How to Handle Wandering Eyes in a Relationship

June 30th, 2014 by Nick Notas 7 Comments

Obama Checking Women Out

When it comes to checking other people out while in a relationship, men always get the blame. We’re seen as Neanderthals who can’t keep our eyes in check. 

The truth is that women look just as much as men — albeit in different ways.

Men are visual creatures. Physical appearance is our initial attraction switch.

I know that women appreciate good-looking men as well, but their attraction is often from those men opening their mouth and talking. They are drawn to passionate personalities. You’ll notice it when they lean in, bright-eyed, playing with their hair and laughing at a charismatic individual. Sometimes it even happens unconsciously in front of their partner.

This usually isn’t deliberate or to cause jealousy. The attraction is a natural response, an unplanned feeling with no malicious intent.

So I have to ask…is the blame even warranted for either side?

Being in a relationship doesn’t mean your attraction switch towards new people magically shuts off. It’s unrealistic and unfair to place those expectations on your partner. And just because you find someone else attractive doesn’t mean you’re going to sleep with them.

Accept that this is all normal. Once you do, you can work on ensuring you respectfully handle these delicate situations.

When you’re the one looking…

  1. Be discreet but not ashamed. While it’s natural for you to look, you shouldn’t rub it in your partner’s face. Constantly checking out other people in front of them is not cool. Have some tact, do it casually, and don’t make a big spectacle of it.

    At the same time, don’t deny it if asked about it by your partner. The worst thing you can do is be defensive and reinforce that what you’re doing is wrong. Your reaction should reassure them that even though you were looking, you still find them attractive.

  1. Be respectful of timing. Avoid obviously checking others when out as a couple with friends or colleagues. That’s a surefire way to make your partner feel slighted. It also reflects poorly on your character and the way you view your relationship.

    When alone with your significant other, you shouldn’t be gazing elsewhere when they’re having a big talk with you, an emotional moment, or when on a date together. You can wait for a more appropriate time.

Cmon, be a little smarter than that.

C’mon son, be a little smarter than that.

  1. Look but don’t touch. Anything more than how you’d touch a friend or a colleague (e.g. high five, quick hand on the shoulder) is too much. Not only are you tempting yourself but you’re sending the wrong signals to the other person. 
  1. Remember the value of your relationship. New, shiny, and enticing: it’s easy to get star-struck when you’re meeting someone you find attractive. But remember, you’re only seeing them in that context and you don’t know who they are outside of that environment. Take them off the pedestal.

    More importantly, remind yourself of what you have currently. Are a few minutes of flirting worth hurting your partner and jeopardizing your relationship? And if it is, still…

  1. Don’t cheat. It’s a cowardly, horrible thing to do to someone you care about.

    That means being strong in the moment with someone new you’re attracted to. Avoid temptation. Don’t get their number just to “keep in touch” if you know you don’t have self-control to truly be a friend.

    If you’re staying with your current partner out of fear of being alone, you shouldn’t stay with them. It’s not fair to the other person to be in a relationship with someone who isn’t truly invested.

    So if you’re unhappy with your situation, break it off or find a way to make it work. If you want an open relationship, communicate that desire. But be aware that they may not be ready or want that for themselves. In that case, find someone else who’s looking for that type of relationship. 

  1. Include your partner. If they’re bisexual and open to others in the bedroom, invite their opinion. Make it positive and about them. “Honey, check her out. Do you think she’s cute?” If they play along, you can entertain the idea together. “It would be so sexy to watch you enjoy yourself with her.” Even if nothing comes from it, this is great foreplay.

When your partner is looking…

  1. Remember that it isn’t a reflection of your worth. Nor does it mean that you’re not good enough for them. Plenty of satisfied people in relationships appreciate external beauty. I wouldn’t go into panic mode –- your partner isn’t necessarily looking to break things off or cheat on you.
  1. Consider if it’s worth fighting about. The whole point of this article is to argue that some level of outside attraction is fine. If your partner occasionally looks in a respectful way (as described above), evaluate if there’s even a real issue that needs addressing.

    Don’t let your jealous emotions overcome your logic. Relate it back to yourself. Do you check out attractive people randomly? The answer is almost always yes. Be reasonable and don’t create a double standard.

  2. If it does become a problem or happens repeatedly, address the issue without attacking your partner. Assert your boundaries firmly but politely.

    Let your partner know that you understand it’s natural, but you would appreciate some discretion and respect. Constantly ogling makes you feel like they’re more interested in other people than in you.

    Also, please don’t go the passive-aggressive route and start retaliating the same way. You will just escalate the problem. Honest communication is your best option. Unfortunately, if nothing changes…

  3. Decide if this is the right relationship for you. Being attracted to multiple people is normal. Disregarding your partner’s feelings is not. If the person you’re with doesn’t tone it down or understand your point of view, that’s a huge red flag. If they disrespect you with this, how far will they go?

You can’t control others but you can control yourself. Forcing people you care about to go against their biology will only build resentment and resistance. If they want to cheat or leave, they will.  

Your best bet is to be understanding, communicate your boundaries, and find someone who can deal with this sensitive subject in a mature, healthy way.

  1. Drew on June 30, 2014

    I never thought there was a “respectful” way to do this, but now it kinda makes sense. I think being super ashamed and defensive about it makes everything more awkward. It’s hard to tell your girlfriend straight up that you were looking at someone else, but it’s better than being all shady and obviously lying about it.

    • Nick Notas on June 30, 2014

      It’s definitely a tough subject but sometimes it needs to be addressed. By handling difficult discussions like that correctly, you only further strengthen your relationship.

  2. Ashley on June 30, 2014

    This is good advice. The way I see it, there is nothing wrong with appreciating the looks of someone else, as long as it’s done in a way that doesn’t offend your partner.

    • Nick Notas on June 30, 2014

      Thanks Ashley, glad you liked the article!

  3. Paul Allen on June 30, 2014

    Lots of commonsense here. glad to say I already followed the advice, perhaps by accident. Look but don’t touch, and don’t be a dick about it.

    • Nick Notas on June 30, 2014

      Keep it up Paul, even it was by accident. And “Don’t be a dick” is applicable to so many areas of life haha.

  4. Bruno on November 12, 2015

    Ok but how do you handle it when it’s other people’s eyes on your date?

    I know the worst possible thing you can do is to act insecure, jealous and have that “back off, she’s mine” attitude, but when someone crosses the line and makes her uncomfortable, like too much leering or an objectifying cat call, how do you handle it? Do you try to get her to ignore it or do you speak up?