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What is a Wandering Eye?

A wandering eye can refer to a lack of fidelity.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 April 2014
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The term “wandering eye” has two distinctly different meanings that should not be confused. Fortunately, the meaning is usually clear from context, as in one sense, it refers to a medical condition, and in another it refers to a lack of fidelity. Both are usually treatable.

In the sense of a medical condition, wandering eye is a condition that causes the focus of one or both eyes to drift away when a person is looking at something. Essentially, the condition prevents both eyes from focusing together and, depending on the severity of the condition, it can be quite irritating for the patient. It may also be disconcerting for people who might interact with the patient. This condition is not the same as lazy eye, a condition in which visual information from one eye does not reach the brain.

Wandering eye is typically diagnosed during routine eye examinations, if the doctor notices that the patient has trouble focusing both eyes on an object. It can be treated with physical therapy in the form of eye exercises, specially designed glasses, and surgery, in extreme cases. The eye doctor may also explore the root cause behind the problem, as the condition can sometimes be a symptom of brain and nervous system conditions that warrant further investigation.

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In the second sense, someone is said to have the “wandering eye” when he or she cannot stay focused on a primary partner. Typically, the this precedes acts of outright infidelity, and it can be a sign that a relationship is troubled, or that someone in a relationship is unhappy with the status quo. People may also be accused of having a wandering eye for perfectly innocent reasons; for example, a jealous partner might be angry about being neglected at a party in favor of someone else, and suggest that the other partner is paying too much attention to other people.

In the case of infidelity, a wandering eye can be tricky to treat. As a general rule, identifying the problem early is a good thing, as is a conversation about the situation and the relationship. A couple may choose to pursue therapy to talk through the issues that may be leading to discontentment, or they may opt to deal with the situation on their own. A person who looks at someone other than his or her partner does not necessarily have the intention to stray; some people simply have a natural appreciation for individuals they find beautiful, and they may be unable to contain it.

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Discuss this Article

mabeT
Post 2

The wandering eye – I suppose that is exactly what infidelity begins with in a literal sense. Infidelity is often completely devastating in relationships where it occurs, and it hurts more deeply than the cheater often knows. I guess we can pair up ‘the wandering eye’ phrase with the thought that they always seem to have in their minds when they cheat, ‘what they don’t know won’t hurt them.’

But, boy oh boy does it hurt when they find out. Wandering eye treatment in that situation is very tough.

Domido
Post 1

My brother-in-law has a wandering eye (the first kind the article talks about not the infidelity one – sorry sis). His mother dropped him down a small set of front porch steps when he was a small child accidentally. Ever since one eye points in a slightly different direction than right at you when he's looking at you. It is a little uncomfortable at times because you can’t tell if he’s actually looking at you or next to you. I don’t mean that in a disrespectful sense at all, but it is definitely a little hard to know where to stand when you’re talking with him. But, he’s been in the family for years now, and it’s just one of those things that grow on you. Sort of like when mom first got her really, really ultra-kinky perm; for a while when you talked to her all you could stare at was her hair, but you eventually got over it. Maybe this is a slightly less destructive example of the second wandering eye.

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