Dear Carolyn: My girlfriend claims that I am constantly looking at other women when we are out walking around. She says she catches me wandering whenever a woman walks by me, near me, etc.
We live in New York City and there are a million people everywhere. Yes, I look. I look, in a general way, at everyone who comes into my view. It's not as if I am focusing on any one woman.
I don't know how to tell her that, while I “see” people, women and men, I am not ogling. I'm getting frustrated with this and it has ruined a few dates.
Is she being immature, or should I should keep my head low and look to the ground?
Dear T: Let's see. She had a concern. She mentioned it to you. Good so far.
You listened, weighed your own behavior against her concern, and told her the truth as you see it. Also good.
She has chosen not to believe you. She thinks you're rude and disrespectful. And instead of breaking up with you over this perceived, rather significant character problem, she has chosen to try to change it – even though you've (apparently) made it clear that you see no reason to change because you aren't guilty of what she accuses.
This is not good.
I dissected your story because these arguments are often mistaken for legitimate differences of opinion, when they're neither legitimate nor about opinions.
It's not as if one of you can be “right.” She is insecure, clearly, but this isn't a debate on what constitutes ogling.
This is you being yourself, and her not liking it. Each of you is entitled to do each of these things.
And here's where maturity comes in.
Mature people distinguish between the things they can and can't change, and adapt their own behavior accordingly.
Immature people expect everyone else to adapt to their own expectations.
All of which is to say: No, don't look at the ground. Instead, get a good look at your girlfriend's expectations.
Then, do the mature thing yourself, and decide how you will respond to this aspect of her character.
(I could say “RUN LIKE YOUR HAIR IS ON FIRE,” but I like people to draw their own conclusions. And I don't have enough paragraphs.)