I was in Gloucester, MA over the past few days celebrating the marriage of the son of a dear friend of mine. We ate lots of fresh seafood, enjoyed amazing views and every time I looked out the window or walked through the quaint town I felt like I was in a movie set for Jaws or The Perfect Storm. I forgot how quaint New England is.
Today's Question: I so love your YouTube videos and biblical sound advice. One area that I haven't come across in your teachings is when a husband is addicted to attention, particularly to attractive young women, and comes off as being the nicest guy in the world. Plus he thinks boundaries are a joke.
I have been married to my husband, who is in his mid-60's (which he acts like at home), for nearly five years. Yet, to the public, namely young attractive females, he is extremely charming and acts like he is in his 30's. He comes off as being the nicest and most caring guy in the world. I'm often told how lucky I am. These young women eat up his attention and vice versa. He will go out of his way to being seen, finding a reason to be standing by them and making conversation. He is very empathetic (which he never shows me) when they have problems, especially to his daughter-in-law that he hangs out with when he visits his son back east.
I have watched him numerous times scan a room using his peripheral (I call it shifty eyes) and then set out to make his move. One time in a store, we were walking along and then I realized he was no longer walking with me. I looked back and, sure enough, there was an attractive lady coming down the aisle and he had stopped to pretend like he was interested in an item on the shelf, while I could see him looking at her with his shift eyes. Even when caught in the action, he will deny to the hilt and tell me I am just paranoid. The reason it's so obvious to me is his whole character changes, his body movements increase, and he acts all giddy.
My husband exhibited these behaviors numerous times with a young gal who he knows has a sexual addiction. I mistakenly told him early on in our relationship as a warning of her condition, thinking he would say something like, “That's too bad, we need to pray for her,” or “Thank you for letting me know, I'll be sure to be on guard just in case.” However, he used her addiction to his advantage and even exchanged phone numbers to join her fantasy football game, to which he responded to me, when I found out, “What's the big deal…it's just a game! You have issues you need to deal with! She is a nice person… you are just jealous of her!” Not only was I shocked that he had her number, I also found out she had come on to him just prior to our conversation. I'm actually still in shock that I didn't bolt then! Plus, I realized later on, he saw no problems interacting, exchanging phone numbers, or hanging out with young women. This is when all my boundaries popped up that he despised but, for the most part, stopped crossing.
To give you some idea of what I am talking about how he is at home, he is often condescending, argumentative, dismissive, and acts like he is the king of our castle who is not to be questioned about anything or he will shut you down. He undermines me with our grandchildren and becomes very childlike in his behaviors. He very rarely compliments me (maybe 5 times in our marriage of 5 years), except when it comes to his meals…he is always grateful and will say how good each one is. He very rarely looks at me when I talk, but he looks at me when he is talking. He calls me baby doll and will talk all day long to me about facts and figures, TV shows, and anything else that doesn't involve an emotional connection. Sometimes I'll ask him a question and he will be so dismissive and instantly say he doesn't know. For example, “What day are you running the race?” His response will be, “I don't remember,” using a tone as if I wasting his time and will switch subjects as if my question was not important or even asked. His great qualities at home involving grocery shopping, doing the dishes, outside chores, all of which he never complains. Plus, he is ALWAYS nice to me on the phone, like he's a different person.
I have tried to approach him gently, yet at times I have flown into a rage when he throws stuff back at me. He's used gas lighting and has told me I'm crazy more than once (which a couple times he was probably right, after all, I was at my wit's end). When trying to gently talk to him about it, he will instantly cut me off and put it back on me. I get so wounded feeling like I have no feelings at all.
Basically, I married my stepfather who was verbally and emotionally abusive. My mom and his step kids were there to serve him and honor him as king.
Answer: You didn’t really ask me a question about your situation, but you described it so well, I thought it would help other women know they aren’t crazy or paranoid or abnormal as they see themselves and their husband in a similar situation to what we happening to you in your marriage.
One of your questions might be can a man be “addicted” to attention from young pretty women? I don’t know if it would officially be called an addiction, but certainly, you have seen your husband crave the attention and admiration of pretty young females. In his mind, it’s harmless friendliness and you are overreacting, exaggerating, and paranoid. You are not. You see what you see and it isn’t pretty from the perspective of the wife watching her husband behave as a fool.
So, let me help you gain come clarity. Your husband enjoys talking to pretty young women and gaining their respect and admiration, even if it’s at your expense. He will go out of his way to do this, and when you’ve tried talking to him about “his problem” he says it’s “your problem.” And there is some truth to his statement. His behavior is not a problem for him. He likes it. The young women seem to like it and he is getting what he wants/needs from their interaction.
The person who doesn’t like it is you. I don't blame you. But here’s why you haven’t heard me talk about his problem on YouTube. His problem and your problem are different. You cannot fix your problem by trying to fix his problem; a problem that he doesn’t even admit to or agree is a problem.
You have a problem and it’s that you don’t like feeling like your perspective doesn’t matter in your marriage. You don’t like being told that having appropriate boundaries around interactions with the opposite sex is ridiculous. You don’t like feeling like you do when you watch him so animated, excitedly interacting with pretty young women at a social event. And, you don’t like the way he treats you most of the time in your marriage. Although he speaks kindly to you on the phone and is helpful around the house, much of the time you feel invalidated, dismissed, and gaslighted by him. So even without you asking, I want to give you some things to think about regarding your problem.
Here’s where it gets confusing for many women. We think, “Well if he would just stop this behavior, (whether it’s flirting with other women, watching porn, drinking too much, being verbally abusive, or financially irresponsible) then I wouldn’t have a problem. And you’re right. But as you have already seen, you are absolutely powerless to change him or make him take ownership of his problem.
I’m not saying at the beginning a wife shouldn’t have a conversation with her husband about what bothers her. And, in a healthy marriage, when she does (or vise versa a husband expresses what bothers him) – there is respectful listening with some adjustments that make the relationship feel safe and loving for both. However, when you see again and again that talking about what bothers you doesn’t work, your focus must change.
If you continue to spend your energy trying to convince him that he has a problem, you are wasting your energy and will eventually become depleted and sick – emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. Therefore, at this point, you must change gears and work on your problem. You don't like living this way. Now, what are your options to deal with “your problem.”
This distinction is crucial because it now gives you clarity and it gives you some personal power. Do you separate? Do you choose not to go to social events with him because his behaviors embarrass and disrespect you? Do you choose to ignore his adolescent foolishness and build your own life with other friends? Brainstorm all of your possible solutions to your problem. He may not like boundaries for himself, but you can have them.
You may not like this approach because it’s so much easier to fix his problem, but you can’t fix his problem, only your own. This is the key difference between learning to think like an owner (how am I going to grow, problem solve, and deal with my problem here) or getting stuck thinking like a victim (there’s nothing I can do, I’m helpless and powerless in this situation).
It’s tempting to stay in the complaining but powerless position. Don’t do it. It hurts you and deforms you into someone you aren’t proud of and damages the woman God called you to be. – Click To Tweet
You’ve already gotten a taste of what that looks like when you feel and act crazy because you see how helpless you are in making him stop doing what feels so horrible to you. He is not going to stop, so now what do you need to do to keep yourself from being a repeat victim of his disrespect and indifference?
Friend, when did you get the wake up call you stopped trying to fix him and took ownership of taking care of you? What was your ah-ha moment, or what strategies did you use to own and solve your problem?