How can I deal better with my husband eyeing other women?
March 7, 2016 10:07 AM   Subscribe

My spouse sometimes eyes other women, almost always the same "type." I find this absolutely gutting, especially since I don't fit that type. How can I deal with it better? Snowflakes below the fold.

I have heard over and over that men are more visual and will often eye other women, even when they're in happy and committed relationships. My spouse tends to eye women that are his "type," petite, feminine brunettes and east asians. He doesn't ogle or stare at their breasts or bum, he doesn't flirt or try to chat, but they are the ones that always catch his eye, just enough that his glance lingers a bit longer on them than on anything else. Once or twice when we were at parties and talked to someone who fits his type, his eyes light up and he is more friendly and joking with them. I wouldn't say it is flirting, but it cuts me to the core to see him so excited to be engaging with this woman.

We have been married for two years, and together three years before that. His prior partners sometimes fit this type but others didn't. We are great friends and love each other very much and have a companionable and happy relationship overall. We are married, and that was a commitment that he wanted. Our sex life is okay, but I am the one who initiates more. I can't help but think that if I were a petite, feminine brunette like the ones that catch his eye, he would want more sex with me. I first noticed him checking out this type of woman a few months into our dating and it has continued at about the same frequency and intensity since then.

When it happens, I feel crushed for hours afterwards. He notices but doesn't make the connection, which makes me think it is something he is not conscious of. I don't want to be the mind police and don't expect him to never look at another woman but I don't know how to deal better with it. I have tried not looking at him, or looking down when I see his type coming, and even commenting when I see a cute girl that is his type. I have even tried looking at handsome men but it doesn't seem to make anything better.

We talked about him looking at other women once several years ago, and I told him I thought it was normal, but it was still hurtful because it is always the same type of women. He denied having this type, but I think it is also a conversation that is hard to have and I don't think he would be truthful, no matter how much we are otherwise honest with each other. (Yes, honey, I am more attracted to women that look nothing like you.) He has told me that he is attracted to me and enjoys the sex that we have.

I want to know if it seems irrational for me to be jealous and be so hurt? How can I deal with this better? How can I talk to my husband, or should I? Again, I don't expect him to never look at beautiful women, but as this keeps going on for 5+ years, I wonder if it is a deep fault that will eventually erode our relationship, or if it is something that we can work around.
posted by pocksuppetteer to Human Relations (42 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It sounds less about what he's doing in the context of these other women, and more about what he does within the context of your marriage. The thing I would want to discuss (were I your therapist, which I am not, and neither am I a therapist) would be how he can make you feel more special, more appreciated, more sexy, so that when other women catch his eye, there isn't anything to it, because you know his feelings about you.
posted by xingcat at 10:15 AM on March 7, 2016 [30 favorites]

Best answer: You are also his type. You are the type he marries.

I believe that if analyzed it would be clear why there are many good reasons why he appreciates your type, and you would probably understand and be pleased with those reasons.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:17 AM on March 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer:
I want to know if it seems irrational for me to be jealous and be so hurt?

You feel how you feel. He looks, that makes you feel weird or bad. At the same time, having this ruin your next several hours is firmly in that "That's you" camp. So I think you can do a few things that will make this a little less of a gut punch than it is right now.

1. Have a conversation with him that it's hurtful for you when he checks out specific other women and move forward to find a new way for the two of you concerning those interactions of his. I mean you'll need to see how he responds (from "I don't do that!" to "Oh sorry I will work on that") bu t in short I'd stay away from "you have a type" (doesn't matter really) to "You check out other women when you are with me and that is rude"

2. work on your sex life completely and totally separate form this if that is a concern you have. His non-intitiating is a different thing from him checking women out, most likely, and you won't know unless you want to be the mind police which you say you don't. So deal with that issue on its own.

3. Work on your own responses. Again, if something makes you feel bad, then you feel bad and that is fine. Nursing these hurts or having them linger for hours is something that is worth working on because it's on the far end of normal. it's still normal-for-you but probably something that some mindfulness/therapy/something may be able to help you with so you don't have to live with that in your head.

In short, you have to reframe this not as "he is doing this to me" sort of phrasing and find ways to untangle to tangled issues and then work with him on the things that are you+him issues and work on your self on the things that are mostly just in your own head. Whether you are or are not something you perceive of as "his type" I concur, he married you so you are also his type. Don't make this into a bigger deal than it needs to be or sideline other marriage issues because you've decided this is the kernel of the issue.
posted by jessamyn at 10:19 AM on March 7, 2016 [18 favorites]

I know that my eye (and just my eye) seems to be most drawn to women who are the opposite of the person I'm sleeping with in some way. It's just the naughty part of the brain seeking out variety of images.
If he is like most men, he has a lot of "types" that he finds attractive, and you also fit into one of them (big time) or you wouldn't be together.
Really, looking just mean he looked at her, but he prefers you.
posted by w0mbat at 10:21 AM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Years before we met, my husband worked as a piano player on a cruise ship for a few years. All of his ex-girlfriends from that time were dancers; beautiful women with curves and perfectly styled hair and makeup, and of course, very talented performers.

I am petite, small-breasted, not very adept at makeup application, and while I enjoy dancing it is not something anyone would ever say I am good at.

It drove me crazy to know that my husband had been attracted to women who physically are so much different than I am. But you know what? He didn't marry them. He married me.

I think it's one thing to know that it's perfectly natural for men to look at other women; I think the danger is when you analyze the particular women he's looking at and then read a different level into it. If I didn't know my husband had dated women who had that particular body type, I would probably just assume he was checking out attractive women; knowing that he was looking at women who looked like those he had previously dated and slept with turned my thinking to a new direction. I would assume he was also thinking about his previous sex life or experiences. But really, honestly, even if he was? It doesn't matter - I know he loves me and finds me attractive and is with me for the long term.

If you husband is otherwise giving you no indication that he's unhappy or looking to actually be with these other women, try to refocus your thinking. Or, tell him how his wandering eye makes you feel and ask him to give you assurance of his attraction to you. This might make you feel vulnerable, but as your partner I hope he'd be able to comply.
posted by DuckGirl at 10:39 AM on March 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

Best answer: they are the ones that always catch his eye, just enough that his glance lingers a bit longer on them than on anything else.

I have to say, this is your perception, and it may be correct, but it is normal, healthy and perfectly OK. He is not cheating on you. He is just looking. I think this happens in many, probably most marriages. I've been looking for 43 years, pretty much the way you describe. My wife looks, herself. We are open about it to each other, but don't act on it. I know other couples who do this as well. It's in the same category as looking at and appreciating other parts of the world around us.

I don't want to be the mind police and don't expect him to never look at another woman but I don't know how to deal better with it.

Clearly, it is nagging at you. But I think it is you that needs to change, more so than him. A frank discussion could help you to understand and live with it. If that doesn't work, maybe some form of counseling — again, more for you than for him.
posted by beagle at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have a wide range of physical features I'm attracted to, but I definitely have a 'type' I prefer more than others. However, much, much more important is personality, compatibility, how she relates to me, and how our relationship is. I would not for one second consider my LTR partner lesser or not as good if she was not "my physical type".

From your description, it does not sound like he is being malicious or trying to hurt you. It does not sound like he is trying to cheat, either. He sounds fairly oblivious to the extent of your hurt, honestly.

So. You can talk to him about the feelings it causes.... but in this particular case, I'd recommend working on you. I would honestly label "Absolutely gutted and crushed for hours" as a somewhat extreme reaction. Its not bad or wrong or means you are broken... but to me, it does speak to some underlying hurt. When he looks at his type, what do you feel? Fear, jealousy, insecurity? That he doesn't love you enough, or that you aren't good enough? If, for whatever reasons, you lack self confidence, self love, or a sense of security, this sounds like his looking is unconsciously pushing on your panic button. Some intense self examination, especially coupled with a few direct and intense therapy sessions, could help you understand what causes such a strong negative reaction in you.

One thing you can suggest for him, is ways he can show his passion for you. What do you like to feel loved? Long talks? Flowers? Candy? Dancing? More physical touch? Compliments?

How balanced is the sex initiation? 60/40 seems about average for most couples I know. Any ratio is acceptable as long as both partners are ok with it. Again, only you can decide what works for you, and what the current issues with the relationship are.

I think you should work on this, but I also think it is fixable :)
posted by Jacen at 10:46 AM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like you are interpreting his "eyeing" of other women as a rejection of you. It's not. A lot of people have a certain type they are attracted to, that doesn't mean they can't or don't find any other types attractive.

That being said, he ABSOLUTELY can control this behavior. Yes, it's normal to look at other people, but if he's consistently lingering on certain women, that's creepy and inappropriate. You can tell him that you've noticed he lingers, gawks, gapes, however you want to describe it, at petite brunettes and that you find it rude and disrespectful, and it makes you feel X. Perhaps you can then have a conversation about some of your insecurities. It's okay to feel uncomfortable with this behavior, but keeping it to yourself and letting it ruin your day is really counterproductive.

It's natural that someone is going to catch his eye every now and then, but I wonder if your state of high alert is throwing your data off. I can tell you that my husband stated once that he liked brunettes (I'm blonde.) I've never been out with him in public and felt despairing about the attractive brunette at the next table. He's too polite and nerdy to ever ogle someone, but if he ever did do that on a consistent basis, I'd be quick to let him know that I'm not okay with that for my sake and for the recipient of his male gaze.
posted by Sal and Richard at 10:46 AM on March 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: So I'm going to be a Debbie Downer. My dad has a type, athletic blondes. My mom is a curvy brunette. Someone actually commented to her after their marriage that they were surprised he ended up with her as she wasn't his type (yes, it was rude, but also honest.)

They got divorced and guess what, my step mom is an athletic blonde.

I mention this not to be mean or imply this is not fixable, but because I really hate seeing people tell the OP "ignore your feelings, they are crazy and irrational." I don't think so. Her feelings are telling her something. Sure, there's a chance she's irrational, and there's a chance she's 100% on target and her husband is actually pretty distant from her in other bigger ways as well, and she's in denial about that so choosing to frame it as just this "one teensy little problem."
posted by quincunx at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2016 [31 favorites]

I look at lots of people, and sometimes I scrutinize them carefully without thinking ONE positive thing about them. I will concede that your husband probably does find this type sexually attractive, but please do keep in mind that men are able (and much better able than women) to separate raw physical attraction from the other qualities they're looking for in a partner.

If he is a good partner to you, and treats you with compassion and respect, that should be enough to allay your concerns.
posted by Guinevere at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can absolutely talk to him about it, but I would work on framing it as "here's a thing my brain does" rather than "you are doing this to me". Often the conversation is enough to evaporate your concerns and make him a little more mindful to be careful how he treats other women he encounters (if you're noticing, they are also sometimes noticing).

Hopefully the two of you are comfortable having conversations about domestic processes and procedures like how to improve the way some chores get done, or errand management or remodeling ideas or whatever. I know that culturally a lot of us are raised to think sex is a secret even with the people we're having it with and everyone is supposed to read everyone else's minds, but if you can find a way to talk about sex with the frequency and mostly stress-less manner of who's going to cook which nights, you will have much better sex. You're inventing a reason for why he initiates the way he does that does not jibe with everything science and psychologists know about human sexuality, and if you were talking about it you would be able to know real reasons instead.

But additionally, if your husband's eyeballs moving is enough to crush you for hours to the point that he notices and does not care to ask why, that's a problem that's worth taking seriously. Therapy for you and therapy for him would be a traditional place to start, and then you can try some together if you still need some coaching in communication.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2016 [13 favorites]

Looking is normal IMO but looking WHILE YOU'RE STANDING RIGHT THERE is rude and disrespectful. Revisit with him sometime when you're not angry and feeling good about things. Or if you're feeling up to it, you can rib him: "sure, I'd do her," you say, or "I see you have a type, you old coot." (Or obviously the lines that work for y'all.) But humor is totally secondary to his NOT EYEING OTHER WOMEN IN FRONT OF YOU.
posted by 8603 at 11:06 AM on March 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

Your husband can check out certain women all he wants -- but it's fair to expect him not to do it when he's with you.

Start out by saying how you feel when he stares at these bodies."I feel hurt when I see you watching other women." Or, "You may not have realized, but just now you were looking at that woman for a very long moment; it makes me feel bad." (This second one may be better because it's about one instance.) He may make excuses or try to deflect in other ways -- because of course it's uncomfortable for him to hear that he's hurting your feelings. But keep coming back to your basic statements of how you feel when he is obvious about his admiration. Ask, "Would you be willing to stop doing that when I'm with you?"

Many men are able to keep themselves from ogling, even though ogling is natural. They probably had to train themselves. Appreciate that your husband has to break a long-standing habit -- when you notice he's staring, remind him calmly. Or maybe you two could have a code phrase that means, "Oops, you're doing it again."
posted by wryly at 11:12 AM on March 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I guess I'm in the minority, but I think it's wrong to ask someone not to LOOK at other people. If someone told me not to look at a certain type of man I feel like it would have the same effect as telling me "don't think about pink elephants." I mean, not to stare at other women, perhaps, but not to "let a glance linger"? Sounds like we're talking about less than 5 seconds of glancing here. I'd spend more time looking as I became aware I was doing it and processed the fact that you didn't want me to do it and I'd better find something else to look at and guiltily trying to figure out if you saw me glancing.

If you want more sex or enthusiasm in the bedroom, ask for that. But mainly I would work on your self esteem. I used to have terrible self esteem as a teenager, but now that I'm older and wiser, I have a great self esteem, and my new attitude about stuff like this is more like "if he wants someone different from me, he can leave me. His loss!" Because if you truly believed that he had no more than a passing-glance interest in these girls, that he had zero long term interest in a relationship with someone who looked like that, he could glance, and it wouldn't bother you to this extent, right? It's your belief that he doesn't find you attractive or that he secretly wants someone else for REAL that's the problem.

Side note but don't waste your time acting hurt and grouchy after something like this. I can 100% assure you he has NO idea what he did wrong if you don't tell him. Don't punish him passive aggressively - it's just unproductive misery. Imagine i.e. he sulked and acted sad about something for hours and refused to tell you why or said something cryptic like "you KNOW why." That would be maddening, right? You have to say directly "it may sound silly, but I saw you looking at that other woman/talking to that woman and I got jealous." He can't respond to your concerns unless he knows what's going on.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:27 AM on March 7, 2016 [34 favorites]

My husband used to do this. I asked him to stop. He stopped.

Men don't have an inalienable right to ogle women that can't even be questioned. And it doesn't mean something is wrong with you if you find it hurtful. Talk to your husband.
posted by hazyjane at 11:48 AM on March 7, 2016 [44 favorites]

In a past relationship I found wandering eyes to be quite difficult to cope with. I reacted quite similarly to you, in fact many aspects of your post remind me of that relationship. For me the jealously was a symptom of larger issues between us which included trust, general compatibility, and some deep rooted unhappiness on both sides.

Maybe you could look deeper and see if there's more going on that really points to deeper problems.
posted by toomanycurls at 11:55 AM on March 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

My husband tends to check out leggy blondes (I am neither) and any large breasts (and I'm not someone who has those either.) I know how attractive he finds me despite the fact that, like you, I don't fit these "types." So we tend to elbow each other and make a short comment.

I'd go in the direction that works best in your own relationship. I get the sense you haven't talked at all lately to your husband about this. If he responds well to finding out what bothers you, tell him this bothers you and see if you can agree on a signal, e.g. "Your type alert!" Or you could try an approach like mine, where you comment with him on the alternate "type" when they come into view.

I will tell you, though, that you have nothing to worry about as long as your own relationship is solid. My husband looks nothing like Liam Neeson or Alan Rickman, both of whom seemed very attractive to me in their younger days. He is still the one that makes my heart go pitter pat for real. I am sure if things are good with you two that's how your husband feels about you versus his ideal "type" too.
posted by bearwife at 11:55 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I want to know if it seems irrational for me to be jealous and be so hurt?

Yes, but it's what you're calling irrationality is negative description of how you're felling.

So it's not a bad or good thing, it just is. Don't beat yourself up about your feelings, that's the world's job :)

How can I deal with this better?

Stupid question, but do you WANT to deal better with this. There's a very specific dynamic going on here and you should stop and ask yourself if you're the one who needs to do anything here.

How can I talk to my husband, or should I?

Communication is always better in a relationship. Just tell him what you told us and go from there. Don't expect anything, just start a dialog with the person you've pledged your life to, see where it goes and work towards a resolution that leaves you both satisfied and feeling heard.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:56 AM on March 7, 2016

Best answer: A little thought experiment: if he was consistently "lingering" his gaze on women who DO look like you, how would you feel about it?

I suspect you would likely not feel any better; instead, you would be hunting for ways in which the other women looked like you but better, or looked like you but had some other more interesting thing.

If that's the case, then as people are saying, it's not about him having a "type" that isn't you, it's that for whatever reason, you don't trust that he loves and is committed to you. Maybe justifiably! It's impossible for any of us to know. Maybe he subtly undermines your self-esteem and this is one part of it. Maybe it is confirmation bias at work instead; you expect him to like other women better than you, so your brain finds evidence of it everywhere it looks.

You can absolutely tell him to stop staring or flirting. If he is in fact staring or flirting, you are allowed to call that what it is--you don't have to pretend to yourself or excuse him as "it's just him being engaged in the conversation" or whatever.

You can absolutely tell him that you need him to flirt with YOU. That you need him to demonstrate physical, sexual desire for you.

What you cannot do is make him do these things. So regardless of what happens, you would do well to start cultivating a little of the attitude that treehorn + bunny described so well.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:56 AM on March 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: If you talk to him, just make sure you're ready to actually have the discussion, and you know what your root concern is, and you're prepared to communicate it.

Otherwise, you're potentially kicking over a hornet's nest without a plan for what happens next.

"You were gawking at that other woman. It makes me feel bad when you do that."
"Why does it make you feel bad?"
"Because it is always the same type of women."
"And? Do you think I'm going to cheat on you?"

Better be ready to have a cogent and coherent discussion from that point forward.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:58 AM on March 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

When it happens, I feel crushed for hours afterwards. He notices but doesn't make the connection, which makes me think it is something he is not conscious of. I don't want to be the mind police and don't expect him to never look at another woman but I don't know how to deal better with it.

Your husband notices that something's up when this happens, so he presumably does want you to be happy. Talk to him. Your feelings are your cue. It sounds like you need to be able to say "hey, I'm having these feelings right now." Every time you don't say anything, you're holding onto a secret that is painful for you, and that pain may lessen if you can bring it up when it happens.
posted by aniola at 11:59 AM on March 7, 2016

Personally, I don't care what lights my husband's fire, as long as he brings it on home to me. I look at handsome men, get the tingles and get my man to help me with my, uh, urges. I think even rock stars married to super models look. Looking, and even chatting and ohmigod, flirting at a party, isn't disloyalty or cheating in my book.
Therefore, I think you have to work on how you view yourself as a sexual, desirable woman--not by comparing yourself to the those who catch his eye, but by how you feel about your own self. Look at yourself clothed and naked--not to pick out flaws but to appreciate what makes you special. Trust me, it's not easy to turn off the voice in your head, but it can be done (I had a sexy photo taken a zillion years ago, and by so doing, I was willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, I could be considered hot. Worked for me.)
posted by Ideefixe at 12:26 PM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe I should add the reason that I thought of how I personally would feel if my partner told me not to look at other people is because I myself find that I have a habit of casting lingering glances at beautiful women (and there are certain types of women I personally find beautiful). Don't usually realize it until I find myself internally saying "uh oh, look away, you're staring!" Fortunately my husband isn't bothered by this despite the fact that these people I'm eyeing don't even have the same body parts he does, not to mention hair color. I don't think of other people when I'm in bed with him, and I have no interest in being in a relationship with anyone but him. I look at beautiful women the same way I look at adorable children, handsome men, beautiful landscapes, amazing pieces of art. Just find these things pleasing to the eye, and I'm very grateful that no one's reading anything deeper into it than that.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

Men are completely capable of not checking out women in public. Women have a right to exist in public without being ogled by men. Women in relationships have a right to feel secure in those relationships. The fact that there are so many people who treat this as though you're asking him not to breathe or blink is because of the patriarchy. Like it or not, heterosexual women are in many ways still impacted by the fact the men they date/marry have significant power over their access to resources (not just financially, but also in terms of monopolizing your best 'dateable' and child bearing years). Society tells women that their appearance and ability to attract a man are their greatest assets. Most women have had this explicitly or implicitly drilled into their heads for their whole lives -- that men will up and leave and go to a hotter, younger woman who doesn't demand anything of them and they'll be left alone and unloveable. I would posit that some of the hurt/jealousy you're feeling is because (a) he's failing to recognize this and (b) there really isn't an equivalent way for you to instill this panic in him -- it feels as though he alone holds the power to maintain or reject your relationship.

It is completely rational and OK to ask that he not ogle other women, it's the least he can do to help correct this aspect of the patriarchy -- if he says he's physically incapable of doing so, then maybe he should get therapy to work on changing his habits and thought processes. He is not only disrespecting you (by failing to acknowledge how gender uniquely affects this issue) he's also disrespecting the women he's checking out, most of whom probably are just attempting to go about their day without being objectified by random dudes.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:40 PM on March 7, 2016 [36 favorites]

I think that if you felt more desired by your husband, this would not bother you as much, and that is what you should ask for him to work on with you. My boyfriend can't always hide it when he sees someone who is very attractive to him. He'll comment when we are watching movies or TV about a woman who is particularly beautiful (he doesn't really do that in person, although sometimes I'll see a woman who is really beautiful and I'll comment and he might agree). He sometimes describes women he knows as attractive or beautiful. And he does have another type that is different from me. He is also attracted to lithe redheads with freckles and I am a curvy brunette.

I am not threatened by this at all. And it's not because I am a paragon of self confidence and self esteem with no problem managing and annihilating my insecurities.

It's because I feel loved, seen, adored and desired by my SO. It's isn't clear that you feel that way. You don't sound convinced that he does enjoy your sex life, even though he says he does. And you feel you have to initiate more. That will wear on how desirable one feels.

If I were you I would talk to him about this and ask him to work on it with you. I don't think your instincts are necessarily off. I think when you ask the question plainly "how can I deal with my husband looking at other women?" the answer is "work with your husband to feel more secure in his desire for you." I don't think that's too much to ask.

I think as SO's one of our most important jobs is in making sure that our partners feel loved and desired and seen. If my boyfriend is not feeling that from me, I want to do what I can to turn that around. And vice versa!
posted by pazazygeek at 12:50 PM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the great replies and honesty so far. I am popping by to clarify that my husband does not "ogle." He is not staring at breasts or cleavage or leering or looking women up and down, he's not turning his head or losing his train of thought or dropping our conversation. It really is just a very brief glance: like if you saw someone on the street with a silly feathered hat. You might stare 1 or 2 seconds more before deciding it is a hat and not a bird. I do believe that my noticing this is probably a function of my insecurity-driven confirmation bias.

I also appreciate the suggestions for how to talk more about opening up the conversation and improving my feelings of being desired. We generally have quite good communication but this is a tricky one to navigate.

Lastly I will add that when I feel crushed I very much keep it to myself. I am a bit quieter than usual (the fact that he notices is testament to our closeness I think) but not passive aggressive or aggressive aggressive. The fact that he doesn't make any connection makes me think that his looking is innocent or subconscious. (If he knew he was looking and it upset me I would anticipate he would act in a different manner and be more apologetic).
posted by pocksuppetteer at 1:03 PM on March 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

Our sex life is okay, but I am the one who initiates more. I can't help but think that if I were a petite, feminine brunette like the ones that catch his eye, he would want more sex with me.

...i think you buried the lede here. if your husband initiated more, if he were more engaged in the sex you do have (and i'd guess other physical forms of intimacy and approval that aren't automatically tied to sex) you wouldn't be as anxious about a second or two eye linger. part of your anxiety is stemming from the fact that he's not making you feel sexually secure in your relationship. i would try attacking the problem from that angle and seeing if you notice his glances less.
posted by nadawi at 1:31 PM on March 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

Amen melissaurus!

I just want to say, don't feel guilty or ashamed about this thing your husband does because of ridiculous gender stereotypes, like 'men are more visual' - so if a good looking man who happens to be a woman's type walks past, she wouldn't be 'visual' enough to stop and look?
posted by NatalieWood at 1:39 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

It really is just a very brief glance: like if you saw someone on the street with a silly feathered hat. You might stare 1 or 2 seconds more before deciding it is a hat and not a bird.

Everyone has their own boundaries. This, to me, is ogling. These women are presumably not wearing silly feathered hats that one must distinguish from a bird but are, instead, likely wearing things like pants or dresses - i.e., being normal people existing in public. What is he pausing to figure out? What is so difficult for him to parse about these women that he passes on the street that it takes an extra few seconds? Why are they treated any differently than men or than women who do not meet this bodytype?

I'd go with blunt honesty: "When you check out other women, particularly women of xyz bodytype, it makes be feel as though my body is in some way lacking. I am taking steps to work on my self esteem but I need you to take concrete steps to remove this behavior from your repertoire. I don't believe I am being unreasonable, but I understand that this may be a difficult task for you. This is a very important issue to me; I am more than willing to work this out with a marriage counselor because I think it is vital to the health of our relationship."
posted by melissasaurus at 1:42 PM on March 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

Wow, your husband looks up from his phone?

If your husband is personable, and friendly this may be his demeanor all the time, you just notice it more when you're out together and because you're keyed in on catching him doing it.

One time I was driving and a lady walked down the street, VERY tall and thin with ENORMOUS boobs. We both did a double-take because it was such an outlier of a traditional body-type. I said, "wow, I wonder if her back hurts." Husbunny said, "gosh, that doesn't look comfortable at all." Then we went back to talking about Eurovision.

People look, it's not meant to hurt you, or objectify them. Husbunny has a thing for Kate Bush. Pretty much my total body-opposite. I know for a fact that he thinks she's hot and sexy. I have a thing for Vincent D'Onofrio. He knows for a fact that I think he's hot and sexy. But we also know that it has no basis in reality and that we wouldn't trade each other for anything.

So where does the hurt feelings and insecurity come from. Zone in on that and work on it.

Looking at pretty people is what humans do.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:53 PM on March 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

I want to know if it seems irrational for me to be jealous and be so hurt? How can I deal with this better? How can I talk to my husband, or should I? Again, I don't expect him to never look at beautiful women, but as this keeps going on for 5+ years, I wonder if it is a deep fault that will eventually erode our relationship, or if it is something that we can work around.

First, he is human. We are all apes by the river, like in 2001. That stuff is programmed in. So you want to know how to deal with it. Your problem is not the standard jealousy that we all feel, which is a feature, not a bug. Your problem is dealing with the jealousy after you experience it.

I suggest you own that jealousy. Own it feel it and feel hurt by it. Then let it go until it comes back.

But whomever said that you buried the lede with your comment about the fact that you initiate more is exactly right. You feel like your husband is more attracted to other women than you.

I am going to go against the grain here. You need to find your sexy and deploy it. You want more sex, be sexier. I don't know how much sexy you are deploying or what might be an issue, but there are things you can do. Exercise, posture, eye contact, flirting are all things that are easy to let go if you are in a relationship. I once let things go. Gained a lot of weight, got out of shape, dressed poorly. And the relationship was lost because of it in one sense. Now I worked to get more attractive and it is helping.

The key is find out what he finds sexy about you. I bet you already know this. Well highlight that as much as you can.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:37 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

So part of your problem stems from the feeling you don't think you're actually attractive to your husband, so your self-confidence is poor. Maybe work on that. Work on getting him to compliment you, and outright ogle you just for fun. When you feel confident, other women won't bother you as much.

My husband is quite athletic and has admitted he's always had a thing for female athletic types, and I am not that. Particularly not at the moment, due to being pregnant and other reasons. But he likes my breasts, and I've sure got melons right now. So it's fun to wear low-cut shirts around the house, occasionally playing a little game where I get his attention and push my breasts up, saying "boobs?" :D He shamelessly ogles them. I also fish for compliments all the time, and have talked to him about complimenting me whenever he thinks I look pretty. He's getting pretty good at complimenting me often. It makes me quite happy and satisfied with the attention, and my issues with jealousy or insecurity have greatly reduced from what they once were.
posted by lizbunny at 2:42 PM on March 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Our sex life is okay, but I am the one who initiates more. I can't help but think that if I were a petite, feminine brunette like the ones that catch his eye, he would want more sex with me.

OK, so one other thing about patriarchy, that needs to die in a fire along with everything ELSE about patriarchy, is the idea that every man is an endless fount of nonstop horny lust who must be initiating sex 24/7 or something is horribly wrong.

Because, fuckin, no! That isn't how it works! Sometimes dudes just do not have super high sex drives! Sometimes ladies do! Sometimes people who are together might not have sex drives that line up totally perfectly for awhile, but then they will, and then later things might get out of sync again. And sometimes, people of all genders and orientations can let the whole initiating-sexy thing slide when they're deep into a long-term committed relationship.

While you should definitely talk to your husband about things he can do to make you feel more desired, and definitely ask him if he will initiate sex more often, please leave space in your mind for the possibility that this is (roughly) the amount of sex he likes to have, and that he is actually enjoying it just as he says. For that matter, be prepared to hear that he may simply not initiate more because he enjoys being on the receiving end of initiation. Men are not universally pre-programmed to be initiators, either.

Obviously I don't know your husband, and any of these things may or may not be true. But it's so easy to believe patriarchy's bullshit and assume a man must be lying if he says he is happy with less-than-perpetual sex.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:06 PM on March 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

please leave space in your mind for the possibility that this is (roughly) the amount of sex he likes to have, and that he is actually enjoying it just as he says. For that matter, be prepared to hear that he may simply not initiate more because he enjoys being on the receiving end of initiation

I meant to say this too when I was writing my answer. Definitely make sure the talking is happening, but make sure you're not criticising him just for not being stereotypical. It is very easy to make assumptions when the truth is everyone's got their own biochemistry and their own inclinations and preferences and sexual wiring, and also their own expectations. Without comparing them you cannot know what he's thinking.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:41 PM on March 7, 2016

Your husband married you, despite having a (be it conscious or not) type that may not obviously match your perception of who you are. In other words, you don't have to worry about whether he is with you "just because you are his type."

Speaking from the other side as a petite East Asian, I know that I fit certain men's "types", and it has forced me to be rather vigilant when I interact with them, lest I end up finding out that the seemingly pleasant interaction I had with some guy ended up being a thing only because I incidentally fit that "type." I've had other Asian friends go out with guys who had previously dated other Asian women (just for the purpose of using "type" as an example) and they've had to field awful gossip about whether their partners are dating them just because "she's his type" or "he has a fetish for..."

Your husband sees and appreciates you for you! That's the best and most important thing.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 5:10 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I told him I thought it was normal, but it was still hurtful because it is always the same type of women. He denied having this type, but I think it is also a conversation that is hard to have and I don't think he would be truthful, no matter how much we are otherwise honest with each other. (Yes, honey, I am more attracted to women that look nothing like you.) He has told me that he is attracted to me and enjoys the sex that we have.
It's really impossible to get inside your husband's head and prove whether or not he is more attracted to this 'type' than you, but since he seems to be attracted to you and otherwise happy and not pursuing other women in any way, I think you should give your husband the benefit of the doubt. Fact: your husband is attracted to women other than you. Does it really matter if they share some common traits?

Also, looking at people is hardly a purposeful act. If it helps you at all, here's a personal anecdote. I am a (straight) man and I have recently decided I am not interested in having a romantic relationship with a woman. But there are attractive women all over the place. I can't help but notice them in a sort or primal way. It's not even really sexual, more of an ur-sexual reflex, like my brain is saying "fertile female at 2 o'clock." I actually find this very annoying. My stupid brain subconsciously picks attractive women out of a crowd. Why? I don't know. Because I'm a male human and to do otherwise is fighting against millions of years of evolution. Again, this isn't a sexual thing, it's not like I'm hitting on women (if anything, I am actively avoiding women). I'm not even looking at them for more than a second, but I am noticing them. I guess what I'm saying is, you really can't hold it against your husband for being male and having a functional central nervous system.
posted by deathpanels at 5:26 PM on March 7, 2016

So, I disagree that this is patriarchy or something specific to men. Women do this too, all the time. IMO, it's a human thing. We notice beautiful people. To me it's only a problem if it goes beyond glancing and he's actively flirting or pursuing other women. My husband and I notice beautiful people of both genders all the time, and in fact we talk about it when it comes up and it's become sort of a game (do you think he's/she's hot? I do! etc.)

The way I read this is that you seem insecure in the relationship. Maybe because you indicate that you are always initiating sex. This is something you need to discuss with your husband. Tell him how you feel using "I feel" statements. Tell him what your needs and desires are. If him glancing at other women continues to hurt you, you should tell him this too so that he can maybe try to limit it (if he's anything like me or my husband though, this could be a hard task - often we aren't even looking for beautiful people and they just catch our eye).

I think your feelings are valid - there's no point saying they are irrational or whatever. Just try to get at the source of them if you can, and convey how you feel to your husband. I believe you guys will figure out some sort of compromise and this won't erode your marriage, but you will have to talk about it, maybe more than once. Good luck!
posted by FireFountain at 6:35 PM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Mention of insecurities makes me think about the notion of scarcity. Myths like the idea that if your partner is giving attention to other women.. it means a loss for you. Combined with society telling women that we should be in constant competition with one another for attention from the men folk... as if that attention is a rare resource. This puts unfair pressure on ladies to be the best or the most whatever to align with a partners preference.

Do some inward looking and loving! If you can, try and examine this negative feeling to figure out what its telling you (IS this low self-esteem, a fear of loss etc...) Openly communicate with your partner on this if you feel you need more assurance.
posted by abhardcastle at 8:20 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Jealousy will never go away. It is hard wired into our DNA.

And because you love him, jealousy can easily overwhelm you. Love is an emotion and we lose ourselves to it, so when another swell of emotion seemingly linked to love comes over us, it seems natural and right to move in the way it tells us.

But love can make you do wrong.

Jealousy is a cancer and must be avoided at every turn, otherwise it can destroy you. You become peeved at hearing about a woman from 10 years ago, you want to know more. He tells you and now you know and now it'll never leave you. Now you know and knowing doesn't change anything. It just builds up as animus that little by little becomes deep-seated bitterness.

Men gaze, women flirt, and yet it's better to fall asleep beside someone every night.

Unless he's inserting someone else into his relationship with you, just let it go.

He owes you respect, and demand exactly what you want. But don't let thoughts of ghosts take away something sitting right in front of you.
posted by four panels at 10:07 PM on March 7, 2016

Jealousy might never go away, but you can make it work for you. I found that any effort to avoid it, suppress or internalize it into "my problem" only made me more obsessed, whereas verbalizing and dissecting it in an oppositional way with my partner (even with gentle I statements) to make it go away made us BOTH miserable.

Owning jealous thoughts as part of our team dynamic, though, opened some real fun doors. Try facing the beast head on, jumping on its back and riding it around a bit. My partner and I are both attracted to a range of "types" of both gender, and we make a game of sharing those moments of attraction with each other instead of keeping them as a little secret to ourselves. "Check her out, I want her hair/ass" or "Giant bearded redhead, 3 o'clock, I know you love those..."

It might seem like a paradox, but the more insight I get into the different paths of his desire, the more secure I feel in his attraction. After all, it's ME he runs to eyes a-twinkling to dish about the hot barista. And as a bonus, our creepy objectifying gazes and thoughts are swiftly redirected to each other, instead of those poor sexy strangers just trying to get through their day.
posted by Freyja at 10:16 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't fit that type

Which is likely why he finds them interesting. If he was married to a petite Asian woman, he'd probably be eyeing women who look like you.

Most people don't have one ironclad "type." It might be interesting to ask him who he finds attractive.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:56 AM on March 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hey pocksuppetteer, I favorited quicunx's comment and have to say I do not think you are being irrational at all and disagree with most of the advice posted.

I can't believe so many people are saying with certainty things like that you are being too jealous, your husband clearly wants you more despite checking out other ladies since he married you, etc. The reality is that people marry people who they are not in love with or not strongly sexually attracted to for many different reasons. I do agree that it's human nature to check out attractive people. I check out hot men somewhat frequently unconsciously. My husband checks out hot women too; although usually it is subtle. I agree you really can't' control finding other people attractive. The difference is that the people we are checking out fall all over the spectrum in terms of looks.

It would be one thing if checked out all different types of beautiful women, or if checked out those who looked somewhat like you, but if what you are saying is true, he is clearly only interested in one specific type (not your type).

I also disagree with saying that most people don't have a type. I have found that many (especially with men, although many women too) in fact do have a type that they stick to.

As anecdote, I was in the same situation with an ex BF. There were some slight differences since he would sometimes check out 'my type' as well and often initiated sex, but I knew sub-consciously he had a strong attraction to a specific type that was not me. Well, long story short we broke up for unrelated reasons and he is now either engaged or married to a person of that type (although I am way more attractive ;)

So, what to do? I agree like many of the posters, you should gently bring up that you have seen him noticing other women, and while you realize that it's human nature, to see if often hurts your feelings and you wish he make an effort to reduce it in front of you. How he reacts will be telling.
posted by seesom at 8:37 PM on March 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

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