Look, But Don't Lust
By Jake and Melissa Kircher
June 15, 2011
Back in college when we were dating, Jake had this idea that he shouldn’t find other women attractive because he was in a relationship. Regularly, he would firmly state that nobody but me was beautiful. It used to drive me crazy!
One afternoon, I assured him that it was perfectly normal for him to find other women attractive. To which he replied with a sigh: “Fine! So-and-so is hotter than you.” Which wasn’t quite what I had expected. In addition, “hotter than you” wasn’t some random actress or model, it was a girl on campus ... with a twin sister.
The icing on the cake came one afternoon two weeks later when we were at the beach playing catch and guess who decided to walk by? Hot co-ed and her twin sister. As they passed us, I missed a throw and was smacked in the face with a baseball. My glasses fell off and my face burned as the twins giggled and walked away. Needless to say, we didn’t stay much longer at the beach.
Since then, we’ve learned that being attracted to another person while in a committed relationship of any kind is, unfortunately, inevitable. Humans are wired to appreciate the bodies and appearances of the opposite sex. This hard-wiring doesn’t disintegrate when we begin dating someone, become engaged or get married. The issue isn’t if we are attracted to other people, but how we can handle attraction appropriately when it does occur.
Attraction Vs. Lust
Many Christians believe attraction and lust are synonymous. Jake recently had a conversation with a friend who was concerned that he noticed a couple of cute girls even though he’s currently dating someone. Jake himself has struggled with guilt about finding other women beautiful. However, attraction and lust are very different things.
Attraction is simply the acknowledgement that another person looks good. They have certain features that catch your eye and draw your attention. Attraction is what causes us to do a double take or mention how great that person looks. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it actually affirms the creativity and beauty that God displays when he created humanity. All kinds of people, with all kinds of shapes and attributes, can be attractive. There is a common phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” We must first behold in order to find the unique beauty in people.
However, attraction can cross over into lust when gazes or comments become purposeful, continual (as in you keep thinking them) and/or sexualized. Notice in Matthew 5:28 that Jesus says, “anyone who even looks at a woman [or man] with lust has already committed adultery.” It’s not wrong to look at or notice an attractive person, but it can become lustful when we can’t look away, stop the thoughts or allow ourselves to fantasize about that person. Let’s be clear: While it’s much more mainstream to expect lust out of men, women are equal culprits. Women might dwell on the physical, but also fantasize about what being with that rich man would be like or how this certain man would treat her better than her husband. This too is a form of lust.
So, if it’s not wrong to be attracted to other people, should we tell our significant others when we are? How do we go about doing that in a healthy and non-destructive way? Here are a few helpful thoughts in answering this question.
1) Every couple is different.
At some point in your relationship, it would be a great idea to talk about what each of you feel in regards to attraction and what you expect in terms of sharing this within your relationship. Some will want to know every time you find yourself attracted. Others won’t want to know at all. It’s really important to understand both people’s expectations in this area.2) Beware of details.
When sharing, it can be better to leave out details. Your significant other doesn’t need to know that specific woman has great boobs or that guy has large biceps. Sometimes knowing details can lead to insecurities and comparisons, which cause unnecessary stress in a relationship. After all, your loved one is more attracted to you than anyone else!
3) Choose your words with care.
Being attracted to an actor or actress is much different than being attracted to a close friend or co-worker. The closer a person is to you, the wiser it is to choose your words carefully. Saying that an actor or actress in a movie you just watched is “really hot” goes over very differently than saying the same thing about your neighbor.
If you’re attracted to a friend or co-worker, we would counsel being open about this with your significant other in a sensitive way. It is also better to communicate about it sooner rather than later. Being honest about your feelings allows the attraction to be less serious almost immediately, as it is no longer hidden. It can also provide some accountability for how you interact with the person as well.
4) Understand your proximity.
In situations where the attraction is someone of close proximity, be honest about your motives for interacting with them. Why do you regularly want to stop by your co-worker's office just to say hi? Or why do you want to check that friend’s updated Facebook photos so often? If your motives aren’t purely relational, you could find yourself quickly slipping from attraction into lust and on into cheating. We’d also advise lessening (as much as possible) interactions with the friend/co-worker.
5) Be open to space.
Another thing that can be helpful, although difficult at times, is to be sensitive to your significant other’s desire for boundaries in how you interact with a person you are or have been attracted to. This could be a simple thing like not driving in a car with them by yourself or making sure lunch meetings are in a public place. It could also mean de-friending them on Facebook or cutting off contact altogether.
6) Find an accountability partner.
Lastly, it would be wise to find an accountability partner of the same gender, who knows both you and your partner. They can provide wisdom, discernment and advice that stems from personal experience. Having another person involved in our thought-life helps to keep our attractions as simply attractions. And nothing more.