You know, it’s just interesting, isn’t it? That so many women wrestle with self esteem issues around their bodies. And so many men wrestle with lust.
And it seems like the enemy just has a hay day there. Because put those two together and it just seems like a recipe for couples really to struggle.
Pornography impacts both husband and wife and it certainly impacts their sexual intimacy. Here’s what happens. He recognizes that when he looks at porn she feels hurt by him.
From that hurt, all sorts of questions arise in her, like, am I not valuable enough for you? Am I not pretty enough? Do you find them sexier than me? Am I not pleasing you in our bed?
When he recognizes that she feels those things, he’s tempted to to keep his sin from her. To not let her know because he doesn’t want to hurt her in that way. It’s wired into him to want to be her hero, not the villain who hurts her.
On her side of things, she feels all those those questions. And now any insecurity she has is now highlighted. Any insecurity she has about her body, or what she feels are imperfections in her personality or in her physique. Those become highlighted for her and she feels even less desirable.
And so what happens in turn, they both end up pulling away from each other. He is keeping things from her and feeling more shame about what he’s doing. She is is keeping herself from him.
Because to be naked and unashamed to open herself to him, both emotionally and literally physically in the act of sex is such a vulnerable thing to do. And when a man looks elsewhere, it’s very, very difficult for for a wife to believe.
Why should she? That’s not to point a finger and be extra mean to the guy. But it is to highlight the complexity between husband and wife.
How there’s this chemical reaction that gets tricky and really difficult and painful for both husband and wife in this situation.
God’s original plan was that husband and wife would be naked and without shame. And instead, the marriage becomes a place of fear and shame.
Where both feel like they need to hide themselves and wear fig leaves in front of each other in order to be accepted and loved by the other.
So what are those fig leaves?
What are those things that we keep from each other that keep us from each other?
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This Episode’s Transcription
Everybody, I was meeting recently with a young man who is experiencing something in his marriage that so many other people experiences in their marriages, young and old alike, and many boyfriends and girlfriends experienced this, too. So I’m gonna address that in this podcast, a lot of women say is going to be directed at men today. But women, I want to encourage you, whether you’re married or single to listening, and also because I think that some of what I’ll say will, hopefully speak to you. Because I know that so many women are under incredible attack in regards to their own sense of value and worth and beauty. And I think that what I’m going to say today is going to have merit for you as well. So here’s here’s what the young man was dealing with. He’s, he’s been married for a couple years, few years now, he and his wife have some young children. And he has wrestled for a long time, even with going back before they were married long before they’re married with pornography use. She knows about this, she knew about it when they got married. And he’s actively working in recovery. But he still relapses from time to time. And his pornography use impacts both of them and certainly impacts their sexual intimacy. Here’s what happens. He he recognizes that when he is looks at porn, or has a fall, looking at porn, it hurts his wife, that she feels worse about herself, that she feels hurt by him. And that, that all sorts of questions arise in her, like, am I not valuable enough for you? Am I not pretty enough? Do you find them sexier than me? Am I not pleasing you in our bed? Do they do things that I that I don’t do. When he in recognizing that she feels those things, he’s tempted to to keep his sin from her to not let her know, because he doesn’t want to hurt her in that way. It’s wired into him to want to be her hero, not the villain who hurts her. on her side of things. She feels all those those questions. And her any insecurity that she has is now highlighted any insecurity she has about her body, any, which he experiences as imperfections in her personality or in her physique. Those become highlighted for her and she feels even less desirable. And so what happens in turn, then is they both end up pulling away from each other. He is keeping things from her and feeling more shame about what he’s doing. She is is keeping herself from him. Because to be naked and unashamed to open herself to him, both emotionally and literally physically in the act of sex is such a vulnerable thing to do. And it and it warrants a guarding of her own heart to know that she opens herself to him emotionally and physically, that she is safe to do so that she is that she can trust him with herself. And when a man looks elsewhere, it’s very, very difficult for for a wife to believe. I mean, why should she? So and that’s not to point a finger and be extra mean to the guy. I mean, I’ve been there. But it is to just highlight the complexity between husband and wife and how there’s this chemical reaction that gets really, really tricky and really difficult and painful for both husband and wife in this situation. And we’re having a conversation with my wife early early in our marriage, where I had a had a slip and had looked at pornography or something like that. And my wife reflected afterward she said, You know, it’s just interesting, isn’t it? That so many women wrestle with self esteem issues around their bodies. And so many men wrestle with lust. And it seems like the enemy just has a hay day there. Because put those two together. And it just seems like a recipe for couples really to struggle. And I think she was right. What I’m trying to highlight here is how much this works against God’s original plan, that husband and wife would be naked and without shame. And instead, the marriage becomes a place of fear and shame, where both feel like they need to hide themselves and where fig leaves in front of each other in order to be accepted and loved by the other. So what are those fig leaves? And what are the alternatives? So for the husband, the fig leaves include two things one is what I mentioned before that he hides his sin from her he keeps the fact that he is ascending either by being silent about it, and not confessing that he is he has sinned again looking at pornography or whatever. Or he he actively deceives her in some way and lies to her. And sometimes that can be done out of malice but sometimes it’s just self protective. It’s it’s a it’s a fig leaf. And that’s not to excuse it, but it’s just to help explain it. The other fig leaf he can wear is in response to her insecurities. So if she asks a question like do you find that woman in the movie Pretty? Or are you attracted to that woman at church? He doesn’t know how to answer and so he evades the question or lies or, or tries to figure out some other other way to get around it. In what he does, in essence is he’s keeping himself from being naked and under aimed with his wife. Do you hear that in there, he’s he is separating from her pulling back from her. And then he moves into even he follows Adam even further, he’s not just wearing a fig leaf, but he also accuses his wife. That’s another tendency that men can fall into where they can end up believing that I wouldn’t struggle with pornography as much, if my wife looked different if she was more like that other woman, if she performed more like the women in pornography do, if she wore this, if she acted like this, if she was more, you know, if she hadn’t, quote unquote, let herself go, you know, after after we were married for certain time or after she had children. And all of that is is so faulty and wrong, beginning with the fig leaves of his own shame. He instead of addressing his own shame, he turns on her just like Adam did before the Lord and Genesis three, and accuses her for his shame and his sin. Now, the wife has her own fig leaves that she wears. And I want to be careful here because it is not necessarily a fig leaf for the wife to pull away from sexual the sexual relationship with her husband. If he is he is still lying and deceiving. If he’s acting out sexually outside of the marriage, it’s simply make sense for her to say, Well, I’m not, we’re not going to go there together, we’re not at that place in our relationship to be sexually intimate. If I can’t trust you, and if we’re not relationally, reconciled and whole. And but even on a more basic level, if the husband is looking outside the marriage habitually with lost pornography, those kinds of things, it can be incredibly wounding and scary and difficult for a wife, as I mentioned earlier, to emotionally and physically open herself to her husband, because to emotionally physically open herself to her husband is is an incredibly trusting thing to do. It is a vulnerable act. And so for her to do that, while the husband is looking elsewhere, it can be incredibly difficult to do so I’m not suggesting that when she pulls back in that situation, that’s necessarily a fig leaf. The fig leaf for her more frequently we’ll come in, where she may want to cover her body and not be who she is. Because she’s afraid that her husband will look at her and not see the truth about who she is, he’ll be focused on just specific aspects of of her sexual self. And, and worried that he is not going to see the rest of her the full picture of who she is. And she doesn’t want to be seen that way. And so she covers yourself with with fig leaves.
But another fig leaf that she can wear that’s maybe more that moves more into a dysfunctional response to her husband is where she would try to dress like act like talk like, be sexual like other women are. I mean, she may hit the gym and go on diets, not because she wants to be healthy. And not because she wants to be a good gift to others in her life and to the Lord and her husband. But because she wants to look a certain way because she thinks she can’t be naked and unashamed unless she looks like the model on TV. She may may try to act like a woman in pornography to try to attract her husband. She may work wear certain kinds of lingerie, or say certain things, not because she’s naked and unashamed with him not because she loves him. But because she’s wearing a fig leaf. She’s covering the truth about who she is her true naked and unashamed this in order to try to be something different for him. And that’s not helpful for him. And it’s not healthy for her or their marriage. Understandable in the culture we live in understandable if she has been if her husband has wrestles with with being drawn to look at other women, but not healthy. Because ultimately in here, I’ll talk to the guy specifically ultimately, your ability to find your wife beautiful is your responsibility. Let me say it again. Your your ability to find your wife, beautiful to see the beauty in your wife is your responsibility. Jesus is not looking at your at your wife and saying man, she really let herself go after those three kids. Jesus is looking at your wife and saying she is beautiful. So what is he seeing that you’re not seeing? Listen to this. This is in Proverbs five. The wise proverbs write this in 518. He says, Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth, rejoicing the wife of your youth. Another translation says Delight yourself in the wife of your youth. The assumption is that you can it may take practice it may take work it may take retraining yourself because you’ve been trained by pornography. You’ve been trained by the culture that says this is what beauty looks like. There’s just one standard for beauty and you need to be retrained and be ready Let the Lord renew your mind. Because the world has has formed your mind and your eyes to see beauty in one very narrow kind of way. And that’s not all the beauty the Lord has for you. And so Delight yourself in the way for your youth means this, it’s on you. Secondly, look here at Ephesians five is one of the most compelling passages I think for husbands when it comes to loving our wives and think and think here about loving your wife, physically, sexually how you see her. He says, Paul says in Ephesians 525, Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Okay, so think about that, and your physical relationship, love your wife physically as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it doesn’t mean that Christ had sex with the church that’s but sex is meant to point to how Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. He goes on to say that he this is what Christ did. He gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the Church, His Bride to himself in splendor, he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish, in the same way husband should love their wives. So let’s just stop there for a second. How did Jesus love his bride? How did he present her to Himself, as without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holding without blemish? Was it by comparing her to others? Was it by telling her that she needs to get to the gym that she needs to clean yourself up that she needs to get into shape? No. He he presented herself that way by giving Himself for her good. He was stripped naked, he was beaten beyond recognition. According Isaiah 53, his body was unrecognizable. He gave Himself up for her. So in what ways husbands? Can we give ourselves up for our wives, seeking out her beauty? seeking the Lord? Like, Lord, what do you see, show me the beauty that is in my wife, I want to see and I want to delight in her. And I want to give myself for her. Paul goes on to say, in the same way, our husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves his wife loves himself. So any place that you feel like man, I would be able to I would be attracted to my wife, if only she looked more like this, or if only she acted more like this. Put that stuff away, guys, that’s BS. That is a lie from the pit of hell. And I know a lot of guys don’t think this way. But but so many guys, i There are a number of guys who think man I wouldn’t be tend to look pornography if my wife would XY and Z. That also is a lie from the pit of hell. Your problem with pornography is your problem with pornography. It’s not your wife’s problem with your pornography. Your problem with pornography is your problem with pornography, it is not your waist problem with your pornography. This is on you saw and you and I don’t say that the pointing finger. I say I say it because if you want to resolve the issue, you have to look where the real wound is. If you want to be healed, you have to go to where the real problem is where the real wound is, and it’s not in your wife, it’s in you. It’s in you. That’s not to say any more than then Jesus would say that the your wife doesn’t have problems of her own sure she does. Sure she does just like you. And yet your responsibility is your love for her. Not her love for you your prop your responsibility is seeing the beauty in her. Not in her making yourself beautiful for you. Your your responsibility is to delight in who she is that she can be naked and unashamed with you. Man, let me just throw this in here as an aside to I am absolutely convinced that that one of the best aphrodisiacs for a woman is knowing that she can trust her husband, that he hasn’t an inner strength that says NO to temptation, because he desires to say yes to the Lord. And yes to her. Knowing that she can trust herself that she can open herself emotionally and physically to her husband in that way, I think is incredibly helpful for a woman when it comes to sexual arousal and sexual desire. So husbands and wives together, let me tell you, the solution is not for her to strive to become more like some cultural ideal, you know, weighing a certain amount with certain measurements acting a certain way. That is not the solution. The solution is for each of you to seek to hold the other in their unique belovedness. And husbands. This is the real question that she’s asking. When when your wife asks you Do you think that she’s pretty? Or do you think I’m as pretty as she is? Or do you find Me Pretty? What she’s really asking is not how does she compare to everybody else? That may be the surface question. She may be wondering how she compares to others. But why would she be Wondering that she wonders that because deep deep down inside, she wants to know that that she is uniquely beloved by you that there is no one who compares to her. Christopher West says this He says that each of us is unrepeatable, indispensable and irreplaceable. That’s the true cry of our heart. That’s when we know that we are unrepeatable. irreplaceable, indispensable, that’s when we can become naked and unashamed with each other. So how can you husband seek to help your wife know that she is unrepeatable? irreplaceable and indispensable? You don’t need to let her know that she is that you know that she’s just like the model on TV or that she acts like a woman in porn. Those aren’t the ideal anyway, that’s what the culture says are ideal. But for your wife to be the ideal her. She needs to be the unrepeatable irreplaceable, indispensable woman that God has made her to be. And so when you’re seeking to find your beauty, you’re seeking for what makes her unrepeatable, irreplaceable, indispensable. Some of those will be her physical characteristics because there’s nobody on the planet it looks like her down to her fingerprints in her DNA. There’s no one who’s physically like your wife. So what are the things that you find beautiful about her physique? What are the things that you find beautiful about her smile? About her eyes, about the form of her face, about her hands about her breasts about her body? What are the things that you find beautiful? This is not a comparison game. This is you looking deeply for the beauty that is there. Some of this will also be what’s beautiful about her personality, what’s beautiful about how she carries herself about how she relates with you and your children.
As you do this, you’ll even find that there are some quirky things about her some weaknesses, that in the sum total of who she is, you’re like, I love it. I love that that’s beautiful, like that’s beautiful that her to that she has this weakness. So I’ll give you a couple examples that may help you. When I was in therapy long ago, I wasn’t married. And I was talking to my therapist. And I was like, Man, how do you how do you just commit to one person I mean, like, I’ve seen so many images of so many, there’s so many beautiful people in the world. And his advice to me was look for the little little pieces of beauty that are unique to this one woman look for the the little pieces of beauty. And that’s been really helpful for me, that’s a part of me, retraining myself to delight in the wife of my youth, I look for the little things that are beautiful about my wife. And there are so many beautiful things about her. There are so many things that are that are that are indispensable, unrepeatable, irreplaceable that are only her. She’s the only person who has the the combination of things that she has about her. Also remember a mentor of mine. When I was engaged to be married, I was talking to because there’s a lot of divorce in my family. And I was like, How do you like, Do you ever worry that you’re gonna get divorced? Does that ever work? Because I worry that I would feel tempted that way. And his response to me was so compelling. He said, No, I don’t. Because that my wife is the only woman that I’ve lived this experience with. No matter what comes in our marriage, no matter what happens to her, whatever happens to me, whatever happens in the world, there is no one that I’ve lived through the life I’ve lived through with her. So she’s irreplaceable in that way. And they had been through their own struggles with sexuality issues. They’ve been through struggles with getting pregnant, they’d had multiple miscarriages that had lost in their life. They’d had joys in their life things they delighted in mental illness, things they struggled through. And there was but he was saying, like all that stuff we’ve been through. Nobody else has been through that with me, just her. She’s the only one who’s been through that with me through the ups and downs, good and bad of it. And in that way, she is utterly and always irreplaceable. And it’s it’s true, what a beautiful perspective. And we can take this on. Just as, as Paul writes in Romans 12, one and two, he says, Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord. So in your marriage, and in your marriage bed presents your body as a living sacrifice. And then Paul goes on to say these famous words, do not be conformed to this world. And I’d add here do not do not be conformed to the world’s view of beauty, this narrow, simplistic idea of what ideal beauty is to not be conformed that any longer, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God what is good, and acceptable and perfect. The world has its own version, its own quote unquote, wisdom of what good, acceptable imperfect is when it comes to an ideal person, ideal body and ideal beauty. It’s all BS. Let yourself not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. And so when this when the Proverbs writes, delight yourself in the way for your youth, it is really an invitation to be free from conformity to the world and its narrow view of beauty. And to see the beauty that is just in your wife that you can be true to those old marriage vows that say forsaking all others which includes forsaking all other kinds of beauty, I behold this beauty This is the beauty for me. And as you do that, a part of that of course is laying down lost and laying down pornography because you’re learning to see more the beauty in your wife and delighting in her and being satisfied with her. And as you do that, then you both become more and more free, to be naked and without shame, emotionally relationally physically and sexually with each other. And then your your your love and your and the love that you can express one to another in your marriage bed grows and becomes a place of deep union and one flesh intimacy in more profound ways. No more need for fig leaves Because you can speak to the to you because you’re speaking both verbally and physically, to the to the value and worth of of the other. Lord, this is a holy endeavor that I’m trying to describe in this podcast. Would you lead us Lord open our eyes to see one another as you see us are prayed for the good of each married person listening. Each person who aspires to be married each single person listening and I pray, Lord for your glory, Lord Jesus. Thank you for seeing us. Amen.