Q: I am a Christian and my husband claimed to be one and attended church when we met. We’ve been married one and it’s been a war, not a marriage. All his life he was attracted to and lusted after pretty women with long hair. Of course, he kept this hidden from me. A friend of his told him before we met that he went after women like a shark. He’s admitted his thirst for women. He wouldn’t miss looking for them. While driving he’d watch in the rear view mirror and if they’d pass us, he’d turn his head a full turn to watch them go by. In restaurants he’d keep looking at them. Driving by he’d turn his head looking if they were on the sidewalks. In church. We tried a couple of churches and he’d pick out a pretty women sitting alone. He’d keep looking at them. Staring, really. During tv commercials he could be reading the paper. If he’d hear a female voice, he’d put the paper down long enough to check them out. If they were pretty, he’d watch the commercial. If they weren’t pretty, he’d continue reading the paper. Most of our married life this habit persisted. We had screaming battles to put it mildly. He claims it’s out of him now. I can’t know because he claimed that repeatedly in the past and wasn’t over it yet. But even if he is, the damage is done in me. He has destroyed several things in me. I can longer trust him. When we’re apart, or even if he’s just outside I’m wondering how many women he’s staring at. That’s what he did. And right in front of me. Stare and stare at these women. Every time I see a pretty woman I now feel so ugly. And, compared to the women he stared at, I am ugly. I don’t feel I have any respect left for him. He claims to love me. He didn’t know what true love is. He’s been married 5 times and been through an unbelievable amount of women. He should consider the problem could be him. But he doesn’t want to hear that. And he won’t talk. He’ll scream for a moment and then storm off. I tell him I need to talk. He won’t. He almost acts like he can’t. I don’t believe this marriage will last. He treats me fine when we’re not fighting, but, we’re usually fighting. We fight almost daily. It’s ridiculous. I’ve prayed over and over about it and given it to God. I know, according to the Bible, he’s committed heart adultery over and over. He claims to be sorry. He claimed that over and over and would yet persist in his addiction to women. I don’t know if I have any more love left for him. If so, not much. I tried and tried to get him to agree for us to get help. He never would. I don’t know whether to tell him to leave or not. It is my home. I don’t feel there is any hope. Does God expect me to live like this indefinitely?
A: You are right, of course, that in Matthew 5:28 Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” However, as I began reading your email, I confess that I found myself wondering if he were as bad as you say or if your own insecurity might exacerbate your concern. I also confess that by the time I got to the end, I came to believe that he does have a problem.
If I understand correctly, at least the good news is that he is not physically active with any of these women. Not saying that makes it right; just that it would be even worse if he were. I understand that his continual staring at other women makes you feel “ugly.” It seems to me that women regularly compare themselves with other women and in their minds often come off as second. His actions hurt and you have every right to be hurt by them.
When you say that after five marriages it should occur to him that he may be the problem. I don’t mean to be offensive, but I wonder why you didn’t think the same thing before marrying him — that he has a problem. The old adage is that women marry men thinking they will change and men marry women thinking that they will never change. He was what he was; he is what he is. If he changes, it will be through what is called “a significant emotional event.” The good news is that those can happen. The bad news is that the often they don’t.
Do you have a right to leave a man who continues in sin though he continues to say that he won’t do it again? Forgiving a person who repeatedly sins and asks forgiveness is Biblical. (Matthew 18:21-22) Living with that person is another thing altogether. We can forgive and love the person but we do not have to tolerate his/her continued misbehavior. In my opinion, the Matthew passage you cited gives you right to divorce him. BUT WAIT! (Always wanted to say that…) Before you do, there is more to try.
I strongly suggest you check out our workshop for marriages in crisis, LovePath 911.