Jonty Langley’s recent article, ‘My wife is not the only hot woman on earth‘, caused quite a stir – outrage even. Read the article and comments yourself, but in summary, Jonty was quickly accused of the objectification of women and of condoning lust.
Reading the article resulted in us (we’re a married couple) having one of those honest, vulnerable and marriage-nurturing conversations that happen all too seldom. This then isn’t so much an attempt to provide a rebuttal to Jonty’s piece, rather it attempts to go beyond and explore how your marriage can flourish when you are surrounded by so many attractive people?
First of all we need to explain what we mean about finding people attractive. It’s about way more than physical attraction; it’s about finding people intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually – and the list could go on – attractive. This all starts from a healthy place. Hannah is an anthropologist who finds people fascinating, Phil is a natural team-leader – always seeing potential in people and seeking to enable people to thrive.
We find each other attractive in every way, but we are also comfortable to accept that we do, fairly frequently, meet other people that we find attractive. Rarely do we find these people as ‘holistically attractive’ as we find each other, but occasionally, dare we say it, there are aspects of other people that we do find more attractive. We agree with Jonty: this is not a closed system. So if one part of the system gains, another doesn’t have to lose. Noticing, even celebrating, some attractive trait in another person does not mean that our marriage has to suffer in any way.
But there is a line, isn’t there? Sometimes it seems to be quite hidden, more often it’s not-so-hidden, but we pretend it is, as we convince ourselves that we haven’t crossed it. We cannot emphasis strongly enough how dangerous crossing the line is.
The Bible refers to this as lust (Matthew 5:22-30). The moment you are beginning to play out unfaithful scenarios in your head, you’re guilty of lust, and that’s a problem. But let’s make one thing clear – lust is not just a physical attraction thing, lust can be an intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual attraction thing too. We’re often taught to be aware of lusting over someone’s physical appearance, but therein lies the danger; non-physical lusting sneaks up on us, and before we realise it, we’re the wrong side of the line.
So, after our marriage-enriching conversation about finding other people attractive, here are the three things we’re going to do:
Be aware of each other’s insecurities
It is where we feel most insecure that we need to offer each other the most support and encouragement. Phil doesn’t do the dancing thing too well – so if Hannah dances with another man at a wedding, Phil goes into meltdown. One of our biggest arguments was when Hannah had a salsa lesson. Phil was convinced that it was the end! Totally irrational – yes, but it struck at the heart of his insecurities. Hannah knows that Phil finds creativity and entrepreneurship attractive, but realises that this isn’t her forte. So if Phil comes home going on and on about meeting this amazingly creative and entrepreneurial woman, Hannah is likely to get defensive. The solution is not for Hannah to not dance with other men – she loves dancing, and it’s not for Phil to try and avoid meeting creative and entrepreneurial women, it’s about being aware of, and sensitive to, each other’s insecurities.
Tell someone, but not each other
If we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line, we have agreed not to tell each other! We’ve decided this because it would introduce a whole lot of doubt, insecurity and probably distance into our relationship, at exactly the moment when the opposite is required. Therefore, knowing would actually be counterproductive. We have however promised that we would tell a trusted friend who can support us, pray for us and hold us accountable.
Work at our irresistibility
We want to make sure that we always find each other irresistibly attractive. One of the exciting things about marriage is that attractiveness is dynamic; it changes as we change. We want each other to keep changing – it will stop our marriage becoming stagnant. The reality is, ensuring we keep finding each other attractive has next to nothing to do with making ourselves look nice when we go on dates. A healthy sex life helps, but so does experiencing a different culture together, or making sure we stretch each other with a good intellectual discussion. Perhaps dance lessons would also help…