Advice from three of our guy friends. This week they answer the following: “My boyfriend claims it means nothing when he looks at other women, and yet he gets jealous when I look at other men. Why is that?“
Gay Engaged Guy (Joel Derfner, author of Swish): It’s a combination of insecurity and a double standard. When your boyfriend looks at a woman who isn’t you, chances are he’s really just appreciating her, like you might appreciate a strawberry-rhubarb pie on the table — even though you’re really enjoying the piece of red velvet cake you’re already eating. But when you look at someone who isn’t your boyfriend, he can’t see that you’re probably just appreciating too, because he’s terrified that you might decide the other guy is better — that you might realize the strawberry-rhubarb pie is smarter than the red velvet cake, or makes more money, or has a bigger penis — and dump him, half-eaten, in the trash, so you can ride off into the sunset with the pie.
Straight Married Guy (Figleaf): Funny you should mention that. I’ve got a woman friend who flirts shamelessly but almost blacks out with jealousy when her partner so much as asks another woman to pass the salt. Her answer for the double standard is a lot like men’s: She knows she’s not looking to change relationships, so it’s okay for her, but not having the same insider information about what her partner’s thinking, she sees it as a total threat. Something similar is probably going though your partner’s head.
But that’s just the general case — there’s a more specific case related to what we “know” about men and women in relationships. We “know” that women are all “naturally” monogamous and men are just as “naturally” promiscuous, right? And so all your boyfriend’s cultural messages are that it’s really harmless for him to eye other women. He’d at most want a one-night stand, but we all “know” he wouldn’t want an emotional attachment. Meanwhile, though, all the cultural messages about you as a woman say that if you’re looking, it’s because you’d rather be with them. Forever! So he “knows” you’d really “only” want an emotional attachment and not a one-night stand. And as Em & Lo’s survey showed back in September, both men and women feel way more threatened by emotional infidelity than sexual infidelity. Is it fair that women are thought to be “naturally” monogamous and men are thought to be “naturally” promiscuous? No, but a lot of things aren’t fair, and jealousy will probably always be with us. The bigger question is whether it’s true? No, it’s not. Which is a bigger problem, but one that, unlike jealousy, we can get over.
Straight Single Guy (L.A. Chris): That’s because men are, in general, babies. I think almost every guy has this double standard when it comes to jealousy. He’s jealous because he’s jealous, but he’s telling the truth when he says it means nothing. Men deeply believe that sex and love are unrelated. Totally separate. Like apples and roller coasters. When a man ogles another woman, it has nothing to do with how he feels about his girlfriend or his relationship. A guy may stare excitedly at a bulldozer or a flame-thrower, but it doesn’t mean he wants to own one. So if you catch him glancing at a passing hottie, don’t feel threatened. He’s not shopping for a new girlfriend and he doesn’t love you any less. However, I think that most guys suspect, deep-down, that when a woman looks around, she is probably shopping around for something better.