Hello, Carolyn: After two years of dating and now nearly two years of living together, my boyfriend can’t seem to stop ogling women. Almost from the beginning he has taken to giving women in his line of vision a good up and down look — sometimes in the middle of our conversations. He thinks it’s jealousy that makes me so upset when watching him in ogle mode. But it has occurred so often that I feel disrespected and I’ve told him so. He says he loves me, but with this continued ogling, I’m questioning if he cares for me.
What’s a woman to do with a man who likes to look so much?
Sad in Chicago
You take him — as-is — or leave him, that’s what. You’ve got four years of experience with him to tell you whether he is a good person, whether you suit each other and whether he treats you well overall, so make up your mind.
You did have every right to say what bothered you and ask him to stop. However, once it was clear to you that he wasn’t going to change — that’s his prerogative, by the way — the onus was on you to figure out whether you could accept this aspect of him. If no, you go; we don’t have license to correct, correct, correct people who aren’t behaving exactly as we think they should.
I also suggest you read this:
Hi, Carolyn: My girlfriend forwarded me the question she sent to you and I would like to add my perspective to hers.
One time excepted, for which I have apologized profusely, I haven’t been ogling women. Case in point: We were riding a bus together on a three-person bench seat, near each other but there was some space between us. Although there were numerous seats available nearby, it appeared that an elderly woman was moving to sit down between us. I moved my arm to block the space. As she moved on, I momentarily watched her pass. Girlfriend went ballistic.
Girlfriend monitors me continuously when we’re in public together. If I chat with a female at a party, even at church, she likely will get upset. I’ve learned to become a student of my shoes! Once at a baseball game, there was a young woman sitting next to her. To assure that she wouldn’t think I was ogling, I made sure that at no point did I ever so much as glance at the woman. But sure enough, around the seventh inning, she thought I was glancing at the woman — I wasn’t — and abruptly left the game.
While breaking up might seem like an obvious solution, I love her totally, and generally she tells me she feels the same about me. Help!
She said, he said, I say: One of you has to be right. Right?
If your account is accurate, then she’s calling you rude, inappropriate, a dog, even though you’ve policed your gaze so severely to protect her feelings that you’re at risk of walking into a pole. If her account is accurate, then you’re a creep.
And that means I can’t figure out why either of you has stuck with the other this long. She is sure. You are sure. And what you’re both sure of is bad.
I won’t take a side even though I want to (yours — more credible). Instead I’ll advise both of you to consider this:
For a lot of people, what each of you describes is the definition of misery. (And for the rest, I suspect it happens so gradually they think it’s normal.) Each of you is choosing to be with someone you don’t trust.
The next conversation I hope you have is to figure out whether you’re willing to trust each other — to choose to stop accusing, and stop walking on eggshells. It’s easy to say, hard to do but essential to making this work. So start small: See whether you both can get through one evening in public with your defenses down. That means being in the moment and being yourself vs. using your behavior to try to change what the other does. Try one evening, then another, then a next.
To pull this off — or to walk away from each other if you simply can’t get along — what you’ll need above all is to trust yourselves.
You, Ms. Sad, will have to trust that you are enough, not just for this man or any other, but for yourself, so that you don’t see every purse or ponytail as an existential threat. You have to want this.
And you, Mr. A., need to trust that if your heart is true, then you don’t have to prove and reprove yourself to anyone. Not just because people who really know you will believe you but also because, with that self-trust, you’ll realize there’s no place in your life for people who are on constant alert for definitive proof you’re a pig.