Looking at Other Women - Why Men Look & How To Stop

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    A lot of men struggle with looking at other women. Many say they aren’t even aware they’re doing it. Others will claim they’re just admiring and mean no disrespect to the woman they’re with.

    But looking at other women while you’re with your wife or girlfriend is disrespectful and hurtful to your partner.

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    Before we go any further, let’s first clarify that noticing an attractive person and craning your neck to watch them walk by are two different things. One is a natural reaction, the other is disrespectful, rude, and all about self-enjoyment.

    The world is full of beautiful and intriguing looking people – both women and men. It’s normal to see them and feel appreciation. But what most women are bothered by is when that appreciation becomes unnecessarily or gratuitously obvious.

    Why Men Look At Other Women

    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 solely on the woman they're with.

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    Here's a submission we received from just such a guy and my recommendations on how he can learn to change this behavior.

    Reader Question:

    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 looked 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 anyone else or look at any 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 a pretty typical example of men who struggle with looking at other women.

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    He genuinely loves his wife, but finds it hard not to notice attractive women around him. Consequently, he’s experiencing anxiety and stress every time he’s outside his house.

    His wife is struggling with this too. So much so that it’s become hard for them to enjoy time out together.

    The good news is that this is a problem that can be fixed.

    Here is what I advised him.

    My Answer:

    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 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 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 we believe we have no control over.

    Unfortunately, our media exposure has only made this a more and more difficult battle for men.

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    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?).

    These images all contribute to the problem and encourage men to look at other women.

    When we get married or are in a committed relationship, we need to modify our behavior and 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."

    And I've seen guys struggle with this (and their partner attack them for it) in some unexpected places too,

    • Noticing a woman in the church parking lot

    • A cross walk while sitting at a stop light

    • A woman jogging on the side of the road as you drive past

    These are all opportunities for men to let their eyes wander.

    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 cheating. Micro-cheating is comprised of small, disrespectful behaviors involving the opposite sex.

    The message this behavior can send to a partner is, “I’m not having sex with anyone else, but I might like to.” And to most women this isn’t much better than having actually done it.

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    As a result, over time these behaviors can slowly eat away at your relationship and undermine the love you share.

    How To Stop Looking At Other Women

    Here are some suggestions on how to begin to stop looking at other women:

    • Recognize that it’s 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’s natural to notice attractive women. The goal here isn't to eliminate noticing, but rather how often you look and for how long.

    • Let your partner know that you understand and respect her feelings. You may have already said things like, “You’re overacting,” “It’s no big deal,” “I couldn’t help it”, or “It’s not like I’m leaving you for her.”

      These aren’t an acknowledgement of your wife’s feelings or a demonstration of your understanding for the need to change. You need to let her know you recognize the disrespect she feels and that you will make a change.

    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.

    Hopefully, this gives some understanding as to why men look at other women and how that habit can be broken.

    What To Take Away

    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.

    Looking openly at other women can make your wife or girlfriend feel,

    • Invisible

    • Unattractive

    • Not enough

    • Like you’d rather be with someone else

    None of these should be how you want someone you love to feel. And these feelings can turn into a very big deal.

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    If your attention to other women has become a problem, then make a point to,

    • Recognize and evaluate your own behavior.

    • Talk to your wife or girlfriend and express your love, respect, and intention to change.

    • Make the needed changes.

    Realize that looking at other women will cause problems in your relationship. Changing this 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 on August 09, 2014, January 15, 2019, and now again for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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