I received a wonderful request in a comment from Marie yesterday on my 2012 post, Avoid Pretending to Feel Loved When You Do Not.
Marie asked for "advice on how to manage your own insecurities, while granting your spouse liberty to engage in harmless pleasures, such as: appreciating individuals of the opposite sex and not judging occasional encounters with porn."
She provided more details on her relationship that assured me she's not dealing with a couple of circumstances where I would offer very different advice. First, she's not married to man so self-centered that he works at convincing his wife other women, women he views as somehow better or prettier than her, want his sorry self as a sadly misguided way of keeping her interested in him.
Second, she's not dealing with a man who's been so sucked in by the well-honed tactics of the psychology researchers who now advise porn producers that his porn habit has led to erectile dysfunction, a lack of interest in his real-life wife, or spending money needed to pay the mortgage on the house.
Hers is a much more common situation: the woman who feels insecure because her husband enjoys looking at women with great figures and clothes to show them off or women willing to pretend to be sex toys available to all comers. Even when he insists this is nothing more than entertainment and he's in love with a woman who is far more — and worth far more — than just the body she inhabits.
The insecurity comes from not being able to empathize, to feel what he feels. Yes, he could give up these forms of entertainment and then she would not need to get inside his heart. Or she could squeeze, starve, nip and tuck, and expensively clothe herself to compete with his entertainment, but doing so might do a lot of harm to the things he truly values about her: her great mood, her adventurous spirit, the way she gets right down on the floor with their young children, her enjoyment of a great dinner, etc., etc.
But wouldn't it be nicer to finally understand this odd difference between us, really understand it?
Think about your favorite romantic comedies. My Big, Fat Greek Wedding. Notting Hill. Hitch. Sleepless in Seattle. 50 First Dates. Something's Gotta Give. Crazy, Stupid Love. You've Got Mail. Train Wreck. The Shop Around the Corner.
What makes them such great entertainment? Romance! Men discovering how fiercely they want the love and respect of a particular woman. Men making fools of themselves only to be forgiven and loved. Over-the-top romantic gestures. Jobs, businesses, and careers set aside to put a woman front and center in a man's life. Friends dumped for interfering with romance.
Most women find them very pleasantly entertaining. But they recognize them as entertainment, as exaggeration for effect, as fantasy. They don't want the real men in their lives to shirk or dump their careers. They don't want the real men in their lives wrapped around their little fingers. They don't want their husbands embarrassing his parents to please hers. If their husbands spent the money on romance that movie budgets give these actors, most women would object.
Women watch romantic comedies as entertainment, not as measuring sticks for their husbands. When it comes to their marriages, most women want the whole experience of a real man, a real partner.
And to those of you women who prefer action adventure movies to romantic comedies, I'm pretty sure you don't enjoy it because you want to live your life with the constant threat of careening cars or exploding buildings, either.
It's just entertainment. And so is most occasional porn, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit TV show, the Miss America pageant, and trying to catch a glimpse of a hot-looking woman at work.
And while your husband likes to be entertained, it's a safe bet he also wants a wife who offers, as you do, so much more than something to watch from a distance.
If you can see it this way, I hope it will help you relax and enjoy the love of someone with different taste in entertainment from you.
If you truly cannot abide what entertains your husband (whether it's women's bodies and porn, Star Wars movies, Antiques Road Show, or TV golf), you don't have to live with it. But if you want your relationship to thrive, I strongly urge you to fill your life together with other forms of entertainment he also enjoys and avoid mocking or shaming your husband for his tastes. It's a much more successful route to take.