Q. My husband and I have been married a year and for the most part, we have a good bond. There's just one thing; it drives me crazy when he looks at other women - literally! It makes my blood boil so much that I become grumpy about everything - I even started taking an antidepressant to deal with my mood!
When I tried to talk to him about it, he ends up saying it's "just natural" and "why do you get upset about something so insignificant?" - but I think that's a load of crap. It is significant because it bothers me, makes me feel belittled and ugly - I just need him to understand my side of it. But whenever it comes up, I either get too upset or we get in an argument. Help me!
A. You'd better get a serious reality check - and soon, before it's too late for your relationship to recover. This may come across as harsh, but you need to hear the message loud and clear. Have you ever once considered his side of things? Not only has he made a life commitment to you, a powerful symbol of trust and fidelity – but he has had to endure you accusing him of a myriad of things that probably hurt (or frustrate) him to hear.
Do you feel misunderstood? Yes. Angry and in emotional pain? Yes. Your feelings are strong and it's understandable that you're confused. Don't you think you're directing too much negative energy toward this issue, feeding and fanning it with constant obsession, without taking responsibility for your side of things?
Obviously your husband's actions trigger something within you that makes you feel so horrible … whether it originated from a past family dynamic, an issue from a previous relationship, or a habitual sense of feeling degraded. Granted, your hubby may be being too obvious, but what has he done that makes you think he'll really act on it? How much of his behavior is actually responsible for your sadness?
Although you tried your best to communicate your feelings, you're not happy with his reaction, and you've now chosen to go down a path that can easily lead to emotional isolation if you're not careful. Once a person is on a downward spiral, it is all too easy to feel vulnerable to painful emotion. What you need to do is take an inventory of your emotions and improve your self-awareness; it may be wise to do this with a counselor. Doing so will help you discern what's attributable to insecurity and what he really needs to hear.
Once you're clear about your feelings, now you're ready to deal with your man. Because staring at other women can be perceived as a diss - albeit an implicit one - it's very indulgent of him, especially when it has known repercussions on you. Depending on the blatancy of his ogling, the two of you will have to negotiate some boundaries. Appreciating beauty is one thing – but it should be done respectfully, both to the subject and to your partner. Now, give him the opportunity to rise to the challenge. If you've been honest about your insecurities and he doesn't respect them, you've got bigger problems.
One last thing. Any time an attractive person goes by, you need to find a momentary distraction. The point of this exercise is to get you to stop doing facial analysis every time he gazes somewhere other than your direction - being his wife, lover, and friend … not his drill sergeant. When a captivating woman walks by, sometimes it's hard for anyone not to look, including you! Simply noticing beauty is not the same thing as him going off to win her heart.