Among the many things that can ignite a heated discussion on an otherwise peaceful day is the issue of the ‘wandering eye’. Our make-believe couple, Jim and Heather, are walking down the street hand in hand on a Saturday afternoon. As Heather is talking about the various things that went on during the week Jim turns his head to take an extended look at the pretty girl who just walked by. Heather catches him, Jim denies it and next thing you know Jim’s wandering eye has just earned him Heather’s cold shoulder.
Before I say anything I would like to preface it with the statement that I do not believe in stereotypes. I firmly believe that for every ‘generality’ that applies to either sex there are many people who do not fall into those same generalities. However, as a whole, there are some basic differences between men and women that apply to the majority. If this were not the case then men and women would not have so many challenges facing them trying to understand each other in a relationship.
One of these differences is in the area of ‘initial attraction’. Again, generally speaking, most women are initially attracted to their perception of who a man is, rather than what he looks like. The two are obviously tied together since she appraises what a man ‘is all about’ at first by the type of clothes he wears, the condition of his car, his speech, mannerisms, job, hobbies, etc. But it is not so much his physical ‘appearance’, but his physical ‘presence’ that she is interested in. “Does he seem responsible? Is he a flake? Is he a goal-oriented, independent individual? Is he a total loser?” These are the sort of first impressions many, though not all, women are seeking out when they find their curiosity peaked about a new man.
Men, however, are not quite so involved or complicated when it comes to that first ‘initial attraction’. I have known many, many a scoundrel and almost as many good-hearted, moral men but one thing I have found to be a common denominator amongst all from the most upright of men to the committed heathen of lowest grade… they are all at a weakness when it comes to noticing a woman’s body. This is so true that it strikes me strangely ironic that women spend so much time picking out what shoes to wear when it is not shoes that attract a man’s attention. (Personally I think it is other women they are worried about, but that’s another issue.) No, instead the first impression being surmised by most men is that of physical appearance. The old ‘bust-waist-hip’ formula along with a particular man’s fancy are the first things he will find himself entranced by when a woman with those parameters passes his way.
Now, the thing to keep in mind is that these are only the ‘initial’, first, things we tend to notice. This is not how normal, healthy people make sound decisions about relationships from beginning to end. The items mentioned are only our basic ‘instinctual’ responses. With time a responsible woman will investigate a man’s personality and heart aside from whether his car is waxed or not. And likewise a responsible man will take the time to see whether personality and heart are present in a woman aside from whether or not she appears to be the ‘ideal dream girl’ he’s been seeking since puberty.
With these premises in mind, let’s return to the issue of the ‘wandering eye’. Yes, it is true most men have this habitual instinct that infuriates the average woman. But this does not let the man off the hook or give him license to disrespect his girlfriend or spouse with such behavior. Meanwhile, even though a woman has every right to feel offended by such behavior, it would be unreasonable to expect a man to never again notice a cute girl that passes into his line of vision.
So where then do we find some working rule-of-thumb that takes each side’s perspective into account? On a woman’s side, she needs to talk to her spouse/boyfriend at a time when she has his undivided attention. Let him know that you are offended and ask him how he’d feel if you spent time alone talking to other men she might find attractive. I say this because if you ask him, “How would you like it if I looked at other men?”, chances are this won’t phase him in the least. Most observant men know it is not the guy who -looks- at his girlfriend he needs to worry about, it’s the guy who gets his girlfriend’s ear that he has to worry about. (Remember, a man’s imagination is stirred by what he ‘sees’. A woman’s imagination is stirred by what she hears, or perceives.) After making your feelings known it comes down to what sort of man you have on your hands. The type who will just make excuses for himself or the type who will hear what you’re saying and try to curb his behavior for your benefit.
As to the man’s side.. I know what you’re thinking. “It’s impossible! There’s no way I’ll never again notice some ‘babe’ walking in front of me.” Take a moment to look at the issue. Your girlfriend/spouse is upset not because she thinks you’re going to run down the sidewalk with some total stranger just because of large breasts. (But if you did, she’d count herself better off without you.) No, instead she’s offended because it is disrespectful of her in front of everyone else around you. She’s concerned about all those people nearby who are going to whisper, “I feel sorry for her.. look at how her boyfriend is drooling over every other girl but her.” Even when I’m with a “friend who is a girl, but not my girlfriend” they are apt to feel that same insecurity, even though I’m not in a relationship with them.
Instead, men, you have a two-phase plan to carry out unless you really DO want to hear your girlfriend/spouse give you this lecture every time you go out. First phase is ‘notice, but don’t dwell’. Spend the same amount of nanoseconds looking at that gorgeous woman as you would spend looking at some fat guy with a bad haircut. And then look somewhere else. If there’s a plethora of women around, such as at the beach, then look at your girlfriend while she’s talking to you. (This earns you points in her favor by the way.) Yes, you’re just pretending you don’t want to look.. but with your girlfriend/spouse they aren’t interested in whether you -want- to look (they already know that much).. they are interested in whether or not you are going to -actually- look. By ‘notice, but don’t dwell’ what I mean is a simple “no second look and no single long fixation”. It’s the second look and long look that are getting you into trouble. Excuses and denial won’t get you anywhere with your girlfriend/spouse.. so don’t even think you can talk your way out of it if you keep it up.
Second phase is more pro-active. Almost extra-credit. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of excuses you might say. Knowing that you are naturally drawn to notice attractive women (hence they are called ‘attractive’, for they ‘attract’ you, do they not?)… next time it is obvious to you and your spouse that there is one of these ‘eye-targets’ in view, maneuver you body in such a way that it is obvious to your girlfriend you are not looking. Subtle, but effective. It may take a while before your significant other realizes you really are trying your best, which is about all you can do. Some women are more sensitive about this than others. My girlfriend and I have talked openly about this issue before and she knows it’s normal that I would ‘notice’ a woman (or any person for that matter) without having to ‘dwell’ or fixate about it.
A closing note about the tension this issue often brings up. It is normal for a woman to feel offended and make her feelings known when she catches you ‘eye-groping’ some other woman. But when this same argument is used when you are simply conversing with a female friend from work, or other acquaintance, then it may be worth looking into the ‘Jealosy’ article written previously.
All in all it must be remembered that you can show your love for your girlfriend/spouse not only by getting her flowers, leaving her little notes in her purse and such.. but also by also by putting in some effort to curb this natural habit most men have which bothers her more than you might imagine. By doing so you’ve again told her you love her by your actions and not just your words. For those who insist on ignoring or excusing themselves from the issue it will only be a matter of short time before it becomes yet another brick in the wall that can divide you from your mate.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.