01/20/2012 06:42 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Jealousy vs. Reason: What to Do When He (Mostly) Has Eyes for You

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend let it slip that he was titillated by another woman. It was an accident and he tried to take it back quickly, but it's been lingering in the air ever since.


There was a sexy ad running on FX for their new show, "American Horror Story." My boyfriend and I regularly watch "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" together, so every time FX ran the ad for "American Horror Story" during "Sunny," he would make a comment about how much he'd like to see me in a certain skivvies-showing French maid outfit worn very well by the sultry red-haired actress on the show. This actress is seriously hot and the way they have her tarted up to play to this archetypal male fantasy is spot-on, so I couldn't agree more that she gives off this irresistibly sexy aura. Over the last few weeks, he's reiterated how hot her little get-up is and how he'd love to see me in something like that. Which of course is as genteel as you can be when talking to your girlfriend about how sexy another girl is.

So there we are again, cuddling on his couch watching the "It's Always Sunny" gang trying to get to Thunder Gun Express when of course the sexy ad comes on. This time, though, he says "Damn, I want to f***..." Pause. "... um ... you so badly in that outfit."

I knew exactly what had happened and I couldn't help but call him on it. "That is not what you were going to say!"

Of course he pretended to be totally aghast. "What do you mean?"

"You were going to say 'I want to f*** her,' not me in her clothes."

"That is SO NOT ... okay fine that's true." I could feel his embarrassment as he confessed and sheepishly squeezed me tightly.

"I'm not mad at you for being potentially aroused by another woman, but I think the generally accepted conventional wisdom on this is that girlfriends don't like to hear about all the other women their boyfriends would like to f***," I suggest.

He laughed nervously and covered my face in little kisses, realizing the fine line he was walking and the disaster he had almost stepped in.

But this brings up a truth in relationships we don't often explore: Do we expect our significant others to literally never be turned on by anyone but us? And if we accept that this is not physiologically possible, how much do we want to hear about it?

When it comes to love, I'm an idealist. But when it comes to sex, I'm a realist. And realistically speaking, I think if you want to be in a committed long-term relationship you have to accept that at some point in your partner's long life, he is going to be turned on by someone that is not you. Some girls really can't handle this. My boyfriend's fear that I might potentially be mad at him for being turned on by another girl is well founded. I know a lot of women who would be angry to find out their partner looked at porn or that they thought about anything aside from them while engaging in self-gratifying coital behavior. But biologically speaking, it seems to me this is not a realistic view. We can and should all be held responsible for our actions on these urges, but our most base stirrings are surely not something we should judge one another on. Right?

Of course, knowing this and living it are two different things entirely. In the abstract, I have no issue with the idea that my partner might be sexually aroused by someone other than me. But do I really want to watch that happen? When I'm with him, I want to feel like I'm the only woman in the world he could ever desire for the rest of his life. And generally, my boyfriend does a good job of making me feel like that. So then, am I saying he just has to hide it from me in a see no evil, speak no evil paradigm?

Shouldn't it be enough that my partner is faithful to me in actions? He has control over choosing not to have a one-night stand but if he can't control his own sexual thoughts, why should it taint his virtue if he admits to titillation from others? We don't punish people for thoughts. If my boyfriend told me that he was so angry with someone that he momentarily thought about killing them, well it wouldn't be his best side, but I also wouldn't think too much of it. In fact, I'd hardly think about it. So why is it then, that I'm obsessing about this moment my boyfriend let slip that he had a sexy thought about someone else? Somehow, society has led women to have unrealistic expectations when it comes to our men's minds.

I want to be a more enlightened modern woman, acknowledging the truth that in long-term relationships, both parties are going to be aroused by outside stimuli and accept that having such thoughts is part of being human and has no bearing on our relationship. But at the same time, watching my boyfriend respond to a hot woman was not enjoyable, to put it mildly. Is the answer asking him to put on a charade where in front of me he pretends nothing else in the world aside from me is arousing? I guess I'm just not liberated enough to encourage him to confess sexual fantasies he has about another woman in particular. Even if I know it's false, I still want to believe he only desires me.

Women are often told not to hold on to silly unrealistic fairytale notions of relationships, pretending they're Cinderella while waiting for Prince Charming. But in terms of the fundamentals, I still want the fairytale -- the fairytale for me is someone who's going to love me and be faithful to me forever and no, I don't think that's unrealistic. The issue is Prince Charming sometimes fantasizes about Snow White and Sleeping Beauty getting it on together. Women, including myself, need to get comfortable with the fact that great guys who are madly in love with us and completely faithful are going to be excited by other women. And so, while I'm willing to accept that, the question still remains: Should men feel like they have to keep their lesbian Princess fantasies from us? I just don't think I will ever want to hear about my boyfriend desiring another girl. Communication is not always a panacea and despite what every relationship expert says, in this instance, I just don't understand how honesty and communication would be good for our relationship. Is it so terrible if I just allow it to happen and still pretend that it doesn't?

Maybe I am choosing to live in a delusion where I am the only bright and shiny object in his eyes. Or maybe the truth is that I really do shine a little bit brighter in his eyes than all others. Maybe only having eyes for me really means that in a sea of shiny objects, he sees all of them, but there's only one he picks up to play with. And maybe that means I can have my fairytale after all.