We all like a little bit of eye candy, but is it OK if you’re in a loving relationship to still fancy other women?
When reflecting on this remember that both Hollywood and the advertising industry spend millions of dollars on attractive men and women to entice us to buy their products. They know that men (and women too) can’t resist looking at beautiful people. The truth here is that it is simply not possible to stop noticing and fancying other people. The problems start with the significance people attach to such casual glances. Let me explain why.
I have worked with countless men who have been told by their girlfriends that they are ‘not allowed’ to fancy other women. This is like asking a man to stop growing a beard because it irritates her skin ... it’s not going to happen. The important point is the significance the woman attaches to the glance. Some women are extremely insecure about their partners, and often for good reason. If a girl’s family split as a child due to one parent’s infidelity, she has witnessed the pain of relationship and family breakdown at first hand, and often vows never to let that happen to her. Alternatively, she may have been cheated on in the past, and is hyper sensitive to any flirtatious glance from her fella aimed at other women.
Of course we need to be sensitive to our partner’s feelings; after all you wouldn’t want to hurt her. Neither should you feel that you are doing something despicable either. Continually monitoring your reactions to other women lest you inadvertently slip is no way to conduct your life. The best thing to do is pick a moment to quietly talk about your behaviour and its impact on her. Make the point that a quick glance is normal and natural, and it would be wrong of her to expect you to suppress it all the time. But above all, address her underlying insecurity about you and the relationship. With trust and open communication, in time, you will become more accepting of each other.
Some men, however, have unrealistic expectations of themselves. I’ve worked with a number of men, usually in their 30’s, who present with ‘relationship problems’. When we explore the relationships they have had we discover a string of healthy loving relationships. Each of which the man has terminated because ‘he still fancies other women’.
What is going on here is the man has formed a core belief in childhood that if he is with the right women, he will stop fancying other women. Of course this is completely unrealistic. He needs to change the core belief to something more realistic, like ‘I will continue to fancy other women, but this doesn’t pose a threat to my loving relationship because I will not act on it’.
At the other end of the spectrum are men with slightly obsessive natures. These men tend to think things like ‘having a bad thought makes me a bad person’, or that ‘if I have a thought I’m likely to act on it’. For these men, fancying other women is a source of great threat. Because their thinking is characterised by what therapists call ‘thought-action fusion’, they think ‘I fancy this women, therefore I want to have sex with her, and if I don’t control my thoughts, I will be helpless to stop it from happening’.
This is a more serious problem in that the underlying obsessive assumptions about thought and its relationship to behaviour need talking through in general. These men don’t usually only get upset by thoughts of fancying other women, but is part of a pattern of getting caught up in a whole range of ‘distressing’ thoughts.
Men, of course, don’t just notice attractive women, but notice attractive men too. For these men, for similar reasons to thought-action fusion described above, they become obsessed with the idea that they might be gay. Let me reassure these man, being able to spot an attractive man does not make you gay, anymore than spotting a good looking dog makes you into bestiality. Our brains seek out symmetrical healthy looking features in both men and women. The more ‘attractive’ a man or women is, the more likely we are to be positively disposed to them, and think positive things about them. This should not be confused with being gay. If you know this but are still concerned, you might need to talk your obsessive thoughts through with a therapist to give you peace of mind.
Finally, just because it’s normal and natural for the eye to notice attractive women, this doesn’t give you carte blanche to do as you see fit. Ogling other women is both intimidating to the woman, and potentially upsetting to your partner. You still need to be sensitive to other people’s feelings, take responsibility for your behaviour, and act in a socially responsible manner. If you can’t restrain yourself, you are well on the way to becoming a ‘dirty old man’, and you wouldn’t want anybody to think that of you either!
Dr Phil Tyson is a Men's Psychotherapist based in Manchester in the UK. He offers:
- Group therapy weekends for men in London and Manchester
- Beginners meditation weekend retreats for men in London and Manchester
- Counselling for men in Manchester
- Psychotherapy for men in Manchester
- Cognitive behavioural therapy for men in Manchester
- Telephone and online counselling for men wherever you live
- Mediation for conflict resolution at work in London
- Mediation for conflict resolution at work in Manchester and the North West
- Supervision and consulative support for therapists in Manchester