Lowering Our Expectations
We recently got a question from a popular Rav who deals with many young men. He wrote as follows:
“A few people asked me lately; if someone watched porn in the past and now is getting married and they want to lower their expectations, can you give me advice or suggestions on this matter?”
I would highly suggest watching the series of videos on GYE called “The Chosson Shmuz you wish you had but never got” by Rabbi Simcha Feuerman. It was specially made for guys who have struggled with these things in the past. It’s password protected, so write to email@example.com for the password - only if you are engaged or married.
I'd also like to try and address the question directly. In the realm of lust, most people are never fully satisfied. It’s normal to have fantasies and expectations. But we have to realize that when these unrealistic expectations enter our minds, it means we are struggling with lust and we need to work on that. There aren't really any quick answers.
If we’ve seen porn in the past, this obviously makes the test harder. But we have to believe that everything that happened in the past was Hashem’s will. We only have the NOW to work on. This is the situation Hashem wants us to work with…
The struggle of the “fake” vs. the “real is why we are here in this world. It’s like the difference between junk food and eating healthy, or between stealing money and getting a job. Obviously someone who is used to stealing will find it difficult to work hard for his money, and someone who is used to grabbing a burger with fires or a bar of chocolate whenever they're hungry, will find it hard to learn how to eat healthy. But life is about growing up. A child wants his candy and toys NOW, but an adult understands that everything worthwhile and real takes patience and work. But it’s well worth it in the end.
The more we learn to guard our eyes, the more beautiful our wives will be to us and the more pleasurable and meaningful the intimacy will be. Real love will replace the fake lust - the junk food of the past. By joining Guardyoureyes and getting the daily chizuk boosts and emails, sharing with others on the forum and chatrooms, getting good filters and accountability, we will learn to guard our eyes and let go of lust more and more each day.
When we stray after our eyes, we connect back to all the bad images of the past and thereby reawaken unrealistic expectations. This can even lead to resentment towards the wife and can ruin the marriage. But the human brain is very elastic, it quickly learns and adapts. The sooner we learn to guard our eyes properly, the quicker the fantasies and expectations from the past will fade away, and our wives will become more beautiful in our eyes each day. We will truly begin to internalize that my wife is the only woman in the world that exists for me.
The Torah says about the Eitz Hadaas: וַתֵּרֶא הָאִשָּׁה כִּי טוֹב הָעֵץ לְמַאֲכָל - And the woman "saw" that the tree was good to eat. וְכִי תַאֲוָה-הוּא לָעֵינַיִם - "And it was desirable to the "eyes. וַתִּקַּח מִפִּרְיוֹ וַתֹּאכַל - And she took from its fruit and ate.
Today, the Eitz Hadaas is in the center of the garden, it’s everywhere we turn, beckoning to us… But the real test boils down to this: Do we trust that Hashem is caring for all our needs and knows what is best for us, or do we try to take care of our needs ourselves and partake of the forbidden fruit?
Hashem tested us similarly in the desert when He was providing Maan for us miraculously every day, yet we still complained and said: זָכַ֙רְנוּ֙ אֶת־הַדָּגָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־נֹאכַ֥ל בְּמִצְרַ֖יִם חִנָּ֑ם - We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt for free.
The Yetzer Hara offers us free pleasures, but Hashem knows what’s best for us. And if He tells us to stay away from it and rely on Him to care for our needs, He obviously has our best interest in mind.
If a doctor tells someone he’s overweight and at great risk if he doesn’t start eating healthier, obviously it will take work for him to do that, but he knows that the doctor only has his best interest in mind. So surely if Hashem asks us to let go of lust, He knows what’s best for us. Not only that, but the more tempting the desires are, the more we can be sure that Hashem has something even much better in store for us! So the more we feel desire, the happier we can be to let it go because if Hashem has something even better than that in store for me - wow!
So keeping all this in mind, we can learn to let go of expectations. Hashem provides us with our needs. He gave us a wife; she is our Gan Eden, she is our Maan from Shamayim. But there’s always the forbidden fruit out there, there’s always the FREE pleasures of Mitzrayim that beckon… This is our life’s test. When we find ourselves having expectations from our wives, it means we are concerned with taking care of what we perceive as our needs, as opposed to trusting that Hashem knows what our needs really are and is taking full care of us!
Another helpful way to let go of unrealistic expectations is to realize how far porn is from real love. Here are some of the lies that porn teaches us:
* Porn teaches that each partner always wants what the other person wants.
* Porn teaches that sex is "on demand", i.e. when one wants it the other person will too.
* Porn teaches that women have perfect bodies.
In real life, the human body is constantly changing. Actually, the closer a couple get over a lifetime of building a family and sharing the more their bodies age. Real love must replace the childish love of "body parts". Rabbi Twerski used to say that the word “Love” has lost all its meaning in today’s world. If someone says he loves steak, why does he go ahead and eat it? Obviously he means that he loves himself, and the steak just makes him feel good. Porn treats love like steak. In porn there is no other person. There’s no partnership or what chazal call “zivug”, each is just a toy of the other, doing something to the other. Each is alone, using the other person. This is the farthest thing possible to real love, which is the central ingredient of a healthy marriage. Even for non-Jews it doesn't work, and if this is all they have the marriage will quickly fall apart.
If our focus is lust then our expectations will never met... Our job in life is to learn how to change our motivations and switch over from selfish inward thinking to outward thinking. We need to learn to develop a real love and concern for the other person, a love built on giving.
Chapter 5 in Mishlei is a chapter I believe every GYE member should memorize. Shlomo Hamelech warns us of the futility of lust:
כִּ֤י נֹ֣פֶת תִּ֖טֹּפְנָה שִׂפְתֵ֣י זָרָ֑ה וְחָלָ֖ק מִשֶּׁ֣מֶן חִכָּֽהּ - For the lips of a strange woman drip honey, and her palate is smoother than oil
וְֽאַחֲרִיתָהּ מָרָ֣ה כַֽלַּעֲנָ֑ה חַדָּ֗ה כְּחֶ֣רֶב פִּיּֽוֹת - But her end is as bitter as wormwood, as sharp as a two-edged sword
רַגְלֶיהָ יֹרְד֣וֹת מָ֑וֶת שְׁ֜א֗וֹל צְעָדֶ֥יהָ יִתְמֹֽכוּ - Her feet descend to death; her steps come near the grave
Instead he exhorts us:
שְׁתֵה־מַ֥יִם מִבּוֹרֶ֑ךָ וְ֜נֹזְלִ֗ים מִתּ֥וֹךְ בְּאֵרֶֽךָ - Drink water from your own cistern and running water from your own spring
יָפ֣וּצוּ מַעְיְנֹתֶ֣יךָ ח֑וּצָה בָּ֜רְחֹב֗וֹת פַּלְגֵי־מָֽיִם - May your springs spread out rivulets of water in the squares
יִֽהְיוּ־לְךָ֥ לְבַדֶּ֑ךָ וְאֵ֖ין לְזָרִ֣ים אִתָּֽךְ - You alone shall have them, and strangers shall have nothing with you
יְהִֽי־מְקוֹרְךָ֥ בָר֑וּךְ וּ֜שְׂמַ֗ח מֵאֵ֥שֶׁת נְעוּרֶֽךָ - Your fountain shall be blessed, and you shall rejoice with the wife of your youth
אַיֶּ֥לֶת אֲהָבִ֗ים וְֽיַעֲלַ֫ת־חֵ֥ן דַּ֖דֶּיהָ יְרַוֻּ֣ךָ בְכָל־עֵ֑ת בְּ֜אַהֲבָתָ֗הּ תִּשְׁגֶּ֥ה תָמִֽיד - a lovely hind and a graceful mountain goat, her breasts will satisfy you at all times; you shall always be intoxicated with her love
Our sages say that this last Pasuk is also referring to the holy Torah. When we immerse ourselves into it, we merit to feel its tremendous beauty and all our needs feel satisfied with no need to drink from “broken cisterns”.
So to sum up: How do we let go of expectations?
Three Attitude Tips:
- Fake vs. Real: The struggle between "quick and cheap" vs. “patience and hard work" is why we are here in this world. Life is about growing up. Remember the chapter in Mishlei where Shlomo Hamelech reminds us how futile is lust and how wonderful it is to drink water from our very own well - יְהִֽי־מְקוֹרְךָ֥ בָר֑וּךְ וּ֜שְׂמַ֗ח מֵאֵ֥שֶׁת נְעוּרֶֽךָ.
- Emunah: Just like the Eitz Hadaas and Maan in the desert, our biggest test in life is to trust that Hashem knows what’s best for us and is caring for all our needs, and not try to take control to take care of our own needs. "Having expectations" means I am concerned with taking care of what I perceive as my needs and not trusting that Hashem provides me with all I need.
- Lust vs. Love: Understand that porn is a lie, it is the farthest thing possible from real love.
Three Practical Tips:
- Letting go of lust and guarding our eyes is a daily challenge. In the Guardyoureyes emails and website you can get eitzos, support and chizuk each day.
- The mind adapts quickly. As soon as we start guarding our eyes, the fantasies and expectations of the past will fade away and the more beautiful our wives will be to us.
- Find more enjoyment in learning Torah and the fantasies of the past will be replaced by the love of the Torah - דַּ֖דֶּיהָ יְרַוֻּ֣ךָ בְכָל־עֵ֑ת בְּ֜אַהֲבָתָ֗הּ תִּשְׁגֶּ֥ה תָמִֽיד.