Can A Wandering Eye Strengthen Your Relationship?

A new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology indicates that dating someone with a wandering eye isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. Pressuring them not to look might lead to more problems than actually allowing them to look.

Researchers found:

Just as people want jobs they cannot have, salaries they cannot earn, and cars they cannot afford, people may desire attractive alternatives more and desire their current relationship partner less when they are placed in situations that limit their ability to attend to attractive alternatives.

The study also concluded that people who were prevented from gazing at attractive members of the opposite sex were actually more likely to remember them, not less. Read the study here. Has a wandering eye affected your relationship? How did you handle it?

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  1. 1

    I have no problem with a man admiring other women – so long as it’s not to the exclusion of me, and he doesn’t mind that I enjoy admiring other men!
    I appreciate many forms of art, particularly the sculpted variety… 😉

    And of course, forbidding some one from looking at certain “fruit” just makes the fruit more attractive/enticing.

    1. 1.1

      “…So long as it’s not to the exclusion of me” is the key point in this scenario. My ex-boyfriend would look at every piece of skin and pretty face around him, whether I was with him or not. But he hated giving me compliments, touching, hugging, kissing, cuddling, and having sex (erectile dysfunction). He thought I was being “needy” and didn’t think we had to “kiss each other’s as*es”. So every look he gave to another woman was like a compliment and admiration that she was getting instead of me. I felt like he valued his “right” to look at other women more than he valued me and our relationship… Ultimately we did not survive. I didn’t want to feel unappreciated and undervalued anymore. The wandering eye can ruin a relationship if the man doesn’t know how to love, respect, and value his lady properly.

  2. 2

    Just as people want jobs they cannot have, salaries they cannot earn, and cars they cannot afford, people may desire attractive alternatives more and desire their current relationship partner less when they are placed in situations that limit their ability to attend to attractive alternatives.”

    I don’t understand the premise of the research. Of course, in an exclusive relationship the my partner will not be able to have sexual interactions when someone else.

    So is the research comparing the attractiveness of others between exclusive and open relationships? But then I’m not going to turn my exclusive relationship into an open relationship just so that my girlfriend will be less attracted to other men. 

    I don’t see how one can practically implement the conclusions of this study.

    I also don’t see the analogies between the jobs, salaries, and cars with other men. Jobs you can’t have probably pay more than the job you currently have. A PhD will not get hired at McDonalds (overqualified) but nor will he covet a job there. Salaries you can’t have are often higher than the salary that you currently have. Again, no one will want a lower salary simply because it’s different from what they’re getting. Finally, the car you can’t is probably more expensive and faster. 

    In those situations, the reason people want what “they can’t have” is due to the fact that those things are better than what they currently have. It has nothing to do with the fact that those things are harder to get. 

    1. 2.1

      I don’t understand the premise either. Why would anybody be in a relationship if they were with someone they thought they were settling with?  I have had two relationships over the last 26 years and in both of those, I truly believed that I was with the best person for me and had no desire to ‘upgrade’.  It certainly makes moving on a lot harder when that feeling hangs around after the relationship is over.  I also wouldn’t want to be with someone who was settling for me and secretly think everytime they looked at somebody else that they wish they could have that.  My most recent ex was an incredibly wealthy and good looking man – he could have had that however, he made it clear he did not and that we fit perfectly.  There were other problems that surfaced in that relationship that I couldn’t put up with (drug use) so I had to leave but he never would have cheated even though he could have.  I also never find anyone else as attractive as the man I am with when I am in love.  Conventional good looks have never done it for me and as an academic I’m more turned on by brains.  I might have wanted a nicer car but I have never ever wanted a better man than the one I was with at the time.  I would not have been with them if I thought I could do better and (I believe) vice versa.

    2. 2.2
      Melena Miles

      I was thinking the same thing

  3. 3
    lux aeterna

    Wondering eye is one thing, what about men who have women throwing themselves at them? That was what I had with my ex. He was a musician, he had groupies. At first I thought it was quite sweet, and even flattering that so many women wanted my man. But eventually he succumbed to the temptation and never looked back.
    I think it matters a lot if a person feels they have had their bit of fun or not before getting into serious commitment. My man felt he hadn’t lived enough before he met me, and eventually had to ‘catch up’. I was powerless… I left, with a very sad heart.
    I don’t think there is anything wrong with a bit of ‘window shopping’ as long as you have trust, love and commitment. Trying to control someone and tell them what they can’t do is not cool in my book. I see a lot of couples where the woman is quite controlling, but some men seem to like that. I just don’t understand it.

    1. 3.1

      Hi  a very true observation..I have the same problem in my marriage..

  4. 4

    When I’ve asked a couple men I’ve dated if they were checking out another girl (and I could clearly see their eyes following after an attractive woman), usually I was met with denial or caused to feel like I was making too big a deal out of it.  I was hurt and usually would shut down at that point (not healthy I know) because it felt as though he was not worried about my feelings about the matter at all when he knew it bothered me.  The message I got was I’m clearly not enough because he has to look elsewhere to be stimulated or he’s bored with me.
    Whether it comes from my own insecurity or not, it bothers me if a man I’m dating is checking out other women especially if it’s glaringly in front of me.  Kudos to the women who don’t mind their men looking at other females.

  5. 5
    The InBetweener

    I think it depends on the TYPE of relationship you have with your partner. I know a lot of guys with low self esteem that would gladly gorgonize the opposite sex but at the same time, go into a conniption fit if they caught their partner doing the same. For those guys it should be a “what’s good for the goose” type of situation. If it’s an act that you would have a hard time handling, don’t practice it.
    I think it also depends on HOW its done. Is there really a tasteful way to do this without offending your partner? Probably. Maybe a quick glance out of the corner of your eye. Other than that it could be considered borderline disrespectful.

  6. 6

    We all look, it’s natural.  But there’s a differance between looking and gawking.  My definition of gawking is: When a person obviously bends his/her neck around in such a manner that the woman/man they are looking at is aware.
        The message I get from my boy gawking at another woman when I am by his side, is that he wants her to know that he’s checking her out almost to see if she would check him out in return.  It leaves me feeling embarrased and incompetent as his girl. 
    I think this article needs to clarify wether it’s looking or gawking and wether it is done in front of your significant other or not as to when it is helpful to your relationship.

  7. 7

    In a Christian marriage… it is considered an act of adultery to lust after someone other than your spouse… Just looking at another person and thinking about them lustfully…is considered adultery…
    I understand someone seeing a particularly striking person… noticing them…and then moving on…  Some people are just very attractive… or dress very attractive that they catch almost everyone’s eye! But it need never go beyond that..
    If a man or a woman in a committed relationship is lusting after others… there is a problem….

  8. 8

    P.S. The guy in the photo just might get his wine dumped in his lap…. He’s not even paying attention to the woman he’s with and looking at another woman…. I would expect that he would be livid if she did that to him!

  9. 9

    To me the situation is not so black and white. If a beautiful woman walks by and my partner stares at her butt as she passes, but then proceeds to fluidly continue our conversation without interruption (or minimally so), then no I don’t have a problem at all.
    On the other hand, of he stares unblinkingly at a woman at the table across from ours with drool leaking out of his mouth for twenty minutes and misses everything that I say to him during that time, then yes I have a problem. Not because I am some type of jealous/insecure/Blah Blah Blah person, but because I was raised to believe that it is rude to ignore a person that you are out with for an unreasonable amount of time.

  10. 10
    Andrea @ Busca Pareja

    It looks but it does not touch. I believe that looking is healthy, a great guard relation with our fantasies and we have to tint between two different things: sexual desire and love, the two are completely compatible inside the loyalty

  11. 11

    I dont mind if a date looks at other women if we do it together 🙂 it can be kind of fun hinting and teasing each other .
    BUT I hate the prolonged open stare up and down . I have felt totally EEEEEEEIIWWWW..when this happened with my date checking out women this way. I didnt pick him up on it , but my own lust button just seized into the off position.
    Nothing guaranteed to turn me off faster than knowing my man is lusting after a 20 something in a tight skirt.

  12. 12

    If a guy is gawking at another woman to the point of making me doubt the relationship, I would encourage him to go for it if that’s what he wants.  I’m not talking about a passing glance, which we all do when we see an attractive person.  If he truly has the wandering eye, I’m going encourage him to go pursue whatever it is that he wants and I’ll be free to find someone else who’s a little more sure about me.

  13. 13

    Speaking as a man who appreciates women, I think the article is leaving out the crucial issue of respect for the women in these couples. Just like nobody likes to be with someone taking phone calls in the middle of their conversation nobody likes someone ogling other people while they are with them.

    Checking other people out can be reserved from alone time and/or it can be done discretely.

    In my non-expert opinion the best way to convince a man of any of those things is to give him a dose of his own medicine. Check guys out, while in his company in the same manner as he checks women out. Be obvious. Maybe add a few “Dang”s and a few “Wow”s. When he balks remind him that it is okay and natural to check people out. Once things settle down let him know how he feels is how you feel when he is obvious about it when he is in your company.

  14. 14

    Someone who is  sharing a relationship with you,or wants to be, won’t ogle others or expect you to explain why you don’t want them ogling others.
    I have a basic rule with adults: I don’t need to explain simple acts of respect. I shouldn’t have to teach a grown adult about what is respectful behavior.

  15. 15

    Steve (#13) & The InBetweener (#5):
    I appreciate what you both had to say about this subject.  I’ve been in relationships where the guy is just down right glaring and ogling a chick up & down in my presence.  Not just a quick look either.  I treated my ex to an outdoor event one year to celebrate an occassion on his behalf.  I went to the restroom and when I returned to where we were standing, there was a chick standing and dancing in place, he was literally standing there about a foot away from her just staring at her as though there was nobody else around but the 2 of them.  Then, the entire day, EVERY single woman that came in our path, his eyes would buck out of his head and he would just stare.  The insulting thing about it was that I paid good money to treat him to treat him to this event and enjoy his company, and his attention was on every other woman in the place.  I also noticed that the other men around us were paying attention to the women they had come with.  I was so hurt, and angry and felt so disrespected.

    We argued about this ongoing issue for months to come, in his attempt to justify his behavior, he brought it up with several of his MALE friends.  They told him that he was being very disrespectful that his attention should be on me when we’re out together.  I agree, I love looking at gorgeous men too, but there’s a tactful way to do everything without making the person you’re with feel completely ignored and humilitated.  Not to mention that some men get a kick out of doing this and hurting your feelings and there are those woman who eat it up and find satisfaction in the fact that your man is paying more attention to them than you.

    Thank you Steve and The InBetweener.   It’s good to know that there are still men out there who know and understand how this makes us feel.

  16. 16

    I perfectly agree wiht Laine. I think it is just disrespectful behaviour. Most women do not appreciate that nor men. Easy… do it when you  are alone. When you are with somebody else you may seem desperate. Besides, you are supposed to pay attention to the person you are speaking with, letting yourself get involved in the conversation and enjoy.

    1. 16.1

      I don’t understand when people say they should ‘look when they’re alone’.  If you notice  the staring while he’s with you, wouldn’t it be worse when without you? So, basically, what we don’t know won’t hurt us.  And I just think that’s stepping over the disrespect and realization of how our guy really feels about us and the ‘commitment’.

      My man does this, he’s been talking about getting engaged, how much he loves me, etc., etc., but I’m seriously considering ending the relationship.  I don’t noticeably check out other men in his presence anymore than when I’m alone.  I desire and am attracted to him, so I don’t feel the need to gawk over any other man.  And I also think it’s BS saying because they’re ‘men’.  I believe if you’re really in love and respect your partner, man or woman, other people don’t phase you as much anymore to be gawking.  Noticing someone because you can’t help notice given that they’re walking towards you, ask you for directions, bump into you, or invade your space unintentionally, is a reason to notice someone, and they just may be an attractive someone.

      My man compliments me all the time, but when I observe his eyes wandering, it pretty much feels like empty compliments.  It doesn’t mean much to me anymore.  ‘Yea, it’s great you think I’m beautiful, but when your wandering eye thinks every other woman is beautiful too, and you notice a little bit too much, it begins to feel less impactful.  The ‘I love you’s’ and engagement talk start to make me step back now, rather than be excited.  Who wants to marry a man with a wandering eye?

      It’s a shame some of these men are not being present with the beautiful woman they’re with and the time they’re sharing together.  I don’t feel that it’s an insecurity thing on the woman’s part, but a feeling of not being appreciated or cherished.  It just feels shitty.

  17. 17

    Oh and RIGHT ON DEREK (#2) – The grass is not always greener on the other side.  The job might pay more, but is it worth the stress, etc.?  The car might be faster but is it worth constantly worring about getting pulled over for speeding, high maintenance bills, etc.?  Oh, speaking of high maintenance, she might be prettier, but . . . . . . . (fill in the blank).  And I agree, I’m not going to give my boyfriend the green light to disrespect and ignore me in public.  Just he would not like it if the tables were turned.

  18. 18

    From the article: “When a person is forced to divert his attention from that cute bartender — by, say, a jealous partner’s opprobrium — it could result in a sort of “backlash” effect, which may end up reducing his level of relationship commitment.”

    The backlash is an insecure, jealous partner is not attractive. Who’s hotter? The mysterious, attractive person who just walked by or the angry, hurt, jealous person beside you giving you a hard time and clearly threatened by a stranger.

    Confidence is hot. I would never let my guy know I felt insecure by his looking at another woman. If he does so obnoxiously, then I shouldn’t be with him. But if he’s a normal, devoted man who notices other women without making a specticle of himself, I sometimes, quite frankly, join in.

    Men feel as if they are getting away with something by stealing a peak and if they DO respect you, they TRY to steal a peak and not make it obvious. I, personally, think that the forbidden fruit’s stock goes up if the man feels he has to sneak or if he feels like his woman would be threatened.

    I think it takes a lot of the allure away from strange hottie to say, “wow, look what’s coming; she’s something, huh?” and go on with the convo without missing a beat.

    Now, you’re hotter because 1.) you pointed said-stranger out and gave him permission to look and 2.) are so confident that you don’t feel you have to manage his eyeballs for fear you’ll disappear.

    He may actually prefer a little jealousy sometimes and that’s exactly why he’ll never get it.

    Just my way of doin’ things…

  19. 19

    Men look. I don’t find a man that looks rude, as long as the look is a glance; however, if the man I am with leans out and follows a womans hip swing the length of a restaurant? I am inclined to do the same; maybe even shake my head and say “my, my, my”, as an attractive man walks past.  After all, fair is fair.  But the deciding factor, in a commited relationship, is who does my man come home to?  Is he faithful in every other way that matters?  If the answer is yes, he is faithful, then I do not have a problem with the occasion wandering eye, and don’t feel it is a threat to the relationship.

  20. 20

    I am not offended by my guy looking.  Its a natural reaction.  It would bother me though if he attempted to distance himself to look available or if he tries to make eye contact with the object of his attention.   Thats a clear red flag.

  21. 21
    Christie Hartman

    I enjoy looking at men, and I don’t mind if my guy looks at other women. However, having said that, there is a right way and a wrong way to look, as Steve (13) said. You have to be discreet, especially when with your partner. This is just common courtesy. If your partner notices you looking, you aren’t being discreet enough.
    I hunted down this study (the actual manuscript) and looked it over. Its basic message is that always looking isn’t good, but that being forced to NOT look isn’t good either. As the conclusion states “In conjunction with the current findings, the literature on attention to alternatives suggests that when inattention to alternatives is internally motivated, it leads to positive relationship processes; when inattention is externally motivated, however, it has the potential for undermining relationship success.”

  22. 22
    Karl R

    Christie Hartman said: (#21)
    “there is a right way and a wrong way to look,”

    In addition to how you look at others I think the way you look at your significant other can influence the situation.

    When we’re in private, I’ll stare at my fiancée in ways that would not be acceptable in public. When she got over her initial self-conciousness, she began to enjoy the blatantly obvious attention. It makes her feel attractive.

    Furthermore, if she notices me looking at another woman for several seconds, it does not resemble the way I stare at my fiancée.

    melie said: (#19)
    “But the deciding factor, in a commited relationship, is who does my man come home to?  Is he faithful in every other way that matters?”

    That’s the same standard my fiancée and I apply. We’re active in the local social dance community. We regularly dance and flirt with other people. I can’t imagine living with someone who was so insecure as to believe that she wasn’t good enough just because I was looking at another woman. (Nor could I imagine being that insecure myself.)

  23. 23

    Karl, I think you’re a genius.  If you pay your woman special attention that  can’t possibly be bestowed upon a passing stranger you teach her what is an acceptable (and inocuous) glace versus an overtly lustful one.  You have just made it acceptable to the woman to check out a passing hottie in public!  Hats off to you, sir!

  24. 24

    Thank you, Christine Hartman, for looking at the original study.  Those conclusions mirror the research that Barry Schwartz has done and chronicled in his book The Paradox of Choice.  The one of the primary theses of the book is that more choices are correlated with less happiness.  Based on reading Evan’s articles, I’m guessing that he would agree with Dr. Schwarz’s conclusions.  If you’re interested in learning more about it, you can find his short, 20-minute lecture on .  It’s excellent; I highly recommend his work.

    On a personal level, I would advocate paying close attention to your date’s eyes.  It’s one thing for someone to notice an attractive person.  Most people who are aesthetically aware pick up on attractive people and look at them.  However, when someone looks at another person for more than a couple of seconds, looks them up and down in an obvious way or tries to make eye contact, that is something different and crosses the line into flirting.  My own experience has shown me that most predictable clue to future cheating behavior was the wandering eye syndrome, which showed up very early in my dates.  In other words, the worst cheaters that I have been involved with were also the worst ogglers and demonstrated this behavior early in the relationship. Even if he (or she) doesn’t think it is a problem, I encourage you to honor your own intuition and believe yourself first and foremost.  It is not necessary to make a federal case out of it; after all, if your date is doing it in front of you, that is something that they don’t see as a problem and it likely won’t change their opinion if you call it to their attention.  I recommend setting a deadline and then deciding if this is something you want to live with for the rest of your relationship and then act accordingly.  You can’t turn back the clock (i.e. it’s a lot easier to break it off three weeks into the relationship versus three years into the relationship), so it’s best to think about this kind of behavior early into your relationship, in my opinion.

    I really like what Laine said:

    “Someone who is  sharing a relationship with you,or wants to be, won’t ogle others or expect you to explain why you don’t want them ogling others.

    I have a basic rule with adults: I don’t need to explain simple acts of respect. I shouldn’t have to teach a grown adult about what is respectful behavior.

    That’s one that is going to go up on my wall!

  25. 25

    I just want to be with a guy that is into me and when he is with me, he focuses his attention on me. I don’t think that’s asking for much. 

    I’ve been with boyfriend’s that oggled other women in public and it builds something up between me and my guy. I feel less close to him and desire less to be close to him.

    I’ve been out in public and noticed other men oggle me while with their own girlfriends or wives and i felt bad. Especially when it’s older men out with their wives and families. That’s especially crappy.

    1. 25.1

      And I want a girl who’s into me COMPLETELY and don’t even stare at other men who may even have six packs and what not even when no one’s around especially me and simply puts NO THOUGHTS into it. A real faithful girl and I am willing to do the same for her by being into her completely and not giving even any thoughts about other women. I don’t know if such persons exist but if I can’t have such, I don’t need one. call me insecure,jealous or tell me that I’m over reacting and I don’t mind. but it hurts when she does that to you and I would never like to hurt her like that. faithfulness mean something else to me apparently. I’m too jealous to allow even a ‘molecular’ fraction of her desires,love,attention and lust to ANY other men.

  26. 26

    While on a date, no ogling, gawking, looking, at other people. 

  27. 27
    Kate Candy

    You know what?  If your guy looking at another woman bothers you, tell him, and if he’s into you, he’ll stop.  It bothers me and once upon a time, I was so intent on being “cool” that I didn’t mention it when my boyfriend ogled another girl, but not so deep down, i felt crushed, and I let the crushed feeling simmer and stew and I think it broke my heart a little.  Later, in another relationship, I had been betrayed (who hasn’t been), and I was feeling fragile in my new relationship.  The new guy let his eyes follow a woman walking across the room.  I said, “I’m fragile because that guy I used to date who ran off with that other woman used to look at women all the time and now it really bothers me, and I know this is crazy, but could you just not look at other women, for like four months.  And if you do that, I promise I’ll try to get over this.”  And he just stared at me.  I thought, “Oh, no. I am the psycho chick of urban legend.”  Then my new guy….nodded.  And he really made an attempt to keep his eyes on me.  Sometimes girls would walk by who were dressed provocatively and I would think, “Okay, go ahead, I’d look if I were you,” but he wouldn’t.  I could almost hear the gears on his eyeballs grinding as he made an effort not to look.  I think this is the key to relationships: if they like you, you can pretty much ask for what you want.  Not in a bitchy, princess what-I-deserve-way, but just acknowledging your basic humanity and vulnerability.  And, in response, the guy will understand and make an effort.

    1. 27.1

      I see your way as the best way to deal with the situation – I just wish I could do the same, but I doubt.  Maybe this is why I am still single

  28. 28

    The way I like to handle this whole issue is to make people-watching an illicit “hobby” that we share within the relationship that draws us together, a sort of naughty secret. Like travellers on a big game safari, I make a point of pointing out amazing looking people – and downright weird looking people – wherever we go. So I might lean across the table in a bar and whisper to my partner “amazing boobs at 3’o clock!” or “don’t look now, guy at the bar with incredible ears”. Or I might come back from the bathroom and say “there is this absolutely STUNNING looking waiter across the other side of the restaurant” like someone reporting on seeing a comet or some other news worthy event. This gives a guy permission to share his own “sightings” with me and we are then in it together, gawping and giggling rather than it being something that divides us. By pointing out amazing looking women before he does, it kind of takes the heat out of the situation, gives him permission to look and makes his oggling a pleasure that we share share (like looking at porn together!) rather than something that divides us.

  29. 29

    Helene #28, Exactly!

    But that can only be done if the relationship is strong to begin with and respect and admiration for each other is in place making each other feel like #1 always.

    1. 29.1
      Wondering because of Wandering

      Gem #29, Exactly!  “But that can only be done if the relationship is strong to begin with and respect and admiration for each other is in place making each other feel like #1 always.”
      My guy has a tendency to rove his eyes everywhere but me at least half the time we are together including when we are alone.  He says he wants a monogamous relationship with me and says he loves me, we talk every day for 2 hours about life, and spend at least 3 nights together since we met.  I have been with him for more than a year and he gets extremely jealous if I happen to look at an attractive man and broods about it for days.  I believe he has intimacy issues and finds it hard to look at me in the eye but finds it easy to check out other gals body parts.  He has been married 3 times and  has cheated on some of his past relationships and blames his former alcohol abuse for the reason. 
      I am beginning to recognize he has some inconsiderate, disrespectful and immature characteristics remaining to be mended.  His behavior leaves me feeling awkward and questioning my own vibrant beauty and personality at times.  Generally with dates, I am the center of attention and they fill me with compliments.  This guy DOESN’T seem interested in me but swears he is but his actions are different than what comes out of his mouth leading me to believe he is not happy, making me not happy.  I wish more than anything our relationship was strong with the respect and admiration necessary to withstand ‘normal’ wandering eyes.  If it were, I would be turned on a bit knowing he knew I was fabulous and amazing and the gal he was noticing was fabulous and amazing too! 

  30. 30

    That is a very interesting post. Normally i do NOT allow my man to see other girls while he is with me. Call me paranoid, but i just felt a sense of insecurity .

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