Relationships Spouses & Partners Marital Problems How to Deal With a Partner Who Has Wandering Eyes By Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 28, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print ONOKY - Fabrice LEROUGE / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Signs of a Wandering Eye Differing Viewpoints Impact of Social Media Have You Crossed a Line? How to Respond When a person has a 'wandering eye,' it means looking and having sexual thoughts about people other than their current romantic partner. It may include behaviors such as overtly evaluating and appreciating someone's physical attractiveness or even outright flirting with people who are not their romantic partners. When the issue of a partner's eyes wandering is discussed, there seem to be two general responses: Either the behavior is brushed off as nothing to be concerned about or feelings of hurt and disrespect ensue, which may harm the relationship. Some even believe checking out people other than a committed partner is a sure sign of infidelity. The true answer to whether or not this is OK lies with you, your needs, and your personal boundaries. Signs of a Wandering Eye It is important to recognize that each person has differing definitions depending on their beliefs and boundaries. Some examples of behaviors that characterize a wandering eye include: Blatantly checking out another personFlirting with other peopleHaving sexual fantasies about othersTalking about sexual fantasies about other peopleTelling other people they are attractivePlanning romantic or sexual encounters with people other than their partnerTexting or DMing people other than their partner The behaviors that characterize a wandering eye involve how a person thinks about or communicates with people other than their partner. If these thoughts or actions lead to romantic or sexual encounters, it would be defined as cheating. Differing Viewpoints According to Gail Saltz, M.D., a psychiatrist and expert on relationship matters, blatantly checking out, commenting on, repeatedly admiring, and flirting or touching someone else usually feels quite undermining to a partner. For partners that are bothered by the behavior, having wandering eyes is often described as: A sign of disrespect Damaging to a relationship Insensitive behavior that shows a lack of caring Offensive One of the first signs of cheating and that a person is looking for another relationship Dr. Saltz acknowledges that all humans have some measure of voyeurism and exhibitionism: we like to look and we like to show. But unless both parties are confident of the others' affection and fidelity, an obvious and frequent wandering eye will generally stir up envy and hurt, making one feel unappreciated and even threatened in the relationship. On the other hand, some people believe that having a wandering eye is perfectly normal behavior. People in this camp often don't worry about a quick glance, and some may not even be bothered by something more. Those who feel this way often cite the following points: Looking at an attractive person is thought to be a natural physiological reaction.A person with wandering eyes just appreciates beauty. Again, it's important to remember that you define what is normal and acceptable for yourself and your relationship. That said, a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that a consistent wandering eye probably signals a more significant issue in a relationship, which is worth considering. Some evidence suggests that people prone to having a wandering eye are also more likely to engage in infidelity. One study found that people who found attractive people more attention-grabbing were more likely to eventually cheat on their partners. Impact of Social Media and Technology People don't just engage in 'wandering' behaviors in real-world encounters. They can also make their way into online interactions. In such settings, 'wandering' might involve: Flirting with another person, either in the comments section on their social media post or via direct message"Liking" another person's photos to communicate interestFlirtatious, romantic, or sexual texting with people who are not the person's partnerIntentionally joining social sites in order to engage in flirtatious communication with others Such behaviors can affect trust, communication, and intimacy in a relationship. According to one survey, around a quarter of people in relationships feel that technology has had a negative impact on their relationships. The Truth About Online Cheating Have You or Your Partner Crossed the Line It isn't always easy to determine if you or your partner have crossed a boundary in your relationship. This is because it is normal to think that other people are attractive and doing so doesn't necessarily mean that you've broken trust with your partner. In order to recognize whether you or your partner have a wandering eye, consider the following: How would your partner feel if they knew about your behaviors?How would it make you feel if your partner was doing the same thing?Have you ever discussed boundaries with your partner?Does your current behavior violate your partner's trust?Are you hiding your behavior from your partner? If you feel like your partner would be hurt or upset and need to hide your actions from them, it is a good sign that your actions are crossing the line. How to Respond If you are bothered by your partner's eyes wandering, Dr. Saltz suggests that you make it clear that although you don't expect them to wear blinders, you don't want them to ogle someone else. 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 that other issues may be affecting your relationship that couple's therapy could help examine. Indeed, it seems that research agrees with this advice. The aforementioned study goes on to say that nagging your partner to stop looking likely won't address any underlying problems, either. Your relationship will require communication and a strategy to boost satisfaction and commitment. Leading with jealousy and sweeping requests for your partner to change his or her behavior may lead them to tune you out. Instead, Dr. Saltz suggests the following: Accept that your partner's wandering eye is not a reflection of your own attractiveness.Don't try to "police" your partner's wandering eyes.If your partner's wandering eye creates a problem in your relationship, discuss the issue with them. Start with your own feelings, not with an accusation or criticism. Suggest couple's therapy or attend therapy on your own if your requests are continually ignored.Try to casually acknowledge it first when a beautiful person comes into view. Does Marriage Counseling Work? A Word From Verywell A wandering eye could very well be a natural, simple acknowledgment of attractive people—nothing more. Of course, that may not be the case all the time. Regardless, your feelings should be valid to your partner. If it bothers you and you have calmly expressed as such to your partner, he or she should be receptive to your concerns. 4 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. DeWall, CN, Maner, JK, Deckman, T, Rouby, DA. Forbidden fruit: inattention to attractive alternatives provokes implicit relationship reactance. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011;100(4), 621–629. doi:10.1037/a0021749 McNulty JK, Meltzer AL, Makhanova A, Maner JK. Attentional and evaluative biases help people maintain relationships by avoiding infidelity. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2018;115(1):76-95. doi:10.1037/pspi0000127 Pew Research Center. Couples, the internet, and social media. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. About marriage and family therapists. Additional Reading Dewall CN, Maner JK, Deckman T, Rouby DA. Forbidden fruit: Inattention to attractive alternatives provokes implicit relationship reactance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2011;100(4):621-629. doi:10.1037/a0021749 By Sheri Stritof Sheri Stritof has written about marriage and relationships for 20+ years. She's the co-author of The Everything Great Marriage Book. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Relationships Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.