Is it okay for you or your partner to “check out” another person?
First off, it is worth saying that humans all have some measure of voyeurism and exhibitionism: we like to look and we like to show. Some of us like it however, more than others. I tend to hear more distress from women about their male partner looking at other women and how much this bothers them.
Both men and women are visual, but it is true that men tend to look more at women’s bodies than women checking out men, but women having a wandering eye is on the rise. Men also tend to think about sex more times per day than women and this becomes a part of their looking.
Still, there is looking and there is LOOKING. Most people are not very bothered by the occasional glance. But blatantly checking out, commenting on, repeated admiring of and certainly flirting or touching usually feel quite undermining to a partner. Such behavior makes one feel unappreciated, and even threatened in the relationship. Unless both parties are confident of the others’ affection, appearance, and fidelity it generally will stir envy and hurt.
It’s helpful to know that some people don’t really realize what they are doing and how it makes you feel. You really do have to point it out, make them aware of it and how it makes you feel. Many partners, once told how hurtful and disrespectful it is to you, will make an effort to curb such behavior, but the hurt party will often have difficulty explaining how they feel.
Make it clear: you don’t expect them to wear blinders, or stare at the ground; just don’t ogle. If your partner really won’t make any effort to change and doesn’t appear to care how it makes you feel, it’s likely you have other such issues and couples therapy may be in order. Most important is to be rational and reasonable in your request. Being unreasonably jealous with unreasonable requests is likely to make your partner throw out the baby with the bathwater and pay you no heed.
Also make sure you do give your partner positive feedback and admiration because everyone needs that and if you don’t at all, they may be “looking” for that feedback elsewhere.