One of the most obvious but in practice very
hardest things to ask a partner, even one
we name in our will and whose life is entirely
entwined with ours, is: ‘Do you still love
me?’ There would be so many reasons why they might not do so anymore: we might have
driven them to the limit with our admittedly at points really rather challenging behavior.
We’re not getting any younger. There are
a lot of other people – especially at work
and in the invisible parts of their life – who
would have great things to offer them. It’s
hard to trust anyone, given what can happen.
Furthermore, the signs aren’t necessarily
very good at the moment. They spend a lot
of time on their phones. They’re a bit distracted.
Their thoughts seem elsewhere. We powerfully long for reassurance and at the same time
what we would need to get this reassurance
presents terrors of all its own. It would
mean revealing the extent of our vulnerability
and of the scale of their power to hurt us.
It would mean having to admit how much of
our life is in their hands and how deeply
we depend on their good opinion of us for
our psychological survival. Sometimes the
cost can feel just too high – especially
if we grew up in families where we got little
reassurance that another person would understand
our needs. It seems better not to ask too
directly. At the same time, their disengaged
manner is unbearable as well. In the circumstances,
we may find ourselves carrying out one of
the strangest manoeuvres witnessed in relationships.
We may seek to get their attention accompanied
by their anger as opposed to their attention
accompanied by their love. We choose to pay
the lower price of seeking signs that they
remember we exist as an alternative to the
far more arduous, rejection-risky task of
securing proof that they still love us.
So we wait until they are tired and fed up
and launch a volley of accusations: you never
do much around the house, your job doesn’t
pay enough, you’ve become very dull. Or,
at dinner with friends, we loudly tell a story
about something that happened during their
parent’s messy divorce. What we are really
trying to say is: I love you so much. I rely
on you to give sense to my life. But instead
we have managed to work them up into a rage
and ensured they will say brutal things to
us. Of course, their mind is fully trained
on us. But – with a horrible irony – it’s
far from the kind of attention we were seeking.
We who crave their kindness, their enthusiasm,
their warmth, their compassion, their tenderness
and their constructive intelligence to engage
with our needs are on the receiving end of
their (very understandable) frustration, disappointment,
wounded pride and self-protective anger. We
should have the courage of our longings. We
should build relationships where it is natural,
and therefore not too frightening, to seek
and receive on a regular basis basic reassurance
that we are wanted. We should make friends
with our own extreme dependence and not see
it as a sign of either shame or evil. Furthermore,
when we next find ourselves on the receiving
end of some utterly unfair accusations or
aggression from our partner, we should bear
in mind that they have probably not turned
monstrous: they are simply trying to secure
a reminder that we care for them in the only
way they know how, by driving us mad.
Our Relationships Reboot Cards inspire conversations that can help to rekindle
love between you and your partner.