My boyfriend checks out other women. To what extent is it okay for people in relationships to look at other people they might find attractive? And at what point is it not okay anymore? And how do I fix this?
It can feel like a sucker-punch when someone you love has their eye on someone else. It can be triggering in the self-worth department. So, let’s take a moment (and a deep breath) to unpack this and find that line.
The Quick Glance
When your boyfriend looks at someone and then quickly turns his head back to you, it’s instinctual, it’s natural, and it’s normal. You can think of it like tripping over a crack in the sidewalk. Tripped by beauty. A bright smile. Or big boobs. Or a tight-fitting something-or-other. It’s all good. It probably happens to you, too. Beauty in all its many forms is impossible to deny and hard to ignore.
It doesn’t mean anything about you.
It doesn’t mean anything about him.
And it doesn’t mean anything about your relationship.
You might feel a surge of competitiveness with the woman he’s checking out, like he’ll let go of your hand, grab hers, and they’ll walk off into the sunset together.
Highly unlikely. He’s with you for a reason (probably many, and good ones), and just because his eyes wander doesn’t mean he will.
So that’s the quick and dirty answer to the question “what do I do about a quick glance?”
But what if it’s not just a quick glance?
Stares, Comments, and Putdowns
Some men hold that gaze for an uncomfortable amount of time. Rude.
Some men say overtly flirtatious, sexual, or objectifying things. Creepy.
Some men stare, comment, and compare her to you to put you in your (lower) place. Not. Okay.
Here’s how to have a boundary conversation about what you need: As kindly, calmly, and gracefully as you can, share where you stand regarding violations of your boundaries. For example, is it out of bounds if he engages with someone in a sexual, flirty way in front of you? If yes, can you give an example of what that looks like? Your idea of overtly sexual might be simply friendly to someone else.
You: “Hey, can I tell you something I need?”
You: “Yesterday when we were out, you looked at that pretty lady in the blue skirt for a really, really long time, remember?”
Him: “Um…I guess?”
You: “It’s embarrassing, and it doesn’t feel good to me when you do that. I understand checking attractive people out—we all do it—but it makes me uncomfortable when it happens for extended periods of time. Out of respect for me, would you consider not doing that when we’re out together?”
Tone is everything. You need to be calm and confident here for it to go well. But it really can be that simple. And if he says yes to your request, then you can then thank him for hearing you and caring about what you need.
Is he doing/saying more than just a lingering glance that lingers a bit too long? Use the same formula above—just make sure to be specific about what’s not okay with you.
It’s Not You, It’s Him
Here’s the deal: If he’s in his twenties, he still might be finding his way. The older men get, the better they become at being subtle about their appreciation of attractive humans out in the world. If you’ve got an older guy who’s getting caught by you all the time, you might want to look a little deeper to see if he’s:
- kinda oblivious,
- lacking common sense and good judgment, and/or
- trying to put you in your place.
If he’s oblivious to you and your needs, that might not be something that can be helped. If he’s lacking common sense and good judgment, you might want to check your own in regards to the relationship. And if he’s trying to put you in your place, not only is he showing immaturity, but he’s petty, cruel, and vindictive. All three show a lack of compassion and caring—solid information to have about your partner for life.
How to Never Have This Happen to You
Now, you might be wondering if maybe there’s a way you can eliminate this noticing-other-humans problem altogether. The answer is yes. There are men out there in the world that you could choose to partner with who don’t look at other women. I know a woman who married a terrific guy that never looked at other women after they got together. Literally, no other woman turned his head. Ever. They also had a sexless marriage. Turns out he wasn’t that interested in looking at, or doing, anyone.
There’s a trade-off to everything.
You get to choose.
Good luck out there.
Wait—there’s a p.s.!
I would be remiss if I didn’t share this. I believe that beauty is beauty and worthy of our attention. I encourage the quick, appreciative glances in my relationship. I think it’s healthy. And I also want him to be stealth about it (which he is), because let’s not creep anybody out.
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