Lies Men Believe About Marriage: She’ll Fix My Lust Problem

I saw a pornographic magazine for the first time when I was in the fifth grade. A friend’s Dad worked for the company that printed the industry’s leading periodical at the time and had a massive collection at home. So we attempted to educate ourselves in human sexuality entirely apart from parental direction or biblical principles. We were clueless, curious boys entering puberty, trying to figure out what all the fuss was about.

Now, I’ve talked to countless men my age who had the same experience. We were exposed, because of the sin and carelessness of our parents’ generation, to images that warped our understanding of human sexuality and male-female relationships. By age ten or eleven, most of us (primarily men, but some women as well) were getting a simple message etched into our brains whether we understood it or not: the human body is here for your entertainment. It’s an object, not a soul.

Since then, the pornography industry has exploded with growth, thanks to the internet. Our standards of decency have eroded in this area as well. And our society is just now starting to learn the damaging consequences of our collective choices in this area. Finally, the world around us is waking up to the harsh reality that we’ve taught an entire generation of people to sexually objectify one another. Just browse FightTheNewDrug.org for five minutes for a massive education about why this issue matters so much.

As a result of being sexualized at a much earlier age than previous generations, we’re surrounded by marriages now suffering from the harmful effects of unbridled lust. Don’t misunderstand… lust has been around since the beginning of humanity. It’s nothing new. Peruse the Old Testament and you’ll discover the raw stories of mostly men and a few women given over to the harmful results of lust. The fire of lust has burned since sin entered our race, but modern technology, both print and digital, have thrown massive amounts of fuel on that fire.

In the context of modern marriage, I’ve noticed a particular theme among young men who have grown up in this sexually-saturated culture of ours. They struggle with lust, and they get married with an incorrect assumption: she’ll fix my lust problem. I say “struggle” because I’m referring primarily to those guys who want to be pure, but keep finding themselves addicted to pornography, masturbation, and lustful thoughts.

Why Marriage Doesn’t Heal Your Lust Problem

Getting married doesn’t give you victory over lust because singleness isn’t what causes lust.

Lust doesn’t come from a magazine or a website. And while Satan instigates our culture toward brokenness and certainly orchestrates temptation, he isn’t the root cause of our lust either. And lust has nothing to do with the attractiveness of your spouse. This is why I always cringe when I read something from a Christian leader who encourages women to improve their personal appearance to help their husbands curb their lust problems. First of all, if that’s the solution, single men are hopeless. Second of all, men with wives the world may define as physically attractive still have lust issues. And third… you’re just wrong! And it’s an often painful burden you place on the hearts of hurting women.

Where does lust come from? It comes from… within. James put it this way:

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15 NLT

That’s right. Lust is an out-of-control desire. Desire, in and of itself, isn’t sin. Neither is temptation. Being attracted to someone isn’t sin either. But when temptation comes and awakens my desire and I, in the power of my flesh alone, choose not to escape, lust is born and gives birth to death.

Don’t blame your wife, your computer, or Hollywood for a lust issue. Blame your own flesh, your own mind, and your own heart. Does that mean you’re a terrible dirtbag? No. It means you’re human. You’re a sinner. And it can sometimes mean that you’ve been hurt and victimized in ways that weren’t your fault, such as sexual abuse or early exposure to pornography, both of which wire your brain in unhealthy ways.

Is Victory Over Lust Possible?

Yes. Victory over lust is possible. Some guys argue that it’s an out-of-reach goal, but the Bible says otherwise. Scripture is clear that we are “more than conquerors” through Jesus. Sin has been put to death in the death of Christ on the cross. You can absolutely win over your lust problem.

As a married man, you’ll need your wife’s support in the form of prayer, encouragement, and even some measure of accountability. But she can’t fix you, and fixing you is a burden that will likely crush her under its weight.

So, how do you win over lust for the sake of your spiritual and marital health? Here are the basics:

  1. Own the responsibility for your choices and agree with God about the sinful nature of lust. Confess it and claim the forgiveness God promises in 1 John 1:9.
  2. Take an inventory of your past for sexual abuse or premature exposure to sexually explicit material and ask God to give you peace and break the bondage that those experiences still hold on you.
  3. Open up to a godly friend – one who will love you without judgment but also be honest with you without reservation. Confession to God brings forgiveness, but confession to others is required for healing.
  4. Talk to your spouse. Whether it’s an affair, a pornography addiction, or out-of-control lustful thinking, she deserves to know. Intimacy is the goal of marriage, and it’s impossible without honesty and transparency.
  5. Get counseling and/or coaching depending on the severity of the problem. There is never shame in seeking the healing help of others.
  6. Commit to purity. Repeatedly. Claim the freedom and victory that are yours in the atoning sacrifice of the cross, in the power of the resurrection, and in the company of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Take the escape. God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that he will never allow more temptation than you can, in his power, withstand. And, he will always make a way for you to escape. Always.
  8. Run away from sexual temptation. Don’t fight it. Don’t subject yourself to it or open the door for it. Run away! You’re strong only when you lean into God’s strength, and he delivers you by providing a route of retreat.
  9. Cultivate a softened heart toward people, especially women. Re-humanize the women you encounter by remembering they are souls, loved and cherished by the Father.
  10. Stay close to Jesus. When you draw close to God, he will draw close to you.

By the way, it’s entirely possible that your lust is toward other men. Everything I’ve said still applies. The desire and attraction, even for someone of the same gender, isn’t sin in and of itself. But when the temptation comes to dwell or to act on those thoughts, take the escape and stay committed to transparency with the people close to you who will love and protect you.

A Word to Wives

Wives are, more often than not, taken by surprise when the lust issue comes up. Most women think differently than most men and your initial reaction will likely be a question along the lines of, Is this my fault? I understand why you would ask that question. It’s easy to feel that it’s a comparison issue. But it’s really not. So hear this from the heart of a man – of a husband who has had this very tough conversation with his own wife… It’s NOT your fault.

It’s not about how you look. It’s not about how much sex you have or don’t have (again, if this were the problem, single men are toast). It’s about his choice to allow his desires to grow into lust.

While it is not your fault that your husband struggles with lust, you can help him, if you choose to show grace (and I hope you will). How?

  1. Listen to his confession.
  2. Hurt. It’s okay to hurt. Don’t ignore it.
  3. Be honest about how it all makes you feel.
  4. Set some boundaries with sexual intimacy to protect your feelings, while you work through it.
  5. Talk to someone – a female friend or a counselor.
  6. Ask God to heal you, over time.
  7. Forgive him. Not for his sake, but for yours. And remember how much God has forgiven you.
  8. Forgive him again when the resentment creeps back in – and it will.
  9. Expect honesty and transparency. Expect him to be accountable for his behavior.
  10. Love him, unconditionally. This is the hardest part, but it’s what you must do if your marriage is going to make it.

The conversation about sexual lust brings most marriages into valleys and shadows for days, weeks, or months. It’s not easy. It won’t be solved by this blog post, but maybe this is a starting place. As you walk through the valley remember this: there is hope. There is always hope. There is a Savior. His name is Jesus. He died for the sexually impure and his grace makes us clean and whole again. Keep running to Jesus!

Because my church, Grace Hills, treats lust and pornography addiction as such an important issue, we put together a church “porn” page of resources. Check out GraceHillsChurch.com/porn

The Lies Men Believe About Marriage Series

  1. She Will Solve My Identity Crisis
  2. She Just ‘Gets’ Me
  3. She’ll Fix My Lust Problem

Sermon Video: In the Ring, Never Give Up

My wife is so much smarter than me, especially when it comes to relational and emotional issues. She joined me for this message and we shared some pieces of our own marriage struggle as we taught biblical truth about how to stay married for the long haul.

Sermon Video: In the Ring, Fight Fair

This was one of the most difficult sermons I’ve ever preached, mainly because of the ways I’ve blown it in this area personally (which I’ll refer to in the message). Thankfully, as I’ve learned, when we lean harder into God’s grace through repentance, there is healing and recovery. Conflict isn’t always bad. It’s all about how we approach it.

Lies Men Believe About Marriage: She Just ‘Gets’ Me

One of the more entertaining things I’ve gotten to do as a pastor for twenty years is to give counsel to engaged couples about their upcoming life together as a married couple. I say that it’s entertaining because, while I’m trying to give advice to prepare them for the blessed-but-broken road ahead, they usually have a certain look in their eyes and it says two things.

First, they stare at me, smiling politely, while communicating telepathetically, Yeah, I’m sure some couples go through that, but WE never will. We ‘GET’ each other. And second, they stare at each other, smiling in a kind of cornbally way and communicating telepathologically, This guy just doesn’t know how awesome and impenetrable the fortress of our passionate love for each other really is and how love conquers all and how you just… ‘GET’ me!

What I take a little bit of morbid delight in is the look I usually see about eighteen months later when I ask the question, “So, how’s it going?” And of course they say, “Awesome! We couldn’t be happier.” But their slightly more human smiles communicate teleregretically, Why didn’t you tell us it was going to get difficult and that even the healthiest of marriages face the tough challenge of two very different people trying to become one flesh?

So, to every pre-married and newlywed couple out there listening, let me say this emphatically: Marriage is awesome, but hard. It’s sweet, but challenging. You don’t just ‘GET’ each other. You GROW together and spend a lifetime (hopefully) figuring each other out, which is the adventure of it all.

Angie and I got married at age 19 (exactly 19 years ago TODAY, as I’m writing this, as a matter of fact). I’ll never forget the feeling that washed over me as the back doors of the auditorium opened to reveal my sweet, gorgeous bride! Her smile captivated me then, and captivates me even more now. She has my heart and I have hers and we’re hanging on for the wild ride, the sweet adventure of becoming one over a lifetime!

But I don’t always get her. And she doesn’t always get me. Sometimes I say the stupidest things, and of course what I said was never what I meant. I meant something nicer, or at least smarter. We’ve learned to look at the bigger picture. We’re secure in one another’s love. But we’re still learning each other.

Let me zero in on men for a second. You need to know this from the beginning, but even if your decades in, it’s not to late to learn it. Guys, she doesn’t “just get” you. She doesn’t know. She’s uneducated in the nuances of maleness. Even if she had a great Dad and seventeen protective brothers, she’s still female, and therefore different. We often make jokes about how women are impossible to understand. But let’s be honest, those jokes work both ways.

Women can’t figure men out either. And we don’t exactly hand them a clear instruction manual. Let me give you some examples:

  • She probably doesn’t understand that you’re driven to achieve singular goals that, once accomplished, are put behind you. So she probably doesn’t understand why you were finished pursuing her once she said “I do” and the marriage goal was conquered. You need to know this to fight against it and stay in hot pursuit of her!
  • She probably doesn’t understand that deep inside of you, underneath the grown-up-man exterior, is a little boy who is often scared, and scared to admit that he’s scared.
  • She probably doesn’t understand why you struggle with lust. Many women do, too, but it’s often a different kind of struggle. While this is changing in our culture, many more men than women are addicted to porn, real or imagined. Your temptation may seem quite shocking and very deeply personal to her. Make room for this and take steps to walk in victory in this area (another post is coming soon about this issue).
  • She probably doesn’t understand why everything has to be so stinkin’ logical! It might drive her nuts that you can’t accept, at emotional face value, why something needs to happen.

The list goes on. And these are, admittedly, generalizations that may not apply to every marriage. But this fact remains. God chose two human beings, with unique personalities and experiences, and put you at the same place and time so you’d meet, fall in love, and spend your whole lives trying to become grafted together as one flesh.

You don’t always get her. She doesn’t always get you. But the adventure of trying to get each other is what marriage is all about. So open up. Talk. Share. Pour out the mess inside. And listen. Ask questions. Invite conversations, even when they’re awkward. Keep learning.

Trust me, she’s worth it. I thought, when I married Angie nineteen years ago, that she was pretty awesome. Then came all the tough seasons of really getting to know each other. And after nearly two decades of being husband and wife, I’m more amazed than ever at the prize God gave me, at her wisdom, her grace, her leadership, her beauty. She’s out of my league and I’m excited to keep chasing her!

And here’s the good news. God totally gets you. He knows your faults and weaknesses, and he loves you in spite of all of them. He sent his Son to the cross for you and raised him from the dead to redeem you and save you. There is hope. There is grace. And when two people learn the unforced rhythms of grace, we can thrive even while struggling to piece together the puzzle that is our marriage union.

The Lies Men Believe About Marriage Series:

  1. She Will Solve My Identity Crisis
  2. She Just ‘Gets’ Me
  3. She’ll Fix My Lust Problem

Lies Men Believe About Marriage: She Will Solve My Identity Crisis

We got married in a fever… hotter than a pepper sprout…

Johnny Cash was a pretty great poet! And in his song about going to Jackson, he points out the way a lot of us got married. We didn’t have all the knowledge or experience we needed going in. How could we? We hadn’t been married yet, obviously.

We were nineteen when Angie and I tied the knot, and we’ve lived a pretty grand adventure. I could not have asked for a more ideal match. My wife has loved and healed and helped me in ways no one else on earth could ever understand. But we had to learn a lot of things the hard way.

The first decade was fairly smooth sailing in terms of our relationship. But under the surface, problems were beginning to simmer. I’m a stuffer – a tendency I didn’t know I possessed until all the junk I’d stuffed came boiling up to the surface. I’d bottled up resentment over things my wife didn’t even remember because of their seeming insignificance at the time.

We’re far better now. We walked through a long and difficult season of healing. We sought counseling. We repented. We mended and started fresh. She showed me grace, over and over, and experiencing God’s grace offered from a wonderful wife changed me from the inside out.

Looking back, I had to learn some things the hard way about marriage. I had believed some myths and embraced some lies. And as I talk with other men about marriage, I think these lies are pretty widespread and they’re wreaking havoc upon our society and upon the church. Let me address these one at a time…

Lie #1: Marriage will provide me the sense of identity I’ve been missing.

It’s vitally important that every man on the planet ultimately find his sense of identity – his definition of himself – through a proper understanding and acceptance of the redemptive power of the gospel. I am God’s child. I am a leader, called by God to attempt great things for his glory. But before I come to understand who I really am in relationship to my Creator and my Savior, I’m looking for a sense of identity somewhere else.

Because of where our society is and what Satan has done to manhood, too many men stand in the altar and say “I do” without knowing who the “I” really is in that declaration. We’ve found our identity in the affirmation of others, in the trophies we won playing sports, and in our jobs and careers. Most men haven’t discovered that their identity is intrinsically tied to their Creator.

There is a God, and you were his idea. He formed and fashioned you from the womb to be the man you are. You bear his image. You reflect to the world a God of intellect, emotions, and will. But because of sin, the image of God in us is marred. Our sense of identity is messed up and must now be redeemed by the God who gave his Son for our sins.

Some guys look for their identity in a gang. Others in the endless pursuit of more education. And tons of us define ourselves by whatever job title happens to bring home the bacon. And added to that mix is our hope that we’ll find a piece of our identity in marriage. This is who I am… she’ll complete me… and without her I’d never know who I really am…

See the danger? Let me put it a little more simply. My wife can’t bear the burden of giving me the sense of identity that God alone can grant. If I’m consistently struggling to know who I am, I can’t possibly expect my wife to have a deep sense of security and trust in me.

To carry it a little further and bring home the truth of this… My marriage will only be healthy when I have a healthy view of myself. So, get alone with God and figure out who you are!

Start here…

  • I am created in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27)
  • I am a sinner, and God gives grace. (1 Timothy 1:8-16)
  • When I repent and trust Jesus, I become brand new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • God is re-creating me in his image. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
  • I am gifted, anointed, and called to serve others.
  • I am a missionary, changing the world with the gospel.
  • I am a leader, a prophet, and a pastor in my home.

And the list goes on. Your wife didn’t create you. Your wife can’t save you from your sins, or wipe away your guilt, or make you make good choices. She can’t fix you and the burden of keeping your sense of identity strong and healthy is a burden she was never meant to bear. It’s too much. It’s impossible, in fact, for anyone other than God to redeem and heal and save you, and to re-make you into the man he intends for you to be.


The Lies Men Believe About Marriage Series:

  1. She Will Solve My Identity Crisis
  2. She Just ‘Gets’ Me
  3. She’ll Fix My Lust Problem

How O’Malley Became a Very Good Father

I’m a sucker for vintage Disney stories. I have a collection of old Disney story books from my childhood and often read them to my boys. Tonight we chose The Aristocats, and I was moved by the final page. I’ve seen the movie and read the story dozens of times in my life, but I’ve never really stopped to take notice of the great story of redemption in O’Malley the alley cat’s life.

Duchess and her kittens are abandoned by the house butler, Edgar, and left to die in the French countryside. Along comes the loner, O’Malley, who has no interest in taking responsibility for the lives of others. But through the crisis of their lostness, O’Malley’s heart breaks and he becomes the hero, guiding them safely back home. At the end of the story, Edgar gets fired and sent away and the Madame of the house adopts O’Malley into her family of felines. And the final page says,

Madame said she needed a cat who was smart and brave.

So O’Malley decided to stay.

He was a very good father.

“How did we ever get along without you?” asked Duchess.

O’Malley just smiled.

The end.

I’m a Pastor, so in my line of work, I meet a lot of single moms who are doing the absolute best they can to raise their kids into godly young men and women. I see other married moms who are the singular spiritual leader in their homes. Moms, in our culture, have carried an unfair burden for far too long, and the situation seems to worsen with each generation.

I’m convinced that we men are all at least a little bit like O’Malley the alley cat. We think we’re doing just find on our own. We shy away from the pressure of responsibility. We don’t want to be nagged or pushed or even gently nudged into being less selfish than we are. And along comes a duchess into our lives, presenting us the possibility of love and companionship. But along with the benefits of a love relationship comes the responsibility to do the one thing hardest for human beings – especially for men: dying to self.

Mother’s Day is a reminder to me of what ought to be celebrated far more than annually – that our culture is preserved, in large part, by the dedication of women. And it’s also a reminder that there are men, redeemed and renovated from the inside out, who are willing to be the exceptions to the norm.

These reformed alley cats are willing to love, to adopt, to stay. They’re willing to follow the model of the God who never leaves us and never forsakes us. They aren’t perfect. They don’t have perfect pasts. And they usually still like to hang out with Scat Cat and his band and express their inner wildness in non-destructive ways. But they’re faithful to love.

I’m praying, this week, for the women I know who long for an O’Malley in their lives and in the lives of their children. And I’m praying for men on the fringes to engage, to have the guts to die to themselves and follow Jesus. May God raise up men who are kings, warriors, lovers, and friends.

I’m an O’Malley myself. I have a past. I still stumble. But by the grace of God, my identity has shifted and I’ve been born again into God’s family, adopted alongside my brothers in Christ and given a brand new mission to reconcile others back to God and to consider the cause of the voiceless and the defenseless, the widow and the orphan, the abandoned and the victimized.

This is one story I want my boys to hear often and to grow into the godly young men I’m praying they’ll become!

Husbands, Remember to Love Your Wives

Husbands are forgetful. I know this for three reasons: 1.) I’m a husband…, 2.) I’m forgetful…, and 3.) Every other husband I know is forgetful. 

I just left my doctor’s office and the lady who checked me out at the counter asked if I knew my kids’ birthdays. “Yes, I have three…” And before I could go any further she said, in disgust, “Apparently my husband can’t remember such things…” I’m glad I missed the phone conversation she’d had with him just before I walked up, and I felt relieved to be leaving before she resumed it. 

Here’s the problem I fall into, and into which I see so many other men fall. We forget to remember things. Like birthdays. And anniversaries. And which night next week is our kid’s school program, and that school pictures are on Tuesday, and that our wife likes to receive random good gifts and periodic signs of our affection.

We get into the routine of surviving, of protecting and providing for our families because we love and cherish them. But we forget to show them how much they are loved and cherished by remembering the little, not-so-important-but-actually-quite-important little things.

Still with me?

Paul wrote this timeless piece of instruction for husbands, “Husbands… love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Ephesians 5:25-26 NLT). 

Really Paul? We need a reminder to love our wives? Doesn’t this come with the territory? Isn’t it automatic and assumed? Of course I love her, or I wouldn’t have married her. Or I might not stay married to her. 

But we are guys. We are men. So yes, we need this basic, simple reminder: love your wives

Love them by remembering what is important to them. By remembering what blesses them, what encourages them, what builds them up in their faith. Remember what makes them feel more confident about themselves, more cherished, more valuable to us and to the world around them. Remember how precious she is to God and how sweet a gift she is to us from him. 

Remembering these things is essential because, as men, we only act on things we’re currently, actively thinking about. Remembering to love our wives is the essential pre-requisite to showing love to our wives. 

My wife is precious. She’s sweet. She’s an awesome wife who encourages an undeserving me, cares well for our children even when they don’t have the maturity or capacity to appreciate her tireless work, and who leads and encourages others in our circles of friends. She’s a giver of good things, of wisdom, of compassion, and of love. And because she’s a gift to me from God, and because she gives such amazing gifts to me from her heart, I’m motivated to want to remember to show her love.

I want to remember to show her love so that she’ll always know, and never forget, and never have to question that she means the world to me. So how do I do this?

Every month I remind myself to pay the mortgage and the taxes. How much more important to remind myself to set aside time each and every day to dwell on her beauty and her worth and to think about what I’m going to do today, tonight, tomorrow, and a few months from now to convince her that she has a husband who really, really loves her.

Husbands, don’t forget to love your wives. She’s a gift from God, and is therefore of immense value to you and worthy of your intentional efforts and affection. I think a good goal in remembering to love her is to endeavor that she never has the chance to forget, herself, how much she is loved by her hustand, or by her Savior, King Jesus.