November 14, 2017 | Kaila Pinkney | 166 Comments Myth: If you catch your partner looking at another attractive person that means your relationship is in trouble. Fact: Although seeing your partner look at other attractive people (when they should be paying attention to you) is bound to make you uncomfortable or angry, in most cases there is nothing to be worried about. It has been shown that if a person is in a highly committed relationship then their brain has an automatic relationship maintenance mechanism that will draw their attention away from that desirable mate (Maner, Galliot & Miller, 2009). This does not mean that your partner won’t look at other attractive people, but once they start to think of that person as a potential partner alternative (in the study they were primed with mating terms), then your committed partner will automatically draw their attention away from the attractive person. If your partner sees another attractive person, they tend to quickly see this as a threat to their current relationship and will look away. So if you catch your partner looking, that doesn’t mean they want that person instead of you, or they think of you as any less attractive, it appears to be natural to notice an attractive person. Lydon and colleagues (2003) actually found that those moderately committed in a relationship will rate an attractive person less attractive than when they would responding in the perspective of a friend. They continue to support the idea that if your partner sees a potential threat to your relationship, then they will consider the alternative as less attractive, only if they are committed. In their study, low committed individuals didn’t see the alternative as a threat and rated the attractive person just as positively as the single individuals. Unfortunately for you ladies, you may catch your partner looking around more often due to evolutionary theories regarding mating success. A visual task regarding how “stuck” a person’s attention becomes on a certain social stimuli showed that both males and females were both relatively bad at looking away from attractive female targets, but had no trouble looking away from attractive male targets (Maner, Galliot & DeWall, 2007). They suggests that males tend to do this to seek the most potential mating opportunities, and females see other females as threats to their own reproductive success. Although this is the case, the ones that struggled to look away the most were males who were single, and females who were in a committed relationship, but viewed it to be insecure and unstable. In reality, if you are in happy, committed relationship, your partner occasionally glancing at an attractive person you see as a threat isn’t a red flag. If it continues to an extent where it makes you uncomfortable, it could be beneficial to bring it up to your partner and tell them how it makes you feel. Disclosing your feelings and being open to them is going to help improve closeness in the relationship, and also help you determine if there really is something to be concerned about. Overall, there may be some truth behind the phrase “you can look but you can’t touch” (since our brain tries its best to maintain our current healthy relationship). References: Lydon, J. E., Fitzsimons, G. M., & Naidoo, L. (2003). Devaluation versus enhancement of attractive alternatives: A critical test using the calibration paradigm. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(3), 349-359. Maner, J. K., Gailliot, M. T., & DeWall, C. N. (2007). Adaptive attentional attunement: Evidence for mating-related perceptual bias. Evolution and Human Behavior, 28(1), 28-36. Maner, J. K., Galliott, M. T., & Miller, S. L. (2009). The implicit cognition of relationship maintenance: Inattention to attractive alternatives. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 174-179.