I received this question from our anonymous Have A Question page last month. I have more recent ones, but to be honest, I don’t follow a “first come first serve” policy. I sort of pick whichever one I’m inspired to answer on any given day. And sometimes I need more time to do research, or a question that’s more pressing comes up, or any number of other things. But, I’m getting to this one today.
My question is, my husband & I have been married for 24 years. Recently he made the comment that I, his wife, is “for love, and other women are for sex”. And I often see him ogling young beautiful women, both in our daily life, as well as in videos he watches at work (he is aware that this isn’t acceptable to me).
He was raised in a very strict Catholic home, and once – when I mentioned that it’s ok for us to have fun in our sexual relationship, he scoffed and said “not in the eyes of the church”. Is it possible that he feels that his “exciting & enjoyable” sexual experiences can only be fulfilled by other women, and that married sex is supposed to be boring? And if so – how do I convince him that God wants us to enjoy it, or he wouldn’t have made it so enjoyable! Or is he just a typical man, doing what every man does?
Where does this mindset come from?
Sadly, this is the message many have gotten from Catholicism. Unfortunately, the Catholic church made quite the mess of the Biblical view of sexuality, and as a result, we get mindsets like this. They’re completely contradictory to God’s message in the Bible, but they used to be very prevalent. It’s not so strong any more…but then Catholicism isn’t as strong as it used to be. Still, there are hold outs.
When I read this question, I immediately thought of the movie Analyze This. Here’s a transcribe of one of the conversations between the therapist and the mobster:
Dr. Ben Sobel: What happened with your wife last night?
Boss Paul Vitti: I wasn’t with my wife, I was with my girlfriend.
Dr. Ben Sobel: Are you having marriage problems?
Boss Paul Vitti: No.
Dr. Ben Sobel: Then why do you have a girlfriend?
Boss Paul Vitti: What, are you gonna start moralizing on me?
Dr. Ben Sobel: No, I’m not, I’m just trying to understand, why do you have a girlfriend?
Boss Paul Vitti: I do things with her I can’t do with my wife.
Dr. Ben Sobel: Why can’t you do them with your wife?
Boss Paul Vitti: Hey, that’s the mouth she kisses my kids goodnight with! What are you, crazy?
Of course, “Boss Paul Vitti” was a staunch Catholic, as all stereotypical Italian mobsters are in movies.
But, the point is, it conveys this message that there are things you do with other women that you can’t do with your wife. Or to put it another way: That your wife should be a lady, and “good girls don’t do those things”.
The Madonna – Whore Complex
Men with this mindset are said to have a “Madonna – Whore complex”. That is, that they are sexually attracted to women who have been degraded and made into a sexual object, but they can’t love them. And so, it becomes impossible to have a wife whom you both love and are sexually attracted to.
Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love. – Sigmund Freud
Unfortunately, this is a mindset that is still prevalent, particularly in those with a Catholic background.
Of course, this is completely not in keeping with the Bible, which tells us that husbands and wives can be both loving, compassionate, be filled with Christ-like love, while also being sexually adventurous. This mindset is what gives birth to phrases like
A good woman is a lady on the street, a princess in the kitchen and a prostitute in bed.
Now, I know some people will get upset about the phrasing, and I didn’t author the quote, but the underlying principle is that it’s possible to be both the “Madonna” and the “Whore” depending on the context.
Christian wives are free to express themselves sexually and in adventurous ways, with their spouse, and then can still go out and be “ladies” in public, doing ministry and all those very “Christian” things, as well as the mundane ones.
How do you change this mindset?
That’s the difficult one. Unfortunately that “not in the eyes of the church” might be true for a lot of Churches, despite what the Bible teaches. Ideally, you could simply have your husband read something like Song of Solomon, perhaps go through a study like Intimacy Ignited that explains what the book means. However, it may take a sex-positive pastor/priest to undo some of these teachings.
But, of course, you can’t force him to change. All you can do is present the evidence, and perhaps get help from an authority that your husband respects. In the end, he needs to make the decision to believe God, or believe the church he grew up in.
I know I have some Catholic readers. Anyone willing to share their viewpoint in the comments below? Of course, everyone else is welcome to as well.