Hurtful or Harmless: What It Means When your Partner is Attracted to Someone Else.

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Wifey’s and Gentlemen,

As the Memorial Day weekend has come to a close and summer is now (unofficially) upon us, we should all be prepared for the fun, interesting changes that the summer air brings to our current or incoming romances; cuffing season is over, the shorts are getting shorter, and the chilled white wine at the BBQ has you feeling ‘some type of way’. However, with all of the welcome and lovely distractions the summer has to offer, do you often notice your partner getting lost in the ‘not-so-welcome’ distraction of noticing others?

If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship (or if you’re in one now) you might be rolling your eyes at me!

“Come on, Ms. Renai! Just because I’m attracted to the cutie at the beach doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or that I’ve done something wrong!”

And you’d be 100% correct!

Being committed to someone does not mean that all attraction to other people should (or can) stop! Anyone who says otherwise either doesn’t know better or is lying to themselves! But that’s not quite what I’m talking about here. Harmless attraction is just that, harmless.

If you have ever experienced a time where you felt genuinely bothered by your partner’s attraction to someone else, I’m here to tell you that you too aren’t “wrong” and you certainly aren’t being “lame” or “overbearing” for feeling the way that you do. At some point or another, we’ve all been there; wondering if you should say something or play it cool, asking yourself if you’re “reading too much into it” or if you should just “let it go”. All of that is normal! & As we approach a season where ‘less is more’ and the summer parties bring out the summer hotties (who spent all winter in the gym) it’s important to know how to handle those ambiguous moments.

When is it okay to be bothered and when are you being irrational?

First of all…I know I say something like this often, but if you are bothered by something in your relationship, even irrationally, it is always okay for you to be upset! It’s what you do when you’re upset that makes the real difference. So before you let anyone (friends, family, even mental healthcare professionals) tell you that being upset is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, just tune it out! We often can’t control how something will effect us, and owning your feelings is a big step in being able to manage them better.

Still, you might be overreacting if any of the following applies to you:

  • Your partner can’t comment on anyone’s looks (even a celebrity or public figure) without it starting a fight.
  • Healthy expression of fantasies or desires (by your partner) is met with hostility, shame, or guilt.
  • You get jealous/upset if your partner talks to, laughs with, or physically engages anyone else
  • You become manic/obsessive when your partner goes out with friends, constantly worried that he/she  is cheating on you.
  • You worry that your partner will leave you for “someone better” and you treat him/her as such.

While you might be experiencing some discomfort or insecurity, there are ways to convey this to your partner without making their lives miserable (or yours). Tell your partner in an open and honest way that you are struggling with feeling secure in your relationship. Do you need more physical attention or verbal accolades? Are you feeling less than confident about your looks or a recent physical change? When you stop to think about it, if your relationship is a good one and your S/O hasn’t ever given you a reason not to trust them, most of these insecurities are in your own mind and there is a way to ease them, you just have to ask. Being a fair and giving partner means owning up and telling them how you’re feeling so they can then be supportive and sensitive to that.

A good partner will listen to you and do what they can to make you feel better without making you feel bad about your insecurities. Even if he/she is a bit taken aback, remember that they don’t want you to feel bad about yourself, so odds are, once they understand, they’ll do their best to work with you on a compromise. Still, understand that they won’t be able to “stop” being attracted to or aroused by other people in day-to-day life, and the expectation of anything close to that is, for lack of a better word, silly.

On the flip side, there are cases where being upset is completely justified and not, in the least, irrational. Does your partner:

  • Flirt with other people in front of you or intentionally try to make you jealous? (in a way that isn’t fun or mutually beneficial)
  • Tell you every single time someone makes a pass at them or hits on them in public?
  • Go on and on and on (and on) about hot friends, coworkers, people at the gym, or people out and about?
  • Make overtly sexual comments to people you know claiming to be “joking”?
  • Spend a lot of time lusting after people who look nothing like you?
  • Fetishize others in a derogatory or demeaning way?
  • Fetishize you in a derogatory or demeaning way?
  • Make direct comparisons between you and someone whose “hot” or “sexy”?
  • Ever use the phrase “You’d be so much hotter if (insert perceived beauty standard here)”?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might have a little more to consider before moving forward.

The good doctors/authors of Psychology Today note that most of time, when men and women display this behavior, it’s for one of three primary reasons (of course there are others, but this are the most common):

  • They feel guilty about having these thoughts/feelings and believe sharing them with you makes it okay.

From what I can gather from observation and experience, this is probably the most common reason why someone would willingly behave in any of the aforementioned ways. We’ve all been there at some point, right? Out for a night with friends or enjoying a drink at a bar to kill time, you start a casual conversation with someone or smile coyly at the bartender and before you know it, they’re asking for your phone number or putting their hand on your leg. You replay the signals you gave off and admit to yourself that you were flirting a bit and, to avoid feeling like a bad person, you run home and tell your lover.

In fact, you tell them everything; what goes in at girls night or in the locker room at the gym, what guys/girls at work you’d bang if you were single, the whole nine!

All better, right? Now he/she knows what you’re thinking/doing and you don’t have to feel bad about it.

Eh…not so much! 😉

Whether they decide to come clean, most of the time, this behavior is driving your partner bonkers and they are trying to figure out how to make it stop without you thinking they are being crazy or over-reacting.

Remember, every relationship is different! Don’t assume your partner is upset over your actions and don’t assume they aren’t. Communication is key, so make sure you’re doing as much listening as you are talking.

The best thing to do when you are unsure about something is to ask. If you’re partner isn’t telling you how they feel, beat them to it! Ask them “does it bother you when I do (insert behavior here)?” you might be surprised by their candor, and how relieved they are that you brought it up! You rockstar, you! 😉

  • They do not know how their comments are hurtful, disrespectful, or insensitive.

Good old fashioned ignorance is often a huge reason why someone may do all or some of the above without any consideration of your feelings. Just as your partner shouldn’t assume something does/does not bother you, you can’t expect them to read your mind.

You would be surprised to learn how many conflicts I have had immediately resolved by telling my fiancé exactly how I felt about a situation (in a calm, respectful way). There are moments where your partner will genuinely not know and think that something is 100% okay when it isn’t. Moreover, if something used to be okay with you and you’ve since changed your position, it’s unfair of you to expect your partner to know this and act accordingly.

Good partners, as I mentioned before, do not want to hurt you. 7 times out of 10, if your S/O is flirting or making sexual jokes with a friend, it’s because it’s how they are used to behaving and haven’t considered that you see it differently or that it is hurting your feelings.

Tell them!

It might be hard at first, but even simple statements like: “hey, I know he’s really really handsome, but can you ease up on the flirting a bit now? It’s making me feel bad.” Or “I don’t mind that you talk like that with your friends, but those comments make me feel insecure and it’s better if I don’t hear you make them” can be the difference between harmony and disarray!

Easier said than done? Perhaps! But if you love your partner, you owe it to them to talk about your boundaries and how they are being disrespected. As long as you are clear and positive when you express yourself, your partner shouldn’t have a problem. They want to know if they are bothering you.

Tell them!

  • They are considering or are capable of infidelity.

However unpleasant, there is a correlation between the type of behavior being displayed and the likelihood of infidelity in your relationship.

PLEASE DON’T FREAK OUT!

This is NOT a surefire way to determine if you’re S/O is cheating on you, at all, but some therapists and researchers have noticed that, when combined with certain other factors, those who show little regard for your feelings in these cases might show little regard for your relationship down the line.

Typically, if you notice your S/O is heavy on behaviors the latter behaviors I mentioned above, it is possible that he/she is trying to tell you that they are, in some way, discontent in their relationship or not as appreciative of you.

Unfortunately, there might not be much you can do if that is the case, but what I can say is that, if after you confront them, they still choose to continue treating you the same way, it might be time to consider moving on from the relationship.

When our partners have given us a reason to think they’d do anything hurtful or deceitful, it can be hard separate ourselves from the actions. You might have “let yourself go” or the sex in your relationship might have slowed down, but it is up to you to decide how much you’ll take and what boundaries you are willing to compromise or push in order to keep things going. If your partner wants to be with someone else or doesn’t think who you are is “good enough”, then it might be hard to hear/accept, but try to take comfort in the fact that there is someone out there (several someones I’d guess) that would love most everything about what you have to offer!

Please remember Wifeys & Gents, that, at the end of it all, this comes down to trust. Has your partner cheated in the past? While it doesn’t mean they’re doing it now, they need to be aware that their behavior is making you feel like they could do it again. Even if you’re sure they haven’t cheated, follow your gut. Has this behavior been going on from the beginning? Is it new? Have you always been bothered by it? What bothers you specifically?

Give yourself the space to understand your emotions before acting. Then talk. Openly. For as long as it takes.

Has your partner always been a stand-up, faithful, and dependable support system for you? While that doesn’t mean they’re NOT cheating, it is a good indicator that they don’t understand how they’re being hurtful and would stop if they knew/could.

Someone who cares about you is going to hear you and try to work on building something better. Remember: Communication, communication, communication.

I can’t express it enough.

Until Next Time,

Carry on Wifeys!

Love,

Ms. Renai

🙂 ❤

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