Relationship Advice

Lascivious Looks

man on laptop

For 15 years I was married to my high school sweetheart. The marriage was abusive, and I suffer from self-esteem issues. The man I'm dating now cannot watch a movie, see a Victoria's Secret commercial, or glimpse a beautiful model in a magazine without saying what he would like to do with her sexually.

Two evenings ago we were looking at a lobstering site on the computer and pictures came up. The only one he chose to click on was of a 20-something, topless female. I became upset. He tells me I am a jealous drama queen, but his need to constantly verbalize his thoughts about other women bothers me.

He says all men look at their female friends, wonder what they look like naked, and think what it would be like to have sex with them. Is this normal male behavior? Am I overreacting? I've asked female coworkers, and they all say they would be upset. Help me understand his way of thinking, and how to deal with him.


Lacy, in a play on the expression "nitpicking," some psychologists have introduced the term "niche picking." What they mean is we often seek a certain environment in which to live our lives. That choice is usually unconscious.

Birds are hardwired to live in a certain niche. For example, bluebirds live in open woodlands and nest in holes in fence posts. Chimney swifts spend their days aloft feeding on insects and live in colonies inside chimneys. Cowbirds feast on bugs stirred up by cattle and lay their eggs in the nests of other birds.

But unlike birds, human beings are not hardwired. We are free to choose in which niche to live. You don't need to understand his way of thinking. You need to understand you are trading one abusive man for another. In asking how to deal with him, you are seeking a way to stay with an abuser.

The first time he made a vulgar remark and you didn't leave, you set the stage for his continued behavior. In the same way, if someone makes a racist remark in your presence and you don't walk away, you've signaled your acceptance. Next time their behavior will grow worse. Why? Because that's who they are, and that's who they think you are.

Don't trade the right to loving treatment for the hope of a wedding. The niche of abuse is not a niche in which to live.