5 Min Read
- Reader Question
- Dr. Kurt Answers
- But Looking Isn't Cheating, Right?
- What Are The Consequences Of Looking At Other Women?
- Reader Comments (500+)
A lot of men struggle with looking at other women. Many aren’t even aware they’re doing it and others will claim they mean no disrespect to the women they’re with. But looking at other women while you’re with your wife or girlfriend is disrespectful and hurtful to your partner.
We receive many questions from women whose husbands or boyfriends routinely check out the other women around them, even when they’re together. We also receive plenty of questions from men who struggle to keep their eyes on the women they are with. Here's a submission I received from just such a guy and my recommendations on how he can learn to stop.
Looking at other women has become a big problem for me. I want to learn how to stop looking at other women. I need help regarding my inability to behave correctly in front of the opposite sex and especially when with my wife. I am married for 16 years and am 42 years of age. Happily married, lovely children. Everything is great, except -- looking at other women! 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, she 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.
Ahmed is pretty typical of men who struggle with looking at other women. He genuinely loves his wife, but finds it hard not to notice any attractive women around him, and as a consequence is experiencing anxiety and stress every time he is out. His wife is struggling with this too. The good news is that this is a problem that can be fixed. Here is what I advised him.
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 are 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 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 begin 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 reinforce 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 as to 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.
But Looking Isn't Cheating, Right?
Many men will dismiss the practice of looking at other women as no big deal. They rationalize that it’s not cheating and doesn’t affect the love they have for their wife or girlfriend, so it isn’t anything to worry about. But that’s not the whole story.
It’s true that checking out other women isn’t the same as having an affair, but it is a form of micro-cheating. Micro-cheating is comprised of small, disrespectful behaviors involving the opposite sex. Over time these behaviors can slowly eat away at your relationship and undermine the love you share.
What Are The Consequences Of Looking At Other Women?
Although it’s easy to think that your wandering eyes shouldn’t affect your partner and that it’s not a big deal, the truth is that it does affect her, even if she doesn’t know it or want to admit it, and it can turn into a very big deal. Realizing that looking at other women can cause problems in your relationship and changing your behavior is an act of love that will go a long way towards keeping your relationship happy and healthy.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published July 9, 2010. It was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness on August 09, 2014 and again on January 15, 2019.
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