Q. My boyfriend is a natural flirt and that was a reason why I was attracted to him in the first place. Recently we were in the gym working out on the elliptical. A woman was running on the treadmill and I noticed my boyfriend was checking her out. Then she noticed that he was checking her out and she was smiling at him as she was running. He was smiling in return and this continued for a while before she stopped running, approached him and asked him jovially “Are you checking me out?”
My boyfriend, “Yes I am, you are a very beautiful woman and it was great watching you run.” I couldn’t believe that he actually said that and then he told her, “By the way, this is my girlfriend” and introduced me to her. She laughed and said, “It takes balls to be flirting with me with your girlfriend by your side.”
Needless to say, I was upset by this incident. When we went back home, I asked him for an explanation. He said, “Honey, flirting comes naturally to me and it’s fun.” I asked, “Why do you check out other women, am I not enough for you.” He said, “You are beautiful, but I love appreciating beauty and there are a lot of beautiful, attractive women out there and I like looking at them. It doesn’t really mean anything. I love you.”
I am not sure how to feel. He flirts and checks out other women but he is committed to me and has never cheated on me. I trust him but I do feel jealous when he checks out other women and when women are so easily attracted to him. What should I do?
A. This does sound like a real bind.
On the one hand, this flirtatious quality is one of the things that you find attractive about your boyfriend. On the other hand, it sounds like a problem when that flirtation isn’t directed towards you. You say that you don’t know how to feel, but I am also hearing that you DO know one thing you feel… jealous.
When your boyfriend says “It doesn’t really mean anything”, this seems to negate your own feelings around it. Although it may not carry much weight for him, it understandably means something to you. You and your boyfriend both seem to rationalize that you shouldn’t be upset, and yet here you are.
It may require some real soul searching to discover the roots of your jealousy.
Is there a belief that you aren’t pretty enough or aren’t worthy of attention? Do you believe these other women have something that you don’t?
If you and your partner have been together for a while, I’d imagine that there is more to your relationship than just physical attraction.
You probably share common friends and interests, have meaningful discussions, and maintain things that you enjoy doing together (including going to the gym). You have developed an emotional bond. There is a depth and dimension to bonded relationships which transcends looking good on a treadmill.
I am assuming that there is, similarly, much more to you than a lovely package. I would recommend holding this awareness of yourself above all else, as much as possible. When jealousy arises, always remember the entirety of who you are. As the whole, faceted, completely unique person that is you, does his flirting still feel like a threat?
Here’s the thing- asking him to stop doing what he does won’t work.
It sounds like that’s part of who he is, and he is unwilling to change. It also sounds like telling him it bothers you gets a dismissive, pacifying response. So, you simply need to decide if you can tolerate it.
Based on your confidence in yourself and your trust in your boyfriend, is that behavior OK? It may not be.
You may decide that his flirting is a deal-breaker for you, and choose to move on; in which case, you’ve just gained more clarity around what you want (and don’t want) in a partner. On the other hand, you may decide that his flirtations are a manageable discomfort, and that your boyfriend’s many winning qualities outweigh the irritating ones. If this is the case, congratulations! Your workouts just got that much more enjoyable…