Jessica is jealous and furious. She and her boyfriend, Todd, are out having dinner together at their favorite restaurant. Yet, again, Jessica notices that Todd is starting at every attractive woman that passes by their table. This is a busy, trendy restaurant, so that’s a lot!
From her perspective, Todd isn’t even trying to hide the fact that he’s checking out other women. When he craned his neck to watch the backside of a good-looking woman walk by, Jessica can’t take it any longer.
She throws her drink in his face, grabs her purse and storms out of the restaurant. When Todd calls Jessica later that night, he is angry. He tells her that she’s making a “big deal out of nothing.” As usual, Todd reminds her that he’s never cheated on her and that looking at other women is completely harmless.
If you’re a woman who is in a love relationship or marriage with a man who tends to stare at other women, you’d probably agree with Jessica that this is NOT a completely harmless behavior. While it’s true that checking out an attractive woman is vastly different than cheating, there is an effect…and it’s not beneficial to connection and trust.
When your man stares at other women, you may try to keep your cool and pretend that it doesn’t bother you. If this is your usual reaction, good luck keeping that up!
Or, you might try to talk with him about this. You may have already asked him to stop the behavior and he may have even agreed to, but he hasn’t kept his word. Like Todd, your man may have brushed away your concerns (and your feelings), called you jealous and become defensive.
If you’re bothered that your partner is staring at other women, escalating your criticisms of his behavior is probably not working. Quietly fuming about it isn’t helpful to you or your relationship
Before we offer you communication advice for what you could say when he’s staring at other women, we encourage you to do this first…
Stop the stories and get clear about what’s true.
If your partner has a history of checking out other women, you’re possibly expecting him to keep doing this. You may also have a big story already firmly planted in your mind about why he does this and what it means.
Some– or none– of that story may be true.
Before you say or do anything at all, notice what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. Pay attention to what you might be telling yourself in an attempt to understand his behavior and then get really clear about what’s your story and what’s actually going on.
It may be that, this time, he was not actually staring at other women. Perhaps he truly was looking at the game on the tv above the bar. Maybe he was searching for your server so that he could order an appetizer.
Maybe and maybe not.
If there’s a question in your mind about what he actually was doing, acknowledge that to yourself. Really hone in on what you can reliably know about what he was doing and pay special attention to how you feel about it.
Now, you’re ready to communicate about your man staring at other women, here are 3 “Magic Words” phrases we suggest…
#1: “I’d like to connect with you.”
Believe it or not, you don’t even have to make an accusation like, “I see you checking her out!” in order to change the situation. Focus in on what you really want– that could be to have a close and loving connection with your man.
If this is what you really want, let him know that without pointing out how he is to blame for what you believe you don’t have.
This is NOT letting him “off the hook.” What a statement like this does is to communicate to your partner that he’s important to you and that you’d like to check in with him. It can re-direct his attention back to you. From there, you two can engage in whatever conversation or activity you were doing before.
#2: “I feel ignored and rejected when you stare at other women.”
“I feel” statements are powerful ways to address a troubling situation without putting the other person on the defensive. You are taking ownership for how you feel and you place your feelings in the context of his behaviors.
Let’s be clear that nobody– not even your man– can make you feel any particular way. You feel how you feel largely because of your thoughts, beliefs and perceptions. This doesn’t mean that it’s okay for your partner to ogle other women, either.
Let him know that you have feelings that come up when he acts in certain ways. A statement like this can open the door to how you two can work together so that you BOTH feel fulfilled in your relationship.
#3: “I think she’s pretty too. Now, can I have your attention so that we can return to our date?”
This third possible statement is one that acknowledges what’s going on (from your perspective) and then re-focuses both of you on what your true priority is– your date, your dinner together, your conversation and each other.
You know, some people are absolutely gorgeous. This doesn’t mean that you’re not attractive, that you have to compete with someone who looks like a model or that your man thinks that you’re ugly and wants to have an affair*.
It could mean that this woman caught your man’s eye for some reason. You don’t have to make it more than what it is. Just recognize out loud what you see is happening and let him know that you’re interested in engaging with him.
Make sure that whatever you choose to say feels genuine to you and, if at all possible, speak in ways that encourage openness and honesty. Try words like these and see what happens.
*If you see red flags or signs that your partner IS having an affair, don’t ignore them. Be wise and rely on tangible evidence to decide what’s really going on. Go here to see how…