A lot of men struggle with looking at other women. Here's a submission I received from just such a guy and my recommendations on how he can learn to stop.
When younger I was just another guy who looks at other women, even when with my wife. I meant no harm, but it upset my wife and hurt her. My reaction was to stop looking at other women and avoid dealing with women. I have no interest to meet any one else or look at any one else. I am totally satisfied with my wife.
Like other men looking at other women, I get incidents that happen without control, a glance, that I hate and am not comfortable with and especially if the other woman notices me looking. I do not look again, but just this uncontrolled look makes me awkward and I panic, mostly out of fear of hurting my wife and risk of losing her.
When with my wife, my wife reports that I become a different person and not notice her. I notice that I feel awkward and I am not comfortable when out. I feel as if I have to keep my guard up all the time and if I relax I will fall!
When at home everything is great. Any help, guidance, advice. I love my wife and do not wish to lose her and I am not looking at other women on purpose. --Ahmed G.
A: Looking at other women is a big challenge for a lot of men. Congratulations for seeing this as a problem and seeking help. Usually it's from women I hear the complaint "he looks at other women," not from men.
Why do men look at other women? Most of us first developed the habit of looking at women when we were teenagers. It happens naturally and then we encourage it because of how good it makes us feel. Each time we see a sexually attractive woman our brain rewards us with a chemical high. It’s a minor high compared to other drugs, but it’s still enjoyable and addicting.
This natural reward system is the beginning reason why men look at other women. With the almost constant barrage of attractive women we’re exposed to in our media crazed world, many of us men have developed a regular “habit” of looking at other women. This habit can become so ingrained that our looking becomes like a natural reflex and one that we can feel we have no control over.
Unfortunately, our media exposure has only made this a more and more difficult battle for men. Advertisements by Carl's Jr., Victoria Secret, and car and beer makers, all use scantily clad women in sexually provocative poses to sell their products (are we buying the car, the girl, or does the girl come with the car?) contribute to why men look at other women.
When we get married or in a committed relationship we need to stop being a man who looks at other women. If we don't, this “habit” can cause us a lot of problems, just as you’ve described.
I've worked with many men who've had big conflict in their relationships because of they look at other women. One guy's wife called it his "ogling." I've seen guys struggle with this (and their partner attack them for it) in the most unexpected places, too -- noticing a woman in the church parking lot, in a cross walk while sitting at a stop light, a woman jogging on the side of the road as you drive past. All are opportunities for men to let their eyes wander.
Here are some suggestions on how to stop looking at other women:
- Recognize that it is a habit that you’ve built, not an uncontrollable reflex.
- Begin to look for ways you continue to build that habit -- such as movies, TV shows, magazines, football games, or internet porn and stop feeding it to your brain (read My Husband Looks At Porn to learn more).
- Accept and get comfortable with the fact that it is natural to notice attractive women. The goal here is not to eliminate noticing, but rather how often you look and for how long.
Hopefully this gives some understanding why men look at other women. If you’re a man who can't stop looking at other women, working with a counselor for men will give you additional steps you can take to change your behavior. Many of us men have learned how to stop looking at other women and with help you can too.
--Kurt Smith, Marriage Counselor
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on July 9, 2010 and has been updated with new information.
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