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every woman's battleDiscovering God's Plan for Sexual and Emotional Fulfillment
By Shannon Ethridge
WaterBrook PressCopyright © 2003 Shannon Ethridge
All right reserved.
Chapter Onenot just a man's battle!
You stumble day and night.... My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:5-6
At one time I was having extramarital affairs with five different men.
First, there was Scott. I met him while volunteering at a summer camp. Scott was so outgoing and talkative. What initially attracted me to him was how he could have a conversation with anyone-not just a superficial one, but a deep, meaningful discussion. I could walk into a room and he would pour on the attention, asking all about how things were going and how I was feeling. In comparison, however, my husband was a man of few words: the strong, silent type.
Then there was my scuba coach, Mark. With his distinguished, salt-and-pepper hair, he looked just like Lloyd Bridges. Mark's maturity and love for diving intrigued me. He encouraged me to overcome my fears and helped me discover my underwater adventuresome side. I felt safe with him, like a daughter feels safe with her dad. My husband, on the other hand, was only a few years older than I. He didn't evoke within me a feeling of being nurtured and safe as Mark did.
Tom was my accounting teacher at the university I attended. What struck me about Tom was his wit and intelligence. I had expected accounting to be the most boring of all my classes, but Tom had a way of making it the most fun and interesting part of my day. My husband was an intelligent accountant also, but he couldn't make me laugh like Tom did. His wit paled in comparison to Tom's.
Then there was Ray. He had been my boyfriend before I married Greg. Ray was such a die-hard romantic, heaping compliments on me and sweeping me off my feet with whirlwind passion. My relationship with my husband never seemed to have that magic spark that I felt when I was with Ray. Ray had set the romantic standard that my husband couldn't live up to.
Finally, there was Clark. He was ruggedly handsome, suave, and debonair. I looked forward to being with him every Friday night. As I approached the counter at the movie rental store, the owner automatically went to the Classics section and pulled out any Clark Gable movie. It didn't matter which one. I loved them all. Even standing tall at six foot and seven inches, my husband just couldn't measure up to Clark.
Even though I wasn't having sexual intercourse with any of these other men, I was still having an affair with each of them-a mental and/or emotional affair. My fantasies of being Clark Gable's leading lady, memories of my romantic relationship with Ray, and fascination with Tom's wit, Mark's maturity, and Scott's verbal talents affected my marriage in a way just as damaging as a sexual affair would have.
I was overlooking all of the many wonderful things about my husband because I was either focusing on the positive attributes of one of these other men or focusing on my husband's negative attributes. Because I lived with Greg, I saw not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly. He left the toilet seat up in the middle of the night. He snored, and when he woke up he had morning breath. Then he'd brush his teeth and leave toothpaste in the sink. Sometimes I felt that Greg couldn't do anything to suit me. With all of my criticizing, he probably felt like he couldn't do anything to suit me, either.
The other men's warts, however, were out of my line of sight. I could look at them and see nothing but their shining qualities, the kind I initially saw in Greg but had lost sight of over the years because of all my comparisons.
I felt distanced and disillusioned. Could he ever excite me like the other men did? Was I still in love with him? Could he ever measure up? Could I ever learn to live with my less-than-perfect partner?
Fortunately, the positive answers to these questions have surfaced since I ended these affairs and changed my measuring stick. I am thrilled to report that our marriage of thirteen years is still going strong and has never been better (although we, like any other couple, still have our moments). I'm thankful I never traded Greg in for another model and even more thankful that he didn't give up on me, either. Together, we have discovered a new level of intimacy that we didn't know existed, all because I stopped comparing and criticizing and began embracing the uniqueness of my spouse.
Over the past decade of pursuing my own healing from these (and other) issues, as well as teaching on the topic of sexual purity and restoration, I have come to understand that in some way or another sexual and emotional integrity is a battle that every woman fights. However, many women are fighting this battle with their eyes dosed because they don't believe they are even engaged in the battle. Many believe that just because they are not involved in a physical, sexual affair they don't have a problem with sexual and emotional integrity. As a result, they engage in thoughts and behaviors that compromise their integrity and rob them of true sexual and emotional fulfillment.
Let me show you what I mean by introducing you to a few women whose eyes are closed to the compromises they are making.
* * *
Rebecca has been happily married for over ten years and says that her husband is very sensitive and caring in bed.
Craig has always been as concerned with my sexual pleasure as he is with his own. I feel as if it is important to him that I have an orgasm, so most of the time when we are making love, I just close my eyes and imagine being with another man. It's not a man that I know or anything. It's just an imaginary face and body who excites me because I don't know him and it feels dangerous, you know? The thought of being seduced by this stranger in some exotic place puts me in the mood for sex. I can't seem to get into that mood just sitting around the house with my husband. It's not that he's not attractive; I just get more excited at the thought of a dangerous liaison with someone whose socks I don't have to pick up off of the floor.
I would never actually do such a thing (at least I don't think I would), it's just that I feel obligated to climax, and fantasizing about another man just seems to be the only way I can do that. I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but I joked about it with Craig one day and now he is making a big deal out of it. He says he feels betrayed that I am not 'mentally present' with him during our lovemaking. He says there is no difference between what I am doing and his looking at pornography, but I don't agree. There's nothing wrong with this if I'd never really be unfaithful to him, is there? Doesn't every woman do this?
* * *
Carol is a very attractive woman in her midforties and has been married for over twenty years. She and her husband, Chris, are leaders in their church and serve as "marriage mentors" to couples in the congregation needing help in their relationship. However, Chris often travels out of town with his job, and Carol is left to fly solo with some sticky counseling situations.
Several months ago Carol received a call around 9 P.M. from Steve, a longtime member of her Sunday-school class. It was public knowledge that Steve's wife had been an alcoholic for many years, and on this particular night her drunken rampage had sent Steve running for cover. He asked Carol if he could come over and talk with her and Chris for a little while.
"I knew better than to invite Steve to the house since Chris wasn't home. After all, he was very vulnerable-and very handsome. I suggested we meet for coffee at a local deli instead. His anguish really tugged on my heartstrings. We talked past midnight, and I suggested we pray together and then head home since the deli was trying to dose up."
As Carol bowed her head with her hands clasped on the tabletop, she felt Steve's strong hands envelop hers and she listened as he poured out his heart in prayer. "Lord, help my wife to see what she could be if she would just sober up. Help her to be more patient and kind and caring... like Carol."
Months later, Carol still spends time imagining becoming even more intimate with Steve. As a matter of fact, things between her and Chris have gotten tense, as Carol often becomes angry or depressed for no apparent reason. "It just seems like every time I hear Steve speak in Sunday school, I hang on to every word and wonder what else I can do to ease his pain without causing any suspicion that I have developed strong feelings for him. Some days I tell myself that I need to confess this to Chris and to our pastor and remove myself from the marriage mentoring program for a while. However, there are many other days that I think, I'm not doing anything to compromise my marriage, so stop feeling guilty! Just because I find Steve attractive doesn't mean that I shouldn't try to help him.
* * *
Twenty-eight and single, Sandra has been masturbating often for over fifteen years. Her struggle began at age twelve, when she found one of her mother's Harlequin romance novels. A voracious reader, Sandra was soon devouring several novels per week, becoming sexually aroused and often masturbating to get "relief." Sandra confesses:
by the time I was out of high school, I was regularly holding a book in one hand and stimulating myself with the other. While I felt in my heart that what I was doing was wrong, I could always justify it. After all, the Bible did not expressly forbid it. God had made my body to be responsive, so He surely wouldn't deny me this pleasure, would He? Since He had not given me a husband, I felt it was my right. Surely He couldn't expect me to wait that long, could He? And who was I hurting? No one else was involved.
However, I have always felt as if there is this barrier between me and God. I have sensed Him calling me to stop this behavior, to turn away from it, but the desire is so strong. I stopped reading the romance novels several years ago, but I still fantasize when I am lying in bed by myself, and I usually end up masturbating. I always say to myself, "I'll be obedient tomorrow or next week, but for right now, I just need the release." Sometimes I even get angry with God and think, If you would give me a husband, I wouldn't have this problem!
* * *
Lacy has been married seven years and has two young children. Even though she and her husband, David, got along great while they were dating, things have steadily gone south in their marriage because of financial pressures. Since David got laid off last year, he's had to do odd jobs to make ends meet. He took one job throwing a paper route in a neighborhood across town. He gets up at 4 A.M. to take care of the paper route responsibilities and then goes to whatever job the temporary agency has for him that day. Lacy complains:
All David wants to do is work, come home to eat, and then go straight to bed. He shows little interest in spending time with me or helping out with the kids. It's a good thing that we don't want any more children because we rarely ever have sex anymore.
I get jealous when I see other husbands grocery shopping with their wives, going to church with their families, taking their kids to the park, and stufflike that. I confessed this to a friend one day, and she said that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. She preached me a little sermon about coveting thy neighbor's husband, so I just shut up. Even though I would never divorce because I take my wedding vows seriously, I often wonder if David will die before me so that maybe I can have the chance at a happier marriage with a more successful and attentive husband someday. I often dream about that, usually as I lie in bed by myself in the morning after David has already left for his paper route. Somewhere between being fully awake and fully asleep, I have dreams about going on a date with a new guy who wants to take us all out to eat or about a new husband who is in the kitchen preparing to bring me breakfast in bed.
Seeds of Compromise, Harvests of Destruction
Even though none of these women could be tried in a court of law for marital unfaithfulness and convicted of adultery, haven't they been sowing seeds of compromise? Doesn't emotional and mental unfaithfulness still compromise our sexual integrity?
Scripture warns about this very thing:
The one who sows to please [her] sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction. (Galatians 6:8)
But each one is tempted when, by [her] own evil desire, [she] is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)
In these scriptures we are called to righteous living. This is the principle: The pursuit of fleshly desires will end in our ultimate demise. When we sow emotional and mental seeds of compromise, we reap a harvest of relational destruction. Just ask Jean.
Caught in the Web of Intrigue
Jean is in her late thirties and married to Kevin, a computer salesman. Once all of their children entered school, Jean decided to reconnect with some old friends during her extra free time. With the first big telephone bill, Kevin insisted that Jean learn to use e-mail to cut down on the expense of all this "reconnecting" she was doing! Being the adept computer salesman that he was, Kevin convinced Jean that she could learn to use the Internet just like everyone else.
She loved this new hobby of forwarding cute e-mails, surfing the Web for coupons, bidding for antiques on eBay, scanning and sending pictures in cyberspace, and so on. Then Jean discovered chat rooms.
A few minutes in a chat room each day grew into several hours each day. One morning while waiting for her buddies to log on, she read a question from someone with the screen name of MiamiMike. "Is anyone out there yet or am I in this room alone?"
After a few moments, Jean responded, "Looks like it's just you and me!" By the time Jean's friends finally entered the chat room half an hour later, she and Mike had found out quite a bit about each other-quite a bit they had in common, in fact. Jean grew up in Florida and absolutely loved the beach. Reading about Mike's oceanfront condo while sitting in her snowy Minnesota home gave her cabin fever.
Jean began dropping the kids off at school and heading straight back home to go online, knowing that Mike would be expecting her. Once Mike asked her to log back on that evening so they could chat again before he went to bed.
Excerpted from every woman's battle by Shannon Ethridge Copyright © 2003 by Shannon Ethridge. Excerpted by permission.
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