There seems to be a big struggle, with men in particular, around looking at other women. I don’t just mean porn, but just walking down the street, in the store, or anywhere else. Of course, some women struggle with this as well, but I’ll be addressing men in this post, because that’s the scenario that always gets brought up to me. However, the advise below can be gender neutral.
Why do men look at other women
Generally it’s something we learn as teenagers. Once we start noticing women…we really notice them. We get these big dopamine boosts from looking at attractive women, and that sets the habit in our brain.
Then, we get married, and we suddenly try to stop, but these neural pathways are so set that it often feels like we can’t stop. If we have a habit of porn use (as most of us do at some point), this effect is even more solidified. For some it’s such a strong habit that they tell their wives “I can’t stop, it’s just how God made me.” The truth is, it’s a habit and a learned behaviour, and it can be unlearned, no matter how ingrained the habit is.
How do you stop looking?
Turns out the number one way to stop looking is to work on your marriage. Studies show that people in happy relationships don’t notice people they would normally find attractive as much.
It seems something changes in our brain and attractive people become more like background noise. Your brain registers them more like a lamppost than a person: they’re just an object that you know is there so you don’t run into it, but you wouldn’t remember seeing it if someone asked.
Another study tells us that if we’re forced to gauge the attractiveness of someone of the opposite gender, those with happier relationships will screw potential mates attractiveness down, while skewing their own partner’s attractiveness up, subjectively.
It seems we have built in mechanisms to help us switch from “looking for a mate” to “found one”. Good idea on God’s part if you ask me. Not only do we tend not to notice those who might cause us to wonder “what if”, if we’re forced to notice them, the answer of “what if” is heavily weighted on the side of the relationship, assuming it’s healthy.
Now, that’s a near, long-term method, but it takes a lot of time to change a relationship from unhealthy to healthy, and often it needs both spouses to work on it. What about things you can do now right now? Or what if your spouse isn’t interested in improving your marriage? Or maybe your marriage is doing okay, but you still have this habit?
Stop building the habit
In our world men are continually being taught that we should be looking at women. Porn, TV shows, magazines, ads, they all continue to build up this habit. Stop letting them. Quit porn, stop watching movies with too much skin, put down the magazines and anything else that contains ads.
Seem impossible? Yeah, maybe it is impossible to completely cut it all out, but you can severely limit the time they get your attention, and simply by recognizing that this is the plan, that they are trying to make you look, can help fight the influence.
There’s saying “The grass is always greener where you water it” to contrast “the grass is always greener on the other side”, and it’s very true. If we can recognize and put a stop to those things that are feeding this habit of looking at other women, then we can instead start building up a habit of focusing on our wife.
Create a habit of looking away
If your brain has a habit of looking at women, then layer another habit on top if it: When you find yourself looking at another woman, just acknowledge “Yes, she’s attractive”, then look away. When you manage it, get excited that you succeeded. It will help embed that new habit. I’d you have to interact with the individual, focus on their eyes. Don’t stare, remember to blink, but don’t let your eyes go roving south, even if they look away.
Another option is to retrain your mind to focus on your wife. I’d you see an attractive woman, think of something positive about your wife. It could be physical “I love my wife’s butt”, or something less concrete “I like the way my wife laughs”. This shouldn’t be a comparison, not a “My wife looks better than her.”, just a positive thing about your wife to get you thinking of her.
The idea is to train your brain to refocus your thoughts in your wife and make the other women less something you notice.
Realize that it’s a habit and you’re trying to break it
It takes time to tear down a habit. Some days you will succeed and some days you will fail. As I tell my coaching clients, progress is the goal, not instant perfection. If you all up, just recognize that it was a mistake, and resolve to continue working to break down the habit.
There’s an idea from the book Every Young Man’s Battle that I read once years ago with the young men in my youth group. I’m probably going to get the details wrong, but the concept was good as a visualization. The basic premise is that there is this large enemy living in your brain that gets bigger when you feed it, and shrinks when you starve it. You are constantly fighting with this enemy.
Over the years, you’ve fed it so much that it’s grown enormous. It looks impossible to defeat. Now, you’ve decided you really want to beat it. So, you resolve to stop feeding it. Well, it’s not going to shrink much overnight, and you might slip up and feed it once in a while. But, over time, as it’s feeding’s decrease, it gets smaller. It gets easier to beat in individual battles. This makes it easier to stop feeding it, and the momentum grows.
The hardest part is at the beginning. It can seem like an impossible task.
Don’t forget to pray
As with everything else in life, God is there to help us. Too often we think He’s not interested in these little things, but He is, I promise you.
Ask for help, ask God to give you the perseverance to tackle it. Those beginning stages especially are very difficult. When the enemy seems too large to tackle. But God likes to help us with character building. It’s all through the Bible. There are many verses about perseverance, endurance, of Paul comparing our daily walk like running a marathon.
The beginning is the hardest part. Once you gain some momentum, it gets easier. To ask God to help you get started. Help him to give you the motivation to continue. Ask him for endurance. Let him be your strength.
Get an accountability partner
If your still struggling, find someone who will hold you accountable, who will ask the hard questions of you. Someone you respect and is not your spouse. Studies show that simply knowing that someone will ask you “How’s it going” on a goal will make it more likely for you to achieve that goal.
If you don’t have anyone, if it’s too embarrassing to bring up to anyone in your circles, I can be that person for you and help coach you through the changes you want to make.
18 thoughts on “How to stop looking at other women”
Really love what you have to say here Jay. I agree completely. We have to stop excusing away our sin nature and look for how we can honor God. Love the tips
I avoid certain public places, such as public beaches and swimming pools. I also avoid many TV shows due to the lack of skin coverage. Since I am in a sex-starved marriage, I find myself struggling with this issue on a daily basis.
I am fortunate that the average age in my office building is in the 40s and dress conservatively (I work in a field dominated by women). 🙂
So women in their 40’s can look really good, FYI
No argument there.
I now live in the North West where most of the time it is cold or rainy. This helps keep women covered up most of the time. I came from Southern California where It was summer almost all year around. There women wore or didn’t wear much that did not cover or reveal everything. I must admit that when being out in public it was difficult not to look. At the beach it was especially difficult, and we could go all year long. It is a difficult habit to break, but thinking of my wife has been very helpful.
You guys are all very misguided. God’s Word doesn’t direct us to behave like this with regard to the opposite sex. Women are beautiful and men like and appreciate that beauty – God built this into us. Jesus, nor Paul nor any other new or old testament prophet ever directed us not to look at women who weren’t our wives. If you cannot look a beautiful and even shapely woman and appreciate her beauty without lusting after her, then you have a real problem. Men and women in lots of places and positions see the opposite sex completely nude almost on a daily basis (other countries, nurses, doctors, etc.) and yet they do not have a problem with lust. It’s not that they have some super power or special gift, it’s that they choose not to lust and not to sexualize the human body. Do you think these people have to look down when they pass a beautiful lady on the sidewalk? Our culture and our churches have been both been sending the wrong message for a long time now with regard to modesty, the human body and sexuality. Most of it is completely unbiblical. There’s plenty of good information from Christian perspective out on the Web. Take a look and open your eyes. And by all means, learn to enjoy the beauty of women (certainly to include your wife) without lusting after them.
One of the fruits of the Spirit (Christ) is self-control. Therefore, Christ can overcome this and not our weak human selves. If we were so in control of things, then we wouldnt need Jesus. Not sure how many humans can save themselves?? I’m responding not because your statement irritates me, but people think our minds can be controlled 100% internally, when really, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and not 100% within our human limitational control.
What brought me to read this article is the fact that my spouse is a lustful person that cheats lies and seeks out other women on a daily bases for sex . It’s hard for me to believe his just looking at their beauty and no lusting at them . Can people look at a beautiful person and not lust over them, yes!but my spouse is not one of them
This is good advice. We can control our thoughts and actions, although it takes practice. Self-discipline is well worth developing. I just wrote a blog post about that recently too.
The post you linked is excellent, Lindsay! Thanks for writing/sharing it.
It is said that God created men to enjoy the beauty of womanhood…and created women to want to be seen as desirable a beautiful.
This is something that should happen within a marriage. Think about it….men get their very own flesh and blood, mind, body, and soul woman who wants them and loves them….and they toss their unique just-for-them gift aside for pictures and videos and glimpses of body parts.
There isn’t much that hurts more than hearing your husband sing the praises of the attractiveness of other women and not drop one compliment on his wife. Or to spend a long time primping and preening and hoping for his eyes to bug out of his head for you, but he barely looks at you, and wolf whistles at the actress in the movie.
Keep strong. Work out the relationship. If it doesn’t work, it’s better you walk of the marriage for your better good.
As a man that struggles with my own behavior regarding women that are not my wife. I am trying to change that behavior. I did a bible study from Tim Brown that prompted my attempt to change. I like your message, it gives me more to think about as well as hope that i can make the changes. I love my wife but i know this detracts from our relationship. It is not fair to her or to the women that don’t want to be leared at. Most importantly i have God’s strength to get me through this.
I’m not sure where the truth is here. We men are to respect and build up our beloved wives. And both genders have a God created appreciation of physical beauty. The Song of Solomon is replete with vivid imagery of love and physical beauty. While it would be wrong to demean our wives in our noticing of other woman, it seems unnatural not to be aware of the attractiveness of others.
I am battling this every day, and I have been working at it for almost 4 years. Today my wife caught me looking at another woman in a parking lot across the street, I didnt even realize what it was I was doing until it was to late, now we are having a huge fight over it…while I am constantly working on it..I am sorry to say that my personal life is failing because of this and I’m unsure what to do..
I have struggled with “looking and flirting” with other women for over 45 years . It seems impossible to not look, I have been going for Christian counseling for two yours trying to be a better husband and father and retrain my brain.
The reason you can’t stop looking at other women is because you are not supposed to stop. Men were designed to enjoy looking at attractive women (and vice versa for women looking at men). You will be attracted to hundreds, if not thousands, of women in your lifetime. Your male sexuality doesn’t just “imprint” on one person for the rest of your life.
So don’t feel bad if your find yourself looking at other women. You can take it too far, of course, but don’t feel guilty just because you’re looking at women like a normal man is supposed to.
There is a large gap between acknowledging that many people are attractive to you and lingering to stare at someone, or seeking them out so you can look at them.
There is a difference between being attracted and letting them attract you. The first is human nature. The second is the first step in infidelity.