Stephen Arterburn chose a brilliant title for a popular book which he named “Every Man’s Battle” discussing openly the struggle of men with sexual fantasy and temptation. I am uneasy with his solutions but he described the problem in an easily accessed, memorable way. This problem is not something that women quickly grasp since they do not share it. Yes, I know there are female sex addicts but the essential drive and motive are different even though the behavior is similar.
That led me to ask two questions: why did God allow this struggle for men (in other words, what is His purpose?) and what is an equivalent struggle facing women? I know there are books published on the second question with the title “Every Woman’s Battle” or something similar to it. I haven’t read them. So I will freely give my own opinion based on my observations and experiences, expecting that I am merely restating what others have already deduced.
The struggle for men is a tough one. I suspect it is the most difficult of all male battles and has no rivals. (I say this not having any idea what it is like to be a heroin addict.) It is certainly wide spread. Men begin the struggle with sexual fantasy in puberty. When I was 13, I personally had no idea that this initial encounter with sexual desire and imagination was merely the beginning of a life long war. Why does God allow this? I have a simple answer: fight and win this battle every day and no other battle in life will overcome you. Lose this and open the door to other losses to come. In the same way, we are told in Ephesians 6 to put on the armor of God which I believe is a daily practice just like the struggle with sexual thought and fantasy is a daily temptation. In other words, this is fundamentally a SPIRITUAL battle and the very first impact of losing it is also found in our spirit. We lose the ability to say no to temptation, for example. So God allows this battle because to win it daily is to gain spiritual strength. When I say win, I mean to exercise self control and to overcome the temptation. I do not think it ever disappears.
But what do women struggle with? I have talked to women who claim they have essentially the same battle, the same thoughts, the same temptations. I am unconvinced. I think their fantasies are different and their motives aren’t even in the same time zone. The behavior looks similar but that is the extent of it.
Several clues hint at the battle they face. One is the huge number of romance novels that sell primarily to women. Second are the romantic comedies we call “chick flicks.” Third is the difficulty I have observed when married women have an affair.
If a married women is unhappy with her marriage and a dude comes along with sweet talk, tons of attention and plenty of thoughtful deeds, there is a chance she will give this new promising relationship a whirl. If she indulges for any length of time with the new guy, trouble! “Starts with ‘T’, rhymes with ‘D’ which stands for…” divorce! Usually I advise the spouse who now faces an unfaithful partner to stand back , withdraw and wait for the romantic haze to dissipate because it always does. Life has a way of clearing the mist over time. Yet this rarely works when it is the woman who is cheating. A rare woman is willing to return to the nest and begin the process of restoring the broken marriage once she starts up with another guy. Instead she argues that her spouse “had his chance.” He is “never going to change.” His current sorrow and despair are “just words to get me back.” What about the kids? They will “adjust.” They want “me to be happy.” Nonsense! I don’t know if her spouse gets the point and is ready to change or not but I do know that the kids are never going to be the same again. It is like cutting off an arm to which they will “adjust.” (Please note that I am discussing marriages that do not have violence or continual unrepentant infidelity. Those are another breed.) Men who cheat often are, after a time, willing to attempt to restore their marriages. So why are women different here? Because of every woman’s battle.
Women as little girls begin to fantasize about marriage. Boys are meanwhile pretending to do battle against imaginary foes, with a stick if Mom won’t let him have a toy gun (or a carrot or a finger or a rubber band or….) I believe that this dream that the little girl peacefully harbors becomes a potential tyrant when puberty hits. In her mind, she imagines that the future relationship with her man will be colored with a haze of romance forever. It’s why she is so entranced by romantic novels and movies because they portray this. The marriage as it really is, fairly soon, turns into responsibility, labor and routine. She lives in the hope that someday the romance will return, maybe when the kids are older or the demands of work diminish or the debts are paid off.
Then “cool dude” comes along. He repeats and rekindles the initial romance that sparked her first marriage. Maybe he will continue it? He certainly is attentive! And so handsome and clever! Right out of a romance novel or maybe a “Twilight” movie. (Is he vampire or werewolf? Bloodsucker or predator? I shall not explore the odd phenom where good women love bad boys.) Eventually the woman snuffs out any hope that her forlorn marriage can be turned around and moves her emotional luggage, dreams and hopes to “cool dude.” He is her future now. Her husband, now known as “sad loser”, is the past.
Here it is: the Romantic fallacy. Women are much more prone to it than are men and waiting for females to come home to try and repair the marriage is often a useless mirage. They moved their hope and it ain’t coming back.
Why? Because women dream of the life that isn’t, of the eternal romance, of the “perfect” man. They know that their guy isn’t him but perhaps that other guy is? “I am lonely. I shouldn’t be. With the right guy, I would not be.” We shall call this fellow “Magic guy.” Some women claim that their guy is indeed “Magic guy.” They merely add to the fantasy because they do not discuss the repertoire of faults their guy has but only his best stuff. (I like this kind of woman by the way.)
Ravi Zacharias, the great apologist/evangelist, talks about the fading sense of wonder as we age. Little children are filled with wonder. Cynical adults eventually are jaded to the point where nothing is truly amazing any longer. The only wonder remaining for us older folk is God Himself. He is the fulfillment of our dreams, the object of our hopes and the never ending satisfaction. Just as relationship with Him is the key to winning the battle with sexual fantasy, so is He the answer to the never ending battle with romantic fantasy.
Psalm 39: 7) “And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.
8) “Deliver me from all my transgressions; (NASB)
ps: I was contacted by one female reader who not only did not identify with the problem described here but she did not want to be stereotyped along with the masses. This is a fair criticism. So I say this is true for the vast majority but my friend is indeed an exception.