Wandering Eye: Problem or Just Part of Being a Guy?

A reader writes…

Hi Dave. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me your thoughts on men staring and making other women feel special by asking them questions, complimenting them, and giving them lots of attention when they are married. My husband does this and it has been an ongoing struggle and source of deep pain for me that is ultimately eroding our marriage. He seems to justify it by saying he is not touching or doing anything wrong and that he is just enjoying the beauty around him and that he is being a typical man. Can you give me your thoughts on this and any words of advice on how to handle this to save our marriage. It would be soooooooo appreciated! Thanks for any words of wisdom you may have!

I think the answer to this is quite simple: if you tell your husband that it upsets you and he still does it, you’ve got a problem. He’s got a problem too, but it doesn’t bode well for your marriage, as you suggest.

sexy woman looking over shoulderHaving said that, I think some people are naturally more extroverted than others and if you are a social person, you’ll naturally chat up other people and be friendly, whether they’re male, female, attractive, unattractive, whatever. If you narrow that down and are only interested in talking with “potentials”, people who you would want to ask out on a date if you weren’t in a relationship, well, it’s pretty self-evident that it’s a problematic behavior, I think!

The thing of it is, though, is that I believe that if you’re married, there’s no relationship that should be more important than the one between you and your spouse, so if they ask you to do or not do something and it’s not unreasonable or manipulative, then your desire to make your partner happy should trump any other motivation you may have. If it’s your job — like a cocktail waitress who has to flirt to maximize her tips — then it’s not quite the same, but that’s not what you’re describing in this situation either.

Your husband talking to other women is no big deal. Complimenting them and giving them lots of attention sounds like something between flirting and courting them, and it’s clearly inappropriate if your relationship is monogamous. When you ask him why he does this, what’s his explanation? Need for attention? Desire to feel attractive / desirable / sexy / eligible by other women?  The answer “what’s the big deal?” doesn’t cut it, and if he doesn’t know why he’s doing it, well, maybe that’s something a marriage counselor could help you two with?

With all that in mind, I will admit that I feel like men are hardwired to keep an eye out for eligible women and I certainly am aware of attractive women who are in my field of view, even as I’m in a long-term relationship of my own. What I do once I see them, well, that’s something I can consciously decide and clearly it’s going to be a problem if I choose to chat them up or flirt with them. So to me the potential problem here is not that your husband notices attractive women — heck, you are probably quite aware when a handsome man walks into a room, aren’t you? — but that he then acts upon his base impulse to flirt with her and, more seriously, that he continues this behavior even after you’ve clearly told him you are upset when he does this and that you feel it’s hurtful to your relationship.


Good luck with this, I think it’s going to be a tricky situation to resolve.

6 comments on “Wandering Eye: Problem or Just Part of Being a Guy?

  1. ‘Attractive’ is an interesting term. In almost everything we know, if something is ‘attractive’, it draws other things in.

    A magnet ‘attracts’ metals and the stronger the magnet, the stronger the attraction.

    I don’t think it’s a problem noticing beautiful women, in fact, it’s difficult NOT to, depending on how ‘attractive’ they are and make themselves look.

    As you say, what really matters is how you react to that natural attraction. Allowing your eye to remain or even taking it further and starting to lavish attention and compliments on her is the wrong part.

    Great post. Dave! (Is that your spouse in the picture?)

  2. I agree we seem to be hardwired to look at women. I do it.

    Now doing something about it or fantasizing about taking action is something different.

    Repeated looking and not paying attention to your partner is a symptom of a deeper issues. I recommend addressing those issues.

  3. I think we need more information to determine if this is a problem. First of all, has he always done this or has it developed over the course of their marriage? Second, does he only do this with attractive women or does he chat up everyone that he encounters. If he has always been this way it seems to be part of his personality as an outgoing, social creature and to try to change that could be even more harmful to the marriage. However, if this has developed over the course of the marriage then that could indicate that there is a deeper problem in the marriage and he is reacting to the underlying problem. If that is the case, the wife needs to find out what the problem is and correct it in order to keep his attention on her instead of the other women. Thirdly, what is the reason that it bothers her so much? If he is not content at home with his wife then there are more problems going on then just his wandering eye. If that is the case those problems need to be addressed first. Nagging and whining about this behavior will not correct the problems at home, instead will cause more of a rift between them. If this is just part of his personality she would be better off learning to accept his behavior instead of trying to change it. If it is a reaction to problems at home then the real problem is not his “eyes” it is with his “heart” and that is a much more serious problem.

  4. Thanks everyone for your feedback! This is the girl who wrote that concern. I really appreciate it and especially how quick Dave responded to my concern. You know, its funny that I remember being the girl he was staring at in an odd, compulsive way when I first met him at a party. He was staring at me nonstop, almost creepy. I thought he was attractive, but was a bit creeped out by him. Then we met again and he no longer seemed creepy. He was a single father of three kids raising them on his own. Wife was not around (alcoholic in a different state). We dated for a year and a half. I fell in love with him and felt he was in love with me. However, even when things were at the hottest in the courting stages, I noticed he was still staring at women. I told him and almost broke up with him over it. He said he was not looking and fantasizing, just appreciating beauty and that I do it too. All my friend said, “Give the guy a break, he’s been single for 7 years, and just isn’t aware.” I remember sitting on a beach with him and his eyes nonstop following a young girl. I counted to him outloud how many times he looked over at her. Then I thought, “He can not stop. This is strange.” So then he came to visit my family in a different state and attended my sister-in-laws party. She is attractive and had an attractive, single friend with her. He kept complimenting her saying what a great friend she was as he noticed her helping my sister-in-law. He was asking her questions about her life, etc. So my sister-in-law later told me that her friend went into her room and said why is that guy giving me so much attention if he is engaged to her. I do not know why he would do this, because clearly she would not be a potential for him in the future due to different states, my sister-in-law good friend, etc. And he was doing this in front of me and saw nothing weird about it. Then my sister-in-law’s mother admitted she thought he had the wandering eye, too, and noticed him staring at the attractive guests. I was humiliated and talked to him about this. This happened when we were engaged and things were the hottest. A year after that, a young pretty student who helped walk his parents’ dog was over his parents house. As luck would have it, she was interning at the place he worked. So he says in front of everyone, including her boyfriend, Oh, Kelly, I went to visit you on your break, and everyone said you were gone. He said he just saw her as his parent’s friend. When asked if he wanted to be with her, he said she wouldn’t want me anyway so why worry. I was so disturbed by that response. One night he said her name in his sleep. We had countless fights over this girl and how it hurt me. You would think he would be on his best behavior around her, but instead still will chat with her, ask her questions, joke around with her, etc. She seems to love the attention as well. Last Saturday, we were at a restaurant and I noticed that he looked at least once at every girl with in a certain age and weight span. When he made eye-contact with one, he smiled graciously at her. It is wearing me out. What do you think he is getting out of this? Any ideas? So confused and exhausted!

  5. Suz,

    Look, I think you noticed this as a potential problem from the beginning, and although you complained and stated your feelings about it, you still enabled him and continued the relationship anyway. What I get from this is several possibilities but really you will never know unless he’s willing to come forward and admit it to you, which something tells me if you’re this deep into the relationship and marriage, if the truth hasn’t come out of his mouth by now, it most likely never will. How I feel about this is that maybe he feels like you secretly enjoy it and that’s why you stay, that because he exerts his dominance over you by looking and flirting with other women, and you still don’t leave, that maybe you stay put. If you are an attractive women yourself, and let’s say, out of his league if you compared the two of you up together- then maybe he’s playing you like a fiddle to keep you around by pushing your emotional triggers and you have no idea it’s happening. The truth is, men do crazy things to keep beautiful women around and asking for more. How would you be able to let him go, when you already know the minute you do, his eyes will be on the next lay? Maybe you have some kind of complex where you are so possessive or so against this happening, you stay in the relationship. If this is a feeling you are familiar with, if you do find yourself having a hard time with him accepting being with other women, now this is somewhat outside of the box but, quite possibly confront your fears head on. Maybe you should look into why the thought of him being with other women bother you so much, and if it’s because your relationship was solely built on a physical attraction, or love. A lot of the times when we have a physical love relationship, possessive and jealousy are attached to it. When the relationship is based on love, there’s trust that even if your partner did sleep with someone else, that your feelings do not change for each other. That it was all built up in your head anyway. Usually when it’s a love relationship, there’s more understanding that just because a man looks at another women or even flirts, that it doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. So what I really think this is telling you is to look within yourself to see what you need to conquer in yourself to improve this relationship. Is it really him that’s the problem, or is he just mirroring your own problems? Relationships present mirrors/reflections/lessons learned. There’s something to be learned from this, and there’s something you’re not willing to admit to yourself that you’re doing wrong here as well. Whether it’s staying in this relationship for the wrong reasons or making this a problem for the wrong reasons. Good luck.

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