How do I not get mad?
Let me deal with the second letter writer first–whose husband is afraid he’s lusting.
I’ve written recently on how noticing a woman is beautiful is not lusting–and we need to stop saying that it is.
Many Christian men are honestly trying to honour their wives by making sure that they don’t lust. But when they’ve been taught that even being tempted to lust is lusting (because you’re thinking of a woman in sexual terms), then noticing a woman has breasts becomes dangerous. The way to get around this is to “bounce the eyes”, as Every Man’s Battle teaches, something that all men should be doing at all times, so they never fixate on a woman.
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However, bouncing the eyes at the beach is an exercise in futility, because no matter where you look, there will be a woman whose body is visible. So you’re stuck. So men who truly want to honour their wives may refuse to go the beach.
I understand that they are trying to be kind, but does anyone else see how ridiculous this is? If a man can’t have fun with his kids doing something that all kids really enjoy, something is seriously wrong.
This teaching that noticing a woman is beautiful means that you’re lusting has created a whole generation of hyper-vigilant men who are super-stressed all the time about lust. And it means that they’re missing out on life.
So I would show him the article on how noticing is not lusting and talk it over with him, and then say something like this:
Honey, I appreciate your desire to remain faithful to me and honour me. However, I need to tell you: The fact that you don’t think that you can see another woman without mentally undressing her and imagining yourself having sex with her is very concerning to me, and does not make me feel cared for. If the presence of a beautiful woman automatically means that you will lust, then we have serious problems. You need to be seeing a counsellor. You need to be having people seriously pray over you. You need to be confessing a whole lotta sin. Because that is simply not right.
If that still doesn’t work, then try this:
How about when we go the beach you concentrate on playing with the kids in the water, and building sandcastles with the kids, and playing with the kids? If you keep your eyes on the kids, then that should keep your mind in the right place!
If a man can’t go to the beach with his children without lusting after other people, then there is a serious problem.
Now let’s turn to the first woman, whose husband truly is checking out other women in public.
I want to be clear here that her husband is sinning in all kinds of ways: He’s sinning against his wife by ogling and lusting after other women; he’s sinning against God and he’s sinning against that woman by objectifying her and intimidating her. While some women may honestly want men to check them out, the majority of women do not want men staring at their chests or their backsides. When men objectify us like this, it makes us feel very unsafe. If strangers view us as sexual objects, then how do we know a stranger won’t take that even further?
We now have to be hyper-vigilant that we won’t be hurt. This is creepy, it is dangerous, and it is just plain wrong. It needs to stop.
However, instead of drawing boundaries, this woman seems to be showing a complete and utter lack of communication. She cries in silence behind her sunglasses; she tries to ignore it; she doesn’t say anything.
A lot of people have trouble with the concept of boundaries, so let me show you what this may look like when he’s checking out other women:
When you’re out in public, the first time he obviously ogles another woman, say to him,
“I see that you are checking out another woman. That is disrespectful to me and to her, and if you do it again, I will leave because I will not stand here while you ogle women.”
Then, if he does do it again, you can get up, put your arm on his arm, and say,
“Honey, you are still openly checking out other women. I find that humiliating, so I’m going to leave the kids with you and head on out and get my own dinner or do something to get into a better head space again. You can text me when you and the kids are ready to go home.”
Or grab an Uber or a bus and head home yourself, or better yet take the car.
What if you’re at the beach with the kids? This one may be a little more difficult, because it may be harder to just leave, especially if you’re far from home and you only have one method of transportation home. In that case, issue the warning as before, and if he does it again, you can say,
“You’re being direspectful towards me and to the women around us, and I will not be made to sit here while you do that. You can take care of the kids, and I’m going further down the beach by myself to take a walk so I can still enjoy this outing. Text me when you and the kids are ready to go.”
And then leave him with the kids. Or, if it’s later in the day, cut the day short and go home. The kids need to also know that there are some things that you won’t put up with because they’re just wrong–even if it makes them upset, and even if it makes Daddy upset. There’s a bigger point to be made here, which is that you do not allow yourself to be treated that way, and you do not enable sinful behaviour.
So that’s an example of what setting boundaries could look like (and you may also have other ideas of how to handle it). But what you’re saying is that there are certain behaviours that you will not tolerate, and it’s important that your husband reaps what he sows. That doesn’t mean that you change him; but you do change how you reacts when he chooses to do things.
And if he makes an issue out of it, he makes an issue out of it. That’s okay. That’s his prerogative. He can get angry at you if he wants. But seeing him look at other women is disrespectful and hurtful towards you, and you need to say, “I will not sit here while you do that.”
A lot of men struggle with checking out other women in public, especially if they grew up with porn or if they grew up in a culture that taught that masculinity meant staring at women.
If he’s a good-hearted guy in general and doesn’t mean anything by it, then having conversations about how much it hurts you, how inappropriate it is, and how hurtful it is to the women in question may be a better first step. And if it’s just a habit that he looks at other women, but he really does want to stop, then putting your hand on his arm and saying a quiet reminder, “Eyes!” may do the trick.
But if he does this persistently and deliberately, despite your pleas for him not to, then you need to decide what it is that you are willing to tolerate.
Ogling women is a sin. And ogling women makes the public sphere an unsafe place for women in general.
We need to start speaking up and saying, “That’s not appropriate.”
And, please, don’t tell me that men can’t help it if they see bikinis. They can. It is a choice what you think about. I know so many men who can go to the beach and just have a great time with their families. It totally is possible.
Of course it’s going to be harder, and if your husband is a recently recovering porn addict, then maybe the beach isn’t a good idea for the time being. But to say that a man can never, ever go to the beach because of the women there–well, then I think he’s the one with the problem.
How can you help a husband who is struggling with lust?
If you have a husband who has struggled with porn in the past, is currently struggling, or tends to have a habit of checking out women when he’s out in public, there are things you can do to help him re-train his brain.
With so many men exposed to pornography for the first time before they even hit puberty, having safeguards in place to make accidentally seeing content less likely can be a huge weight off of both of your shoulders.
Covenant Eyes is a really amazing software that helps protect your family against the dangers of pornography. It has a filter you can use, but also an accountability system where a friend or trusted mentor will get an email with information about the sites that your spouse was on over the last week.
It’s a fantastic program that has helped to restore marriages and has changed lives. Check it out here.
Studies have shown that lust can be defeated if you concentrate on how much you love your long-term partner. So if he’s concentrating on how much he loves you, and if he’s playing with his kids, then he should be able to have fun without imagining having sex with strange women.
Am I being too hard on men? Let me know in the comments! (And let’s try to not talk about whether bikinis are okay or not, all right? Regardless of what you choose to wear, there WILL be women in bikinis at the beach. So let’s just deal with reality here!