Window Shopping: Look But Don’t Touch

This week’s post by staff writer Dallas Fitzgerald discusses “window-shopping” when you’re in a relationship. What are your thoughts? How do you and your significant other handle window-shopping?

My wife and I are walking hand-in-hand at the mall when suddenly, a beautiful woman catches my eye.  I stare at her as she walks towards us; and as she walks past, my head swivels to catch one final glimpse of her beautiful behind.  It’s this final glimpse that gets me in trouble.

“Really?” my wife asks; but it’s not really a question, it’s a warning.  It’s like she’s actually saying, “I’ll give you a mulligan on that one; but next time, don’t make it so obvious.”

“What?” I reply; but again, it’s not really a question, it’s an apology. It’s like I’m actually saying, “I couldn’t help myself there, but next time I promise I won’t make it so obvious.”

Everyone in a relationship does the occasional window-shopping: men, women, polygamists, monogamists, straight, gay, cheaters, and even totally faithful partners—everyone.  It’s natural, almost like a reflex.  An attractive person enters your visual field, your focus turns to that person until they exit your visual field; and usually, the conscious mind enters the equation in order to ensure that the attractive individual stays in your visual field for as long as possible.

Not only is window-shopping natural, but I think good for any relationship; if not intrinsically, at least as a way to gauge how controlling or possessive your partner is.  A partner who gets angry at you anytime you look in the direction of a member of the opposite sex is most likely a control freak whose suffocating jealousy will eventually destroy your relationship and make you miserable in the process.  A partner who lets you look at anyone and everyone without ever making a comment or expressing any sort of jealousy at all is probably not that into you in the first place.

These are two extreme ends of the window-shopping policy spectrum, but most people fall somewhere between the two.  Different people deal with window-shopping differently.  My wife and I have a strict look-but-don’t-touch policy; but it’s implicitly understood that if she catches me looking, then I have to listen to her critique my taste in women.

“Her?  It looks like a bird shat in her hair, plus she shouldn’t be wearing a belt with that top.  You have no taste in women.”

“I married you, didn’t I?”  I reply.

She ends the exchange with a glance that seems to say, “You know that’s not what I meant.”

A couple’s window-shopping policy is something that develops along with their relationship.  Some have a look-but-don’t-get-caught policy; some have a don’t-look-at-all policy; some have a don’t-look-or-I’ll-make-a-big-dramatic-scene policy.  Whatever the policy in your relationship is, there are times when window-shopping is just plain rude.  Anytime you and your partner are on a formal date, whether it be dinner, a movie, bowling, or a walk on the beach, window-shopping is strictly prohibited.  Formal dates are times for you and your partner to be alone and enjoy each other’s company.  What’s the point in getting all dressed up and going out to a nice dinner if your partner is going to be drooling over the man or woman at the table next to you the whole time?

Anytime you and your partner are with family members, window-shopping is strongly discouraged.  I know my wife wouldn’t be too happy with me if her mom called her up and said, “You know, I noticed that your husband is always checking out other women when you two are together.  Is everything all right between you?”  You don’t want to put your partner in the position of defending you to his or her family members.  It’s uncomfortable for your partner, and no matter how much explaining he or she does, that family member will probably continue to suspect that something is wrong in your relationship.

Anytime you and your partner are out celebrating a special occasion such as an anniversary, a promotion, a graduation, or another milestone event, window-shopping is expressly forbidden.  An anniversary is a celebration of your relationship with each other, and because of this, each partner deserves the undivided attention of the other.  An event like a promotion or a graduation represents the culmination of a lot of hard work, so your partner deserves your total attention in recognition of his or her effort in achieving that goal.

If you’re not sure if window-shopping would be appropriate in a given context, then you should probably refrain from doing it, or at the very least, make sure you don’t get caught doing it.

I am interested in knowing what you think about window-shopping.  In what other situations might window-shopping be deemed totally inappropriate or offensive?  Do men do it more than women or are women just better at not getting caught?  What sort of policy do you usually follow in your relationships?

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One thought on “Window Shopping: Look But Don’t Touch

  1. I felt special when my husband ‘window shopped’ because he chose me over the beautiful women he was looking at. I agree with you that there are certain times it is totally unacceptable. If your mate is totally against it, it may be for the reasons you stated, but it may also be that he/she has low self-esteem or has been deeply hurt by a previous cheating partner

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