In a secure relationship, it's OK to check out other people


December 01, 2007|By MARYANN JAMES

You're strolling down the street, hand in hand with your significant other, when a tasty treat walks past. What does your sweetie do? Does he put on blinders, keeping his eyes on the sidewalk? Or does he dare look?

According to a recent informal poll by Men's Health magazine, it depends:

53 percent of men will look;

28 percent said they will only look in extraordinary circumstances, or if they have sufficient cover (sunglasses anyone?); and

19 percent said they will keep their eyes to themselves.

Which behavior is appropriate?

I'm with the 53 percent. It's human nature to look. As long as you don't touch the merchandise, there's no problem. And you might as well be upfront about your wandering eye.

Dawnetta Jenkins, 27, agrees.

"You can still window shop," she says. The East Baltimore resident says that looking doesn't do any harm. Just because you like where you're at doesn't mean your mind can't ever-so-briefly ponder other possibilities, she says.

Damon Mosely of Northwest Baltimore says it's natural to look. And he freely admits that he does. But he's definitely part of the 28 percent.

"I know when I'm with my girl and I'm walking, I've got it down pat," he says. "I'm like a horse with the two things on the side, but I can see everything."

And Mosely says his girlfriend is mostly aware of it. One time, while driving, he noticed a particularly fetching pedestrian. "I tried to play it off," he says. But his woman was no fool. She turned around and asked him if he wanted a picture.

Most people tend to agree there's nothing wrong with looking. But there is a line that can be crossed.

"It's OK to glance, but don't stare in an obvious way," says Emily Arnold, 27, of Canton. "And definitely don't say it. That'd be disrespectful."

And if you feel that line has been crossed, what do you do?

Simply speak up, says New Jersey-based social psychologist Dr. Susan Newman. "If it upsets you, you should tell him," says the author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It and Mean It. "Politely say, `Don't do it, it upsets me.'"

But before you take that step, Newman says you should check yourself: Has he crossed the line, or are you being overly jealous?

"Jealousy can wreak havoc in a relationship," she says. "Before you say, `No, don't do this anymore, it really upsets me,' step back and say, `Am I being jealous for good cause?' "

She says women tend to be more susceptible to being hurt by wayward glances. Considering society's emphasis on women's looks and weight, there's nothing like seeing a tangible example of someone whom your beau could see as better than you.

And there are some events when you are definitely bound to only have eyes for your S.O.

Newman told the story of one couple, out to dinner with others for their anniversary. One of the diners in their party was an incredibly gorgeous woman. The whole table ended up concentrating on this beauty, she says, including the male half of the anniversary couple. He even angled his chair away from his partner to focus on the hottie.

"That's not the time," says Newman. "Celebrations, anniversaries, don't look around."

Special events aside, dealing with the wayward glance comes down to security in a relationship.

"If you feel secure, your significant other looking around is not going to bother you half as much as it will bother someone who isn't as secure," says Newman.

And I can't agree more. Commitment doesn't mean you stop noticing other good-looking people. It just means that you choose to be with this person, despite the other attractive people in the world. If you are happy with your choice and your S.O. feels secure, a look shouldn't rock your relationship. If anything, a look should only confirm it.

"If you're secure enough in your relationship, he can look and I can look. All you're doing is looking," says Jenkins. "If you want to keep staring and keep staring, you're just jeopardizing the relationship."

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