Looking at other women (or men)

“He clocks ‘em.”

When we are married or in a serious relationship, how acceptable is it still to admire attractive examples of the opposite sex?

Once a long time ago a newly married young woman complained to me that she was unhappy because when out with her husband he would still look at other women.

Her way of saying this was, ‘He clocks ‘em.’

Now it may be my lack of full fluency in the patois of that particular part of England (South East London, 1990s), but I assumed that just meant that he glanced at them. Of course it could mean more than that. It could mean that he made that kind of eye contact that stimulates reciprocated desire. (The Urban Dictionary first meaning of ‘clock’ currently reads: “1) To regard an act or object.” No suggestion of anything other than just looking.)

Clearly flirting with intent is a mark of unfaithfulness if one is already in a steady relationship. It’s as much to say, ‘I would if I could,’ and will not be acceptable to your partner.

On the other hand, that we are now in a serious relationship doesn’t suddenly switch off our receptivity to sexual signals, still less to the simple appreciation of beauty. So to expect a man or a woman to stop looking at other attractive people is unrealistic.

A middle path needs to be negotiated, in which both the man and the woman feel secure that they’re the one, without either partner having to hide the fact that they find other members of the opposite sex worth looking at. You might want to look at that young woman with the pretty face, excessive eye makeup and very short skirt, but you know if you think about it carefully that you wouldn’t want to spend too long in her company for fear of terminal boredom. Similarly your woman can admire that rugby player’s thighs without having any serious thoughts of abandoning your own more serious charms. (Can you handle that?)

Remarks, however, need to be thought about before being voiced. Openly to admire a woman’s legs might be acceptable, but only if your woman understands that her legs are superior. If it might come across as a possible criticism of her legs, don’t say it.

As long as your partner understands, at a deep level of certainty, that she is the one and only for you, and assuming you also don’t mind her admiring footballers with musculature somewhat superior to your own in very short shorts, then you may openly admire what is there to be admired.

A note of caution – don’t assume that things should be ‘fair.’ You’re the man and it’s your job to be both strong and sensitive.

It’s an area for explicit discussion between couples rather than for making assumptions.

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