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The “Other” Justification for Infidelity

The “Other” Justification for Infidelity

by Mike Duran · 66 comments

I greatly enjoyed Katherine Coble’s recent post, The Duty of Beauty, wherein she expounds the oft, ill-stated, idea that wives contribute to their husband’s infidelity by “letting themselves go.” Katherine writes:

There are those who teach that a woman who lets herself go is responsible for her husband’s eventual infidelities. After all, why shouldn’t he hunger for sex with the pretty manager of the marketing department if you’ve put on fifty pounds after the birth of your children? Why shouldn’t he yearn for carnal knowledge of a woman who can afford regular trips to the salon, if you guys are watching your budget and you don’t colour your own hair?

I’ve officiated dozens — possibly a hundred — weddings. I like to remind the couple that “For better or worse” includes

  • wrinkles
  • gray hair
  • poundage
  • erectile dysfunction
  • incontinence

Despite agreement with Katherine’s post, concerns like hers (and mine) veer dangerously close to this “War on Women” narrative that’s playing out in the media. And that scares me. Katherine linked to one such discussion, most of which I gritted my teeth through.

Before you put me in the “enemy camp,” let me qualify why these discussions grate on me so. I don’t think Christianity has, or should have, a “masculine feel.” I don’t think “a woman’s place is in the home.” I don’t think women are inferior to men. I don’t even hold to the belief that a woman can’t teach or lead a man.

Nevertheless, in watching these gender “discussions,” I’ve been struck by how one-sided the blame is. Let me explain.

I pastored for eleven years. During that time I did A LOT of marriage counseling. Marriage counseling is probably the single biggest type of counseling a local church pastor will do. During that time, I probably encountered as many wives who used an excuse to cheat on their husbands as husbands who justified their infidelity because of their wife’s appearance. This was the recurrent excuse used by those women:

“My husband doesn’t love me anymore. He’s emotionally distant, cold, aloof, and uncaring.”

And when these women find a man who “genuinely” takes interest in them, they often falter. (Note: This is one of the reasons why pastors so often succumb to sexual sin with a parishioner: They actually listen to and empathize with a woman who is emotionally needy. It’s a volatile combination.)

So whereas men use their wives’ physical unfitness as an excuse for infidelity, women use their husbands’ emotional unfitness for theirs.

All that to say, the aforementioned discussions about men unfairly using Scripture to justify their infidelity often seems conflated. Again, this is not meant to justify those men or align myself with that line of reasoning. I think both are wrong. I’m just observing how that argument

  1. conveniently ignores marital infidelity on the part of the wife (and her justifications for it) and
  2. fits with the narrative of a “War on Women”

There’s two sides to every marriage. It is wrong for husbands to justify infidelity on the grounds that their wife “let’s herself go physically.” It’s even worse to justify that infidelity by using Scripture. However, it is equally wrong for a wife to justify her infidelity on the grounds that her husband “let’s himself go emotionally.” It’s even worse to justify it on Scriptural grounds (i.e., the husband is supposed to love his wife “like Christ loved the Church”).

No doubt, there are institutional biases that need to be discussed. Men have held positions of power and influence in the Church forever. Nevertheless, I know just as many men who’ve had their hearts broken from an unfaithful wife as wives who’ve suffered the same from their husbands. Maybe that’s just me. But these men are not “the enemy.”

So from my experience, there’s equal parts of blame to go around. I just wish we’d consider both parts in this discussion.

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole April 12, 2012 at 7:38 AM

Couldn’t agree more, Mike. Well said.

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Carradee April 12, 2012 at 7:50 AM

Agreed. Well said.

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Katherine Coble April 12, 2012 at 8:03 AM

Oooh boy.

First off, thanks for the shout out!

Second off, thanks for bringing this up. It hits on a topic that’s big in my life right now.

I have several friends (female) going thru marital difficulty. As an outside observer I’m pretty sure that in every case it’s infidelity. Not adultery, but infidelity.

–the women all love Twilight, both the books and movies. They have a picture of “true” love being the swanning infatuation of early life relationships.
–the women all have multiple commitments which keep them apart from their husbands a bulk of the time.
–the women all choose Girlfriend Time over Husband Time. Movies, manicures, shopping, dinners to catch up on the latest news…and then much of this gal gab is about the problems with men.

None of these women are having sex or even flirting with a man other than their husbands. But they aren’t FAITHFUL.

And I was going to write all this at my place but it just can’t be done right now.

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Jessica Thomas April 12, 2012 at 8:20 AM

True, it definitely goes both ways. I think it’s also true that when there is marital infidelity both parties are to blame to varying degrees. In some cases the cheater might just be a plain jerk with no conscience but usually the line isn’t that clear.

I don’t think a woman is required to keep herself up, but I think she ought to. As should the man. I’m not talking about looks here, I’m talking about health.

It is a sin against your partner if you willfully choose not to take care of yourself. You both have become one body. Two halves. You are responsible to maintain your health for your partners sake because he/she is bound to you. How you treat your body will affect your partner’s life in many ways. I know this to be true from watching my mother mourn my father’s death from lung cancer, the obvious cause being his smoking.

So, I don’t think women can get off the hook quite so easily, saying “he should find me attractive even though/despite…” If she sits around gaining 100 pounds eating bonbons, that’s her choice, but the marriage could suffer consequences. Same thing is true if the man grows a 100 pound cheeseburger belly. If both parties are fine with the added weight, okay. But if not, it’s a potential cause for concern.

That said, when someone in the marriage cheats, they must accept full responsibility for their decision to cheat. 100 pounds of fat have no power of mind control. That person made a dumb decision and they have to be willing to own up to it. However, any hope of saving the marriage will require both parties to be honest about their failings as a spouse.

That’s my five cents.

I don’t know what this “War on Women” is that you’re referring, by the way. I’ve apparently missed all that. Perhaps innocence is bliss.

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Mike Duran April 12, 2012 at 8:57 AM

The “War on Women” is the term being used to describe what some perceive as the GOP’s opposition to certain “women’s issue” like abortion and contraception. It finds its parallel, I believe, in the sentiments of many who argue that Evangelicals are largely chauvenistic.

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TC Avey April 12, 2012 at 8:20 AM

I agree, it goes both ways!

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Jennifer K. Hale April 12, 2012 at 8:40 AM

Great post, Mike!

My brother-in-law is currently going through a divorce. He’s a youth pastor and he and his wife (almost-ex) have always been very involved in the church–they had the appearance of a happy couple with a healthy marriage. But just like you mentioned, she suddenly decided that her husband was “emotionally distant” and opted for infidelity, multiple times as it turns out, with very lame excuses. There are 2 people in each marriage and no one is perfect, but the infidelity of a woman, as you expressed, is often overlooked. Thanks for reminding folks that it goes both ways and a partnership implies that both people are working on the marriage. The most heartbreaking thing to me in this situation is what she’s doing to her young children by distancing herself from everyone and focusing on herself only.

I do want to mention that I agree with Jessica above. While a man can’t hold it against his wife for “letting herself go” at certain times (after a child is born, etc), no woman should let herself go out of laziness. It’s not fair to her husband, her children, or herself. By the same token, a man shouldn’t either. Jessica is right–it’s not about vanity but health, and when two become one, they owe it to each other to take care of themselves.

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Jill April 12, 2012 at 9:25 AM

What is this emotionally distant man you speak of? Men tend to be far more romantic than women, in my experience. But my experience doesn’t equal reality, and some people are just incredibly needy on an emotional level. The reason why I, too, blogged about this topic last week was for the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m sick and tired of reading that a woman is disrespectful to her husband if she “lets herself go.” What really gets me is that women are really easy to manipulate on this level because they want to be attractive. And to me, the constant need to have this discussion, to remind women that they should be attractive, demonstrates that American Christianity–at least in its outward manifestations–is stuck in adolescence. And these emotionally needy women who claim their husbands are distant–yep, more immaturity/manipulation. I think we should have training courses in maturity, the kind that is in opposition to our Seventeen Magazine/Cosmopolitan culture. I could carry on for a long time about this subject, but I’ll spare you.

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sally apokedak April 12, 2012 at 10:45 AM

And then there’s the other Christian tradition where women are considered sinful if they take any care to how they look at all. Where it is considered sinful to not try to hide any beauty you might have.

I think we’d all be better off if we read the Bible more and the self-help/advice book less. I hate Christian women’s books. They seem to all be focused on the women and never focused on Christ. But the Bible tells me to keep my eyes on Christ. The self-help books seem bent on laying on the guilt.

I once did a Women’s Bible study where the author said Christian women should cut their hair to frame their faces, because that’s where we wanted to draw attention. HUH? I thought we wanted to point to Christ, not draw attention to our faces. That same author thought we should sew our children’s clothing and bake bread from scratch. BAH!

Read the Bible! There’s never a guilt trip there. No heavy burden laid on.

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sally apokedak April 12, 2012 at 10:51 AM

I should clarify–no heavy burden for those who have been set free in Christ.

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Iola April 12, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Go, Sally!

I have no problem with Christian non-fiction, like biographies, devotionals or study aids. But so much of the Christian self-help section is a couple of Bible verses stretched out with stories to last 192 pages. Just read the Bible. Or pray about the issue. Or listen to your pastor. Ideally, all three.

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Ame April 12, 2012 at 10:58 AM

oh, my … it definitely goes both ways. and i believe the stats are that more women file for divorce than men.

it takes two to stay married, but only one to divorce.

i also think there are marriage-level mistakes and divorce-level mistakes. no one is perfect. we all need to take responsibility for our own stuff. but we cannot control the choices of another, not even our spouse. if he or she wants to begin a romantic fantasy with another (always begins in the mind) and carry it out to the end, they can conjure up all sorts of stuff their spouse is guilty of, but they can’t blame them for it. we all do wrong, but we don’t all strip and screw someone we’re not married to.

i think men, in general, are tired of the ‘poor woman’ junk b/c they know how horribly some women treat men, and men know it’s not just women who get the shaft. i have little sympathy for the women who whine over men not being what they want them to be or what they should be (and i’ve been there; done that; have the scars to prove it). it’s not a man-problem … it’s a depravity problem … and that is no respector of persons or sexes.

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R.J. Anderson April 12, 2012 at 12:20 PM

Adultery is sin no matter who’s doing it or why, and a woman who is unfaithful to her husband because another man meets her emotional needs better is no less guilty than a man who is unfaithful to his wife because she isn’t physically attractive to him as another woman.

However, I think it’s a false equivalence if we say that a woman feeling emotionally rejected and uncared for by her husband is the same as a man feeling that his wife is physically inferior or inadequate. Scripture tells women to dress modestly and not to put too much emphasis on the outward appearance, but to cultivate a godly character — it never tells women they have to be slim and toned and beautiful.

Which is not to say that a wife who dresses in shapeless rags and never brushes her hair or washes her body is honouring God or her husband, but how many women are actually like that? In my experience, the majority of women are more likely to be overly concerned about their appearance — successfully or not — than to be indifferent to it. So if a lot of Christian women find their husbands dissatisfied with their dress and appearance, it’s not because those men are holding them to a Biblical standard of feminine beauty, it’s because they’re measuring their wives by the perverted and distorted standards of Hollywood, or at the very least by the standard of that attractive blonde who jogs by their office every day.

But if a woman complains that her husband is emotionally cold and uncaring, it’s a different story. Yes, it’s possible that she’s holding him up to an emotional standard that’s just as ridiculous and unrealistic and media-influenced as her husband’s standard of beauty. Maybe she really does expect him to magically know all her wishes, sense all her insecurities, and meet her every emotional need with a wave of his sparkly vampire-like hand (although Edward is no prize in that department, if you ask me). But she does have a Biblical justification for believing that her husband should love and cherish her as his own body, and give himself up for her just as Christ loved the church. Yes, that’s a really high standard. But it’s a Biblical one, and it’s one that God urges men to strive to meet. It doesn’t guarantee that the wife will be satisfied with his efforts–as I said, she may indeed be unreasonable–but he is nonetheless called upon to keep trying. As C.S. Lewis said, the clearest picture of Christ’s love for the church is not found in the man whose wife is a paragon of submission and loveliness, but the one whose marriage is most like a crucifixion.

So while I know and sympathize with several men whose wives have left them or driven them away because of absurd, unbiblical and in some cases frankly insane ideas of what their emotional needs are and how they should be met, I don’t think that negates the legitimacy of most women’s desire to feel loved and listened to and cared for. And it definitely doesn’t legitimize the idea that women are responsible to “earn” or “keep” that kind of love from their husbands by meeting a certain standard of attractiveness.

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Katherine Coble April 12, 2012 at 12:26 PM

You said wonderfully what I was going to say.

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R.J. Anderson April 12, 2012 at 12:29 PM

w00t! Thanks, Katherine.

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Mike Duran April 12, 2012 at 2:32 PM

“I think it’s a false equivalence if we say that a woman feeling emotionally rejected and uncared for by her husband is the same as a man feeling that his wife is physically inferior or inadequate.”

I’m not so sure, R.J. I think there’s degrees on both ends. A wife might feel emotionally rejected even if her husband is genuinely seeking to love her. Men can be pretty dense. Some of the marriages I know dissolved because the man was too busy outside the home. The wife interpreted this as emotional distance, while he saw it as serving his wife and providing for his family. On the other hand, a husband might feel “emotionally rejected” if his wife loses interest in sex or struggles with esteem issues. Men can feel distanced from their wives by a lot more than just forcing upon them unbiblical expectations. I think you’re right that’s there’s far clearer Scripture commanding men to love their wives than for wives to keep up their appearance for their husbands. But then, what do we do with the “wives submit yourselves to your husbands” verse? I mean, can a wife be considered “unsubmissive” if she isn’t meeting her husband’s sexual needs. (This is a question, not an opinion.) Anyway, it all comes back to two sides in this conversation. Thanks for the great comment!

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Ame April 12, 2012 at 2:57 PM

” it’s because they’re measuring their wives by the perverted and distorted standards of Hollywood, or at the very least by the standard of that attractive blonde who jogs by their office every day.

this may be true, but women also measure their husbands by the perverted and distorted standards of Hollywood, or at the very least by the standard of that attractive, affectionate, thoughtful, caring man who struts by her office everyday.

also, the bible tells women to respect their husbands. how many women actually respect their husbands? this is not conditional on whether or not he loves her as Christ loves the church.

i think most women expect more from men than they should. i think most women combine all the good qualities any man could possibly have and expect them to be in their one man. i think women compare their men and rag on men too much. i think women, in general, are very demeaning toward men, as a group. when women are around other women who demean men, they are more likely to think poorly of their own husband.

another thing is that we women expect men to automatically love us as Christ loved the church, with absolutely no learning curve. we judge them harshly and have high expectations. i do not think God judges our men as harshly as we do, in general. i think God is more patient. in the same way the “Proverbs 31 Woman” is thought to be a collection of her over a lifetime, i think a man learning to love his wife as Christ loves the church is a collection of learning over a lifetime.

it is not wrong for a man to be visually attracted to women. God made men visual. acting out on that outside of marriage is wrong, but it’s not wrong for a man to be visually attracted to women. from what i know of men, men usually have their ‘thing’ that they like … hair, eyes, butt, leggs, curves, chest. some men like their women well groomed w/their nails done and dressed to the 9′s, some like the earthy look, etc. find out what your man likes (he likes something about that in you or he wouldn’t have married you) and accent it for him. we want our man to emphasize the parts of him we love; we should also emphasize the parts of us he loves. if your man likes long hair, keep your hair long. if he likes your legs, show off your legs. some of this can be done publically, the rest is to be done privately – nothing wrong with that.

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Nicole April 12, 2012 at 3:40 PM

Well said, Ame. Sounds like the voice of wisdom from experience.

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Ame April 12, 2012 at 5:23 PM

thank you, Nicole. my first husband was serially unfaithful, and my new husband’s first wife left him for another man. i’ve got a picture of both sides. to be very honest, imho, i think it is much more difficult for a man to recover (though i don’t think they ever do) from his wife being unfaithful than it is for a woman to recover from her husband being unfaithful. i know quite a few men whose wives left them for another man, and they never, ever get over it. i actually just had this convo w/a sweet friend today. her mother left her dad years and years ago for another man. her dad, who passed away last winter, never got over it. so very sad.

women are hard on men just for being who they are. when we take the time to respect them and love them as they are, where they are, the vast majority of men are very good men. we need to be very careful the friends we make who influence us. we need to be very careful what we speak about men to other women. we need to guard our hearts and minds from gossip and comparison and anything that causes us, in our own minds, to think less of our husbands. women are strongly influenced by other women.

men have their own demons, for sure. and we are not responsible for when they unzip and strip. but women are no better than men, and when a man’s sleeping w/another woman, that other woman often belongs to some other man. we are all depraved living in a depraved world. when we elevate women over men, we do great disservice to all of us, especially our children who learn from watching our behavior and attitudes.

about a woman’s weight … many men will be okay with some weight when she respects and loves him and they have a good relationship. my first husband was unfaithful when i had a great body and was in great shape and was hit on by other men often. i know many other women whose husband’s were unfaithful, and they were knock-dead-georgous. having a hot body does not guarantee a happy man. men usually need more than a body. i think we focus too much on this topic. not that men are not visual; they are; God made them that way. a grosely obese person is rarely attractive. however, there is more margin for differences when a man isn’t fighting battles on every front in his marriage.

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Katherine Coble April 12, 2012 at 7:39 PM

Again with the down on fat people talk. Just swell, guys. Swell.

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 12:38 AM

Katherine – “fat people” is a very sensitive subject, for both men and women. and i agree, there are many reasons one may be considered ‘fat.’ also, ‘fat’ for one person is not ‘fat’ for another. however, i think we can agree that someone who is 300 pounds is grosely overweight, and more than being overweight and unattractive, it is extremely unhealthy.

the reality is that men are visual beings. if a woman is single and overweight and wants to attract a man, it is in her best interest to do her best to become healthy. in becoming healthy, minus some medical instances, she will loose weight. overall, with better health comes a better disposition. exercise is deeply connected with our mental well-being.

it is not wrong for a man to not be attracted to a woman for any reason. he has the right to not be attracted to a certain type of woman. i know for my husband, there are certain things that he finds attractive, and it would be very difficult for him to be married to a woman who did not have those. one is having long hair. he hates short hair, absolutely hates it in the ‘attractive’ realm. i have a very dear friend whose husband doesn’t care at all about the length of her hair, and it’s very short. his taste is other things. i know another man who likes exotic women – asian, latin, etc. it’s what he likes. there is nothing wrong with what a man likes. a man does not need to apologize for his preferences.

in the same way, there’s nothing wrong with what a woman is attracted to, either.

what is wrong is when a married couple use such things to excuse illicit behavior and not take responsibility for their own choices. that is wrong.

i know one married couple where the husband is very health-conscious and is fanatic about working out. his wife knew this before they married. if she ever stopped working out and let herself go, he would be disappointed. he would not cheat on her, but he would be disappointed. she knew this before she married him, and she accepted that. his choice as to what he is attracted to; her choice to accept that. nothing wrong with either.

for either single men or women to sit around and be lazy with the attitude that i can be whatever the he!! i want to be and he/she just has to suck it up and love me anyway, is certainly their choice. however, they have narrowed their prospects.

in my new marriage, my husband is not nearly concerned with my weight (good thing, b/c i’m overweight and was when he met me), as he is my character and how i respect and love him and treat him.

i think it is in each person’s best interest to be the best they can be with what they’ve got. just do your best. you cannot control what another person likes or dislikes, but you can control yourself. and being the best you can be may or may not be attractive to another, but most importantly, it is in your own best interest.

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sally apokedak April 13, 2012 at 7:05 AM

Ame, the problem with saying that a person who weighs 300 pounds is unattractive and unhealthy is that it is so focused on this world which is passing away. When you are old and looking back, you’ll see how silly this attachment to the things of this world are. To the man dying of cancer, the fat wife who sits by his side instead of going to the gym and the hairdresser is beautiful. When you are dying, the things that many people in the America and Europe think are important are seen to be silly things with no eternal value. And, yet, we have made physical beauty an idol. So much so that we spend BILLIONS of dollars on cosmetics and on plastic surgery.

There is nothing ugly about fat. It’s our society that has decided these things are ugly. I have a friend from Nigeria who says the little girls from the rich families are made fat because fat people are seen as rich and healthy. I have Alaskan Native friends who think very little about body fat. My husband was Native and I never heard any of his brothers or sisters of friends ever mention body fat in any context at all. They never dieted. Body fat was a non-issue.

Is the man full of the joy of the Lord? Then he’s far more healthy than Brad Pitt or any other star with a fit body. Is the woman serving her neighbors, full of mercy because of her love for Christ and those he died to save? Then she is far more attractive than any of the beautiful models and Hollywood starlets.

Was John the Baptist attractive, eating his bugs and wandering in the desert like a madman? And yet, how beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news.

I’m not saying that physical health has NO value. I’m saying we have elevated it way out of proportion. We have perverted things so physical beauty is so important, while inside we’re full of dead man’s bones and we’re OK with that as long as we have hard abs.

Length of hair and body fat are such shallow ways to judge the fitness of a spouse. What’s the man who loves long hair going to do when his wife goes through chemo and loses her hair? Will he find her unattractive? Or will he see her faith and joy in the Lord and find her more beautiful than ever?

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Sally, i see your point. and those are certainly valuable points. that’s where for better or worse, in sickness and health come in, for sure. and i do understand and know that different societies place different value on weight. i also know we are obsessed in our society with weight. those things, to me, are a given. i am not talking about things like this. health issues aside …

God made us physical beings with certain likes and dislikes. he made men visual. it is wrong to expect a man or woman to be physically attracted to a woman/man who is overweight. he/she can be, but they do not have to be.

it is not wrong for someone to think fat is physically ugly. that does not make them shallow – it is their preference. a man/woman does not have to marry a woman/man who is overweight if he/she doesn’t want to.

i also think it is wrong for a women who, once married, blatantly choose to gain weight with absolutely no care or thought to what their husband thinks or desires – a throw-it-in-your-face kinda thing forcing him to love her the same no matter what.

a man/woman who desires a woman/man to be of a healthy weight is not shallow of sinful. to be mean about it is wrong, too. but to have a preference is not wrong.

God placed importance on the whole person, not just what’s on the inside.

the reality is that if one is overweight and single, their selection will dwindle. obesity does carry physical consequences, and a person does not have to choose to accept those consequences in the person they marry.

i absolutely disagree with any church or group of people who determine that everyone should be attracted to a person no matter what they look like. a person’s appearance does not change their value, but it does affect their marriagability if single.

and i absolutely disagree with any church or group of people who states that one is shallow or sinful or whatever other negative you want to state simply because they have preferences in what they are attracted to. it is not wrong to have preferences of attraction. that is normal.

if my hair falls out, it will not mean my husband will stop loving me. but as long as i have hair, why not wear it long for him? i want him to do things for me that i like … why should i not do things for him that he likes?

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sally apokedak April 13, 2012 at 1:51 PM

>>>
it is not wrong for someone to think fat is physically ugly. that does not make them shallow – it is their preference. a man/woman does not have to marry a woman/man who is overweight if he/she doesn’t want to.
<<<<<

What does make a person shallow then? You tell me.

I would never say that a person was required to marry someone he thought was ugly. Of course we should all marry people we think are beautiful. It would be foolish to marry someone you think is ugly. My contention is that spiritually mature people see beauty where spiritually shallow people see none.

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 3:07 PM

i think there is a difference in what someone thinks is beautiful or ugly simply based on appearances, and what someone thinks is beautiful or ugly based on knowing a person.

my sweet husband does not like tatoos and think they are ugly. he does not think the person who wears them is ugly; he thinks tatoos are ugly. he is not wrong to think that. if he took that like/dislike to the inner person, then he would be wrong to assume that (1) tatoos are ugly (2) if a person has a tatoo, they are automatically an ugly person.

there are some people who think it is horrible when men wear long hair, and they think that is ugly. they are wrong when they assume the person is ugly b/c of how he keeps his hair.

there are people who think someone with a cigarrette sticking out of their mouth is ugly.

there are people who think when someone wears their ‘pants on the ground’ that is ugly.

there are people who think a person with an alcoholic drink in their hand is ugly.

i personally do not like multi-colored hair in bright colors like bright pink and blue, etc, and spiked. i think it’s ugly. that does not mean i assume a person who wears their hair like that is ugly; it simply means i do not like the hair. i have two dear friends who love to do funky things to their hair. i don’t have to like their hair to like them.

i would say shallow is when you take your physical preference and assume the person is the same before taking the time to get to know them.

***

what i think is wrong is for women to do whatever the heck they want to their bodies and then expect a man to love and like their body anyway because it’s the christian thing to do. it’s almost like they have this attitude that says, “you can’t love me at a healthy weight until you prove you will love me at an obese weight.”

where does the bible tell men they must love a woman simply because she is a christian and is beautiful on the inside? can a man love a woman because of her inner beauty? absolutely. but it is not wrong for a man to want and need to be attracted to both a woman’s physical and inner beauty. actually, most good men would ditch a woman whose inner self is ugly regardless of how hot her body is.

i think we also need to relax a bit because what one man finds beautiful in a woman is different from what another man finds beautiful. i remember hearing a chunky woman say with a twinkle in her eye, “I know i’m overweight, but my husband loooooves me!”

btw – this works both ways, too … women are also very critical of the appearance of men. most young men know that when they get married, their wife is over-hauling their wardrobe. some men could care a less; others it would bother greatly. know your man. know your woman. and care enough about them to make the reasonable changes in your life to please them to the same degree you would like them to do the same for you.

Katherine Coble April 13, 2012 at 9:08 AM

No. We cannot agree. The mother who gave birth to me, raised me, loves me…she’s over 300 lbs. She’s not unattractive and she’s as healthy as any other 72 year old woman.

The sister who is my best friend outside of marriage is over 300lbs. She’s not unattractive and she’s not unhealthy.

I most definitely will NOT agree to pigeonhole and dismiss these women and others like them.

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Katherine – weight does not equal value.

i am not a physician, but i cannot understand how a 300 pound person is physically healthy.

but i will not back down on what i said. weight is a factor, whether we like it to be or not. will there be men and women who are attracted to one with significant weight? sure. the group will be smaller.

it is wrong to expect people to be physically attracted to someone. people have their preferences, and weight is usually a big one. it is not wrong to prefer someone who carries less weight than one who does.

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sally apokedak April 13, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Physical attraction matters, and health matters. They are not unimportant. However, preaching a message that says “fat people are ugly and unhealthy” to a society that is inundated with TV shows, movies, and ads on billboards that send the message that “fat is ugly and unhealthy” seems…unnecessary at best. It’s like telling vegetarians that meat comes from dead animals. It’s not a message anyone has missed.

We don’t need to tell others that fat is ugly. Our society already believes that. Where our society needs correction is in the area of sin. We need to say, “Sin is ugly.”

If we preached that one person might hear, “Shallow, selfish, materialism and obsession with sleek bodies and shiny cars, is ugly.” And other person might hear, “Eating all the junk food I’ve been eating and failing to get out and walk in God’s nature is ugly.”

Fat is not ugly and it’s not sinful. How we get fat and stay fat may be sinful and ugly.

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 11:27 AM

“Where our society needs correction is in the area of sin. We need to say, “Sin is ugly.” ”

absolutely. society, though, will not think like this b/c society, in general, are not believers. we cannot expect non-believers to behave or think like believers.

it’s in the church where we need to correct this. we should not be surprised at what an unbeliever does, but we should be at what is taught in the believing church.

“Fat is not ugly and it’s not sinful. How we get fat and stay fat may be sinful and ugly.”

absolutely.

i think we also need to be honest when we speak to women on this subject and how men view physical appearances. it does not good to tell a single woman who is obviously overweight that her weight will not be a factor in finding a man. weight will not be the only factor – a hot body with a bad attitude will turn a man off just as quickly. so the focus should not only be on weight, but it should not be ignored, either.

and i agree that it’s not so much about size as it is health. we’re obsessed with this size 0 mentality which breeds a plethora of bad stuff, not the least of which are eating disorders and selling ourselves out. air brushing is not helping any. it’s definitely an uphill battle teaching our daughters what is true and what is not – i have 12 and 14 year old daughters; i get it.

the flip side is that if a single man or woman expect the other to be trim and buff and a certain size and weight and height, they, too, are limiting their prospects.

balance and reality and truth.

Jill April 13, 2012 at 10:01 AM

“God made men visual.” Sure, except for those poor blind sods. And God gave women the gift of sight, as well. Except for blind women.

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Jill – i don’t see where your comment, “except for blind” has any factor here.

yes, God made men visual. women do not have to like it or accept it, but it doesn’t change the fact and truth the He did.

God also gave us each individual preferences. there’s nothing wrong with that, and actually, those are good.

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Jill April 13, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Please give me the chapter and verse that proves your assertion. As far as I know, he gave men and women alike the use of 5 senses.

“i don’t see where your comment, “except for blind” has any factor here.” If it’s true that men uniquely play out their biology through sight, then I feel sorry for blind men. I don’t know how they choose a mate or reproduce.

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 1:46 PM

Jill – it is easy to feel sorry for those with disabilities or special needs, especially when we don’t have any ourselves. i do know that God cares for us as we are, where we are. i cannot answer as to whether a blind man feels deprived from the visual beauty of a woman.

The Song of Solomon is full of the husband lavishing over the physical beauty of his bride. I heard a preacher say once that when God brought Eve to Adam, his response was something like, “Wow!” and indicated he was very happy with the beauty of God’s creation in Eve. there are other places in the bible where the beauty of the woman is described. i will have to look them up to find them specifically if you need them.

yes, God did give us the five senses, but he made us so differently that we often experience them differently. for example, i don’t know why it is, but men and boys like the smell of bad things – they’ll even take a second or third sniff of something that smells bad and share it with each other. girls and women would rather not know that smell ever existed.

women are also visually attracted to men, but usually in a different way and a different intensity.

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Jill April 13, 2012 at 6:18 PM

The Song of Solomon is full of references to the physical beauty of the man from the woman’s perspective, as well. You still haven’t given me any proof that men are visual by nature any more than women are. If no biblical or scientific proof exists to prove your assertion, then I can’t accept it as factual. And, further, I can’t accept it as proof that women should “keep themselves up”.

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 10:47 PM

Jill – a great place to start are the books by Shaunti Feldhahn … specifically the book: For Women Only. The back cover of her book states: “This book is about the things we just don’t ‘get’ about guys. With findings from a groundbreaking national survey and personal interviews of over one thousand men, For Women Only is full of eye-opening revelations you need to not only understand the man in your life, but to support and love him in the way he needs to be loved. Grounded in biblical hope, you will discover how to love your man for who he really is – not who you think he is.”

On page 156 of For Women Only, Feldhahn writes, “Call me naive, but I just didn’t realize that the issue of appearance was such a big deal – such an imperative deal – for a guy.”

In a conversation Feldhahn relates on pp 157-158 with a man she calls Ted, the book states:

“‘There’s something I need to mention to you,’ Ted said, looking uncomfortable. ‘I think women have a blind spot in an area that they really need to understand.’ Taking a deep breath, he spilled the beans.
“‘I don’t think women know how important it is to take care of themselves and not to look like a slouch around their husbands.’
“‘You mean, not to be overweight …?’ I ventured.
“‘That’s part of it, but that’s not really it,’ Ted continued intently. ‘It doesn’t mean you have to be a size 3. The bigger issue is that your husband sees that you are putting forth the effort to take care of yourself, for him. See, my wife is 115 pounds, but her weight isn’t really the issue. It’s not about being tiny. If she doesn’t take care of herself, dresses sloppily around me all the time, never exercises, and has no energy to go out and do things together, I feel like she’s choosing not to do something that she should know is important to me. And then it becomes a real issue because it affects her ability to do things and her self-worth and desire – and then it affects me.’”
“That burden off his chest, Ted relaxed and chuckled. ‘You may not believe this, but it’s not about whether we want our wives to prance around the house in a Little Bo Peep outfit – although that would be great too. I mean, who are we kidding! Bur really, I just want to see that my wife cares enough about me to make an effort.’”

On page 160, Feldhahn writes: “Almost every man cares if his wife is out of shape and doesn’t make a true effort to change. For some it’s merely a wistful ‘Oh, for the good old days’ sigh, while for others it’s a relationship wrecker.”

The whole book is important and builds upon itself, so in a book of 184 pages, you can see that there is much one should read before getting to these parts – the foundation, so to speak. Also, Feldhahn begins this particular chapter with the following: “WARNING! Before you reaad any further, pray first!” She knows this is difficult for women to understand.

Feldhahn provides statistics and valid research to back up her statements. If you haven’t read the book, I strongly recommend it.

She’s written many others since, and I haven’t read them all. Another she’s written that I did read is, For Men Only. I think it’s important for men and women to read both books. It is good to know that those things we think are normal and *everybody* knows them, that the other sex does not naturally know these things.

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Jessica Thomas April 14, 2012 at 4:49 AM

Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn is another one.

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Ame April 14, 2012 at 10:54 AM

that, too, is a great book. there’s also Every Woman’s Battle for women who struggle with sex addiction.

Ame April 14, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Jill April 14, 2012 at 4:54 PM

There are many, many scientific studies out there, and I’ve been busy at work all day and don’t have time to sift throught them right now. However, it seems from this tiny study I take it what you mean by visual is not actual “visual appreciation” but the tendency of the male of the species to see a female (as well as pick up on pheremones) and climb on top of her and f*ck. This is the kind of activity the animal kingdom engages in. For the base requirement of species propagation, the female doesn’t need to see anything, feel anything, love anything. The male must feel some physical pleasure in order to propel his seed; this is not so in the case of the female. The female must simply produce eggs, which doesn’t involve an act of pleasure.

So great–what you are holding men to is the basest instinct in the animal kingdom. This goes along with my initial comment (see above). American Christianity is stuck in perpetual adolescence. Women are stuck forever preening to catch a mate, even if she’s had one for twenty or more years. The man is perpetually stuck in propogating his seed and acting in the basest fashion, even if he’s already produced multiple offspring.

The Bible doesn’t back up your assertions about a woman “keeping herself up”. In fact, the Bible has much to say on female beauty, and it isn’t in favor of men being caught up in physical appearances and women preening for their sake. And why do you think that is? We are not animals. We have the imprint of God on us; we were made in God’s image and God has a much higher calling of love for us than he does for a male dog who sees a female and climbs on top of her while she passively waits for it be over with.

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sally apokedak April 14, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Ummm…a little confused here.

Jessica Thomas April 14, 2012 at 6:57 PM

My children act like monkeys. hee hee. Okay I’ve digressed too far.

I’m out.

Ame April 14, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Jill – why does this upset you so? you are very defensive.

sally apokedak April 14, 2012 at 8:01 PM

Actually, in the animal kingdom, the males preen, and the women are all drab. So really, we ought to be able to tell our men, “Hey, it’s OK if I’m a frumpy housewife. Look at the peahens and the female betas. This is how God made females to be.”

But really, Jill, it sounds like you are saying that 1) once a man has fathered children he shouldn’t engage in sex anymore because that would be base, and 2) women can’t enjoy sex.

Surely, I’ve misunderstood.

Katherine Coble April 12, 2012 at 12:32 PM

As a fat woman I’m touched at how everyone’s automatic description of “let yourself go” means “to get fat.”

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Iola April 12, 2012 at 1:33 PM

Now, I disagree. I know several attractive yet overweight women. Others have health issues that mean they can’t exercise, or their medication makes them gain weight, but they still make an effort to be tidy and presentable.

To my mind, letting yourself go is never getting a haircut, never using a razor, and dressing in sweatpants for everything, not just the gym. This can apply to men and women…

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Katherine Coble April 12, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Iola, I was being sarcastic. :)

I agree with you.

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Jill April 13, 2012 at 10:09 AM

Yes, but this just shows how “letting yourself go” is completely subjective. Why is not using a razor “letting yourself go”? God put the hair there, and now it’s a sin to have it? If I can’t afford a haircut, what do you expect me to do–give myself a home chop, which might be ten times worse than not getting a haircut? What if I happen to be in pain or don’t have the money for anything but sweatpants? I know very few women who don’t bathe and wear clean clothes. Everything else is subjective and ridiculous to be worrying about. In fact, this whole discussion [not your comment] seems manipulative to the extreme.

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Jessica Thomas April 13, 2012 at 12:13 PM

I’m feeling bad that I seem to have been the first person to equate “letting oneself go” with weight gain, so I’ll clarify what I meant. Generally speaking, I would define “letting oneself go” (healthwise) as sinning against the body in the areas of food or substances (i.e., the example I gave with my dad’s smoking). A person knows it’s wrong and harmful, yet the keep doing it. In doing so, they are harming their spouse.

I do believe people can be overweight and healthy, based on anecdotal evidence I’ve heard from other men and women who follow the same eating plan that I do. The plan focuses on getting healthy first and then working on losing weight if they the person so chooses. They’re able to get off blood pressure meds, cholesterol meds, etc. before losing a single pound. Some choose not to lose weight because they are content with their size. (Which is why I think bariatric surgery is frighteningly cruel and unusual. Hippocratic Oath?)

I guess a way to state my first comment more simply is, if we are sinning against our body, and God has shown us our sin as well as shown us a way out of it, then we ought not moan about the negative consequences of continuing in that sin, including the disillusionment of our spouse. It doesn’t justify a spouse’s cheating, it just means we have our own work to do in the reconciliatory process.

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sally apokedak April 13, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Oh, I have so often wondered who the brilliant person was who decided it was wrong for women to have hair on their bodies. Probably someone named Schick or Gillette. It drives me nuts. What a pain. It costs time and money and all for what? Because someone decided that hair on women was ugly.

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Jessica Thomas April 12, 2012 at 2:22 PM

Good point. A person’s size does not always determine their level of health or self-control.

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Tom Van Osdel April 12, 2012 at 1:34 PM

From someone who has made all of the mistakes a marriage can handle. I say learn to listen, and talk. Then learn it talk and listen all over again. Oh, and learn to fight fairly.

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R. L. Copple April 12, 2012 at 10:43 PM

This is really a more complex issue that it appears on the surface. First off, Mike, I agree 100% with your point. I know personally more women who have cheated than men. Though I was a pastor, I never did any counseling on that issue, but I’ve since met a lot of people who have and discussed these issues with them. But personally, I know 6 women who have cheated, and 1 man. However, I understand the statistics are that more men than women cheat, but that in the last twenty-thirty years women have been catching up to men on that front.

But they’re mixing two issues in this discussion. Issue one is increasing or decreasing the degree of temptation due to marital issues. If you’ve not read it, I would suggest a book called “His Needs, Her Needs.” The basic premise is we all have romantic needs to feel close to our spouse, and those of women tend to not be the same as men, and so we generally talk past each other. For instance, one of the needs of some men is for their wife to look attractive. Some don’t care as much. But may have a different need, to feel their wife respects them, or the ever popular one, to get enough sex. But women tend to focus on needs dealing with affection, attention, intimate conversation, domestic support, etc.

The problem is because each side thinks of the others primary needs as unimportant, they tend to not meet them. The question isn’t do you look good for your husband so he won’t go find someone else. It is if he has that need, and you love him, why wouldn’t you meet that need? That too goes with the marriage vows. To give yourself to each other, to love one another. And if he feels loved by having an attractive wife, then that is his need. Likewise, if a woman wants to sit and chit chat with a man, but the man sees it as unimportant and meaningless, not recognizing that the woman feels he loves her because spending time with her is worth something, because he loves her, no matter what you are actually talking about is important or not, you do it because you want to show her that you love her, even if the man doesn’t feel he needs it.

Yes, those things not being met is what makes people feel unloved, and does increase the chance when someone comes along who fills that need, that an affair can start.

That said, no matter the temptation, none of this is a justification for infidelity. There is no justification for it, and it is a sin unto death. I don’t care if your spouse is abusive. Adultery is not the solution, it only complicates things. Get out of the relationship! That solves the problem. (I know, there are a lot of issues there too in abusive situations, but that’s the bottom line.)

Adultery is a sin unto death. It is destructive to the adulator’s soul and life, and their spouse, and their marriage, and their kids, and to their spiritual life and relationship to God. None of that will ever solve the problem of not getting your needs met. It will only cause pain, pain, pain, and more pain.

But none of that should erase the fact that when you said, “I do,” you committed yourself to loving the other person, to meeting their needs. Even needs you think are unimportant and pointless. If it is meaningful to them, then you should, short of something immoral or abusive. Likewise, when people don’t get their needs met, the solution is counseling, working through it, and if need be, becoming content with what you have (I know, I’ve had to do that, very hard, but doable, because through Christ all things are possible (the very context of that often taken out of context verse)).

So, no. Not meeting such a need isn’t justification for adultery at any time. Nor if you don’t think it is important justification for not meeting your spouse’s valid needs. The shoe goes both ways. And really, if you know something will lower the temptation level for cheating, why wouldn’t you want to do that? No sense in taking more risk than need be. It may or may not prevent it, who knows, but if it meets his or her need, then why not do it if you love them? That’s what you signed up to when you said, “I do.”

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 12:47 AM

excellent. absolutely excellent. i am passionate about marriages, and i take every opportunity i am given to encourage people in their marriages. i hate divorce. divorce is absolute hell. marriage is hard, really hard. but divorce is a whole different level of hell. it is in our best interests to do what we can to make our marriages strong and good and healthy.

i tell women often that just as they have things they desire from their husbands, their husbands also have the freedom to desire certain things from them. this seems to be lost among many women these days. often women think men should be all they want them to be, but they don’t think it works both ways. sometimes women just need a gentle reminder.

i got a phone call about this time last year from a friend in a different town. she asked me the name of my divorce attny for a friend. her friend’s husband was discontent and she wanted to get her ‘ducks in a row.’ after further discussion, the husband’s job was volatile, making him anxious, and he wanted the wife to get a job to help out. wife wanted to be a sahm, especially with summer coming up and kids being out of school; she didn’t want to put them in daycare. i told my friend to tell this woman that she needed to get a different perspective. if she gets divorced, she is definitely working full-time at one or more jobs, and she will rarely see her children who will definitely be in daycare, and she will barely make enough money to get by. if her husband is anxious about finances, and their kids are basically healthy (no special needs that would require special care where the wife’s whole income would go to specialized daycare for that special needs kid), then she needed to work.

feed the marriage. take care of the marriage. you’re a team, and you’re on the same team. it’s not always going to be about you. the alternative is horrible, horrible hell.

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sally apokedak April 13, 2012 at 5:43 AM

This is very good, and yet…this is such a big topic. You ask, “Why wouldn’t you meet your spouse’s need if you know he has it?” The answer is, of course, “Because his need conflicts with my need.”

No one withholds love just for fun. It’s always because giving the love to the other guy means we have to give up something we feel we need.

Bottom line? Married people have to die to self every day, in order to serve the spouse.

But, that doesn’t mean that we don’t say to one another, “Your need is sinful. You should be looking for fulfillment in Christ. I can’t meet all your needs. I can’t make you happy. If you aren’t full of joy in Christ, it won’t matter how much I weigh or how good of a cook I am are or how much money I make or how long I can go in bed, you aren’t ever going to be satisfied with me.”

In the end if we are expecting our spouses to fill our needs we are setting ourselves, and them, up for misery. Only Christ can fill our needs. Instead of looking at our needs, we should be looking at how we can help our spouses know and love Christ better. We should be praying faithfully for and with our spouses and if we did that, our sex lives would be better, I’m sure. And so would our intimacy. And we would have less temptation to stray.

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R. L. Copple April 13, 2012 at 10:38 AM

Thanks for your thoughts, Sally. Yes, I mentioned that if a need was immoral or abusive, that was a different story. I’m not talking blind subservience, here. I’m talking about general needs that most people have as to how they experience romantic love from their spouse.

I guess to make yourself more appealing to the husband, does mean doing a little extra work, so you’re giving up some time you could be doing something else you want to do. So sure, there are “conflicts”. Likewise, for me to meet my wife’s need for attention, I had to stop spending so much time writing and writing and editing for hours on end, dolling out to her ten or five minutes an evening as she fell asleep, trying to talk. I had to give up my need to get stuff done I thought was important to go to the store with her, spend quality time with her. But you know what? I did it because I realized she was more important than a writing career. So yeah, you’ll give up meeting some of your own needs, but I think if he responds in kind, because you are both working on this, you’ll have more of your needs met than not.

But like I said, that’s what marriage is all about. Giving of yourself to your spouse. Sometimes the question isn’t how can I meet my own needs, but how can I meet his so that he is more free to meet mine. That’s how the Kingdom of God works.

And that’s why, while true on the surface, you can’t divorce Christ fulfilling our needs from us fulfilling each others needs. Because, in most all cases, Christ works through someone to do that. We are His hands and feet. What we do to each other, we do unto Christ. Paul says to treat others as more important than yourself. We are commanded to love one another as He has loved us, which as you just experienced last week (and we are this week), He gave his life for us. We are called to do no less.

To suggest that we are released from loving one another because our fulfillment is in Christ, not each other, is to miss the whole point of what Christ came to do. He came to change us, to work though us, for us to be His ministers in this world, and that starts with one’s marriage and family.

In short, Christ fulfills our needs through each other. Not in some abstract, feel good way, or stuff falling from the sky. We are united to Christ for a reason, to be “little Christs” to each other. And if one can’t do that with their mate, it trickles down to all our other relationships.

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sally apokedak April 13, 2012 at 10:54 AM

I certainly never meant to say that we were released from loving our spouses because our fulfillment was in Christ. Please forgive me for not being clear. I think we are to die to self every day and live to build up and support and love our spouses.

I was mostly in agreement with what you said before.

Now, though…your way of saying that a wife has to do “a little extra work” to be appealing to her husband and a husband has to give up many hours of time he’d rather spend writing, gives me pause. :)

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 11:37 AM

“Now, though…your way of saying that a wife has to do “a little extra work” to be appealing to her husband and a husband has to give up many hours of time he’d rather spend writing, gives me pause.”

yep – always does me, too … especially when i’m intensely hormonal. and as a mom whose children are still in the home, sometimes i feel like everyone needs me but they do not allow me to need! it’s difficult for me, personally, to say, ‘i need time for me.’

i try to remember that if i want my husband to give up some of himself to come into my world, then he probably wants the same of me. my husband is the one who will talk and talk and talk and rattle on and on and on, and, truly, sometimes it is a sacrifice for me to stop and listen. but then when i need something, i’m always surprised and delighted when he stops to give of himself to me. i want to give him the same delight from me.

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Ame April 13, 2012 at 11:33 AM

RL – these are very important points. sometimes we tend to go to the extreme, i think. we either focus way too much on our own needs, neglecting our spouse, or we focus way too much on the other’s needs, neglecting ourself. it is very important to know that sometimes, even though we have a need, we choose to put our spouse’s need first. then we must come around and say, ‘now i have a need that must be met.’ it is not about keeping score. it is about finding balance and making choices. it is hard. it is not easy. and we will mess up from time-to-time. but i think it’s the condition of our heart and focusing our desires on what is important. maintaining a healthy marriage is important, and continuing to draw our own heart into the marriage to find ways to keep it healthy is very important. difficult; yes. challenging; yes. sacrificial; yes. beneficial; yes.

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Mark H. April 13, 2012 at 6:41 AM

Agreed, Sally. Selfishness kills marriages.

Regarding appearances, I like how Mark Driscoll puts it: your spouse is your standard of beauty. If your spouse is blonde, you’re into blondes. If your spouse is 30, you’re into 30-year-olds. If your spouse is skinny, you’re into skinny. If your spouse is hairy, you’re into hairy. If your spouse’s appearance changes, your standard of beauty changes.

The Bible is pretty clear that a wife needs to be loved, and a husband needs to be respected. Both need to be pursued by the other. And that ideal takes selflessness to achieve.

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sally apokedak April 13, 2012 at 7:17 AM

Ha. I must admit, I like Driscoll every now and again.

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Nicole April 13, 2012 at 7:36 AM

Some really good stuff here.

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sally apokedak April 13, 2012 at 2:01 PM

I just have to add…this is such a great blog. Mike you are so consistently good at coming up with this stuff that gets us all thinking.

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Mike Duran April 13, 2012 at 2:36 PM

Thank you, Sally. I’m following this conversation with interest. It’s a subject my wife and I have talked a lot about. This September we’ll have been married for 32 years. We’ve had our ups and down — emotionally and physically. Not only has Lisa carried four children, both of us come from families of seriously overweight people (my brother and sister probably outweigh me by 100 lbs each). Lisa and I have both struggled with our weight. I always tell her, she looks best in a smile. Her dress size will change. But as long as there’s joy in our relationship and family, the other stuff is incidental. It doesn’t mean we don’t try to stay in shape. We do! But it’s joy that ultimately matters.

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John Clark April 16, 2012 at 7:50 AM

First off, I agree with Mr. Duran here. It goes both ways.

Jill says:

What is this emotionally distant man you speak of? Men tend to be far more romantic than women, in my experience. But my experience doesn’t equal reality, and some people are just incredibly needy on an emotional level. The reason why I, too, blogged about this topic last week was for the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’m sick and tired of reading that a woman is disrespectful to her husband if she “lets herself go.” What really gets me is that women are really easy to manipulate on this level because they want to be attractive. And to me, the constant need to have this discussion, to remind women that they should be attractive, demonstrates that American Christianity–at least in its outward manifestations–is stuck in adolescence. And these emotionally needy women who claim their husbands are distant–yep, more immaturity/manipulation. I think we should have training courses in maturity, the kind that is in opposition to our Seventeen Magazine/Cosmopolitan culture. I could carry on for a long time about this subject, but I’ll spare you.

Jill, I call false dichotomy here. You are effectively saying that either a man “lets his wife go”, or else he’s in bed with Seventeen/Cosmo/etc.

Fact is, even if you take an egalitarian/feminist view of Ephesians 5, you cannot–in good conscience–justify a wife who, for reasons within her control, “lets herself go”. That is patently disrespective to her husband and is a total abrogation of the mutual submission command given to husband and wife.

It is attitudes like yours that drive men away from marriage altogether.

Most married men I know–including myself–are all cool with the “for better or worse” clause. We accept that it is on us to deal with all manner of baggage, and deal with all manner of eventualities, in the process of loving our wives as Christ loved the Church.

At the same time, if we know that a woman–going into the marriage–thinks like you do, we won’t accept that risk on a forward basis.

Now how does this flesh out in marriage? I’ll give you a very practical answer: SOME THINGS WORK BETTER THAN OTHERS!

When both husband and wife take care of themselves, the benefits span the social, professional, medical, and–YES!–even the sexual. Just from a sheer physical standpoint–ignoring issues of attraction–sex is a lot easier when both are not obese. (Anyone who has been married any significant length of time, and has had a fair share of married sex, can vouch for what I am saying.)

So when a woman “lets herself go”–assuming it’s for reasons within her control–there’s a lot more going on that needs to be addressed. This is because if she is willing to forego the benefits of being healthier, then there is something seriously wrong.

But if you have that attitude GOING INTO the marriage (i.e. before the wedding), no self-respecting man–knowing this–will give you the time of day.

Like Mr. Duran, I reject the premise that a wife’s “letting herself go physically” is an acceptable cause for divorce, just as I reject the premise of a husband’s “letting himself go emotionally” is an acceptable cause for divorce.

At the same time, a woman who takes her husband’s love for granted is disgracing herself and her husband. And trust me, it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Married couples will look upon such a one with contempt.

Singles will look upon such a one as yet another case against the risk of marriage.

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