In order to survive in the world, we have little option but to spend our lives being rather defended, that is at one remove from our more vulnerable sides, closed off from certain emotions, focused in many cases on “not feeling”. And yet in relationships quite the opposite is required. To be good at love means to have a capacity to reveal one’s hurt, desire and tender sides. This is quite a balancing act: Great strength for most of the day and well handled tenderness for the few that remain. It’s no wonder if the journey from independence to vulnerability can get rather fraught, and if the desire for closeness can be accompanied by terror, and what looks like but isn’t really nastiness. Even after years with someone, there can be a hurdle of fear about trying to get close. Two major symptoms then tend to show up. Firstly, we can get distant or what psychotherapist call “Avoidant”. We want to get close to our partners but feel so anxious that we may be unwanted, we freeze them out a bit instead, we say we’re busy, we pretend our thoughts are elsewhere, we imply that a need for reassurance would be the last thing on our minds. We might even have an affair- the ultimate face-saving attempt to be safely distant, and often a perverse quest to assert that we don’t require the partner’s love, a love that we’ve been too reserved to ask for. Or else, we can get controlling what therapists called “Anxious”. We feel our partners are escaping us emotionally and we respond by trying to pin them down administratively. We get unduly cross that they’re a bit late, we chastise them heavily for not having done certain chores, we ask them constantly they’ve completed a task they’d agreed to undertake. All this rather than admit: “I’m worried I don’t matter to you!” We can’t we believe force our partner to be generous and warm, we can’t force them to want us even if we haven’t actually asked them to so we try to control them procedurally, a tragic cycle that unfolds, we become shrill and unpleasant, to the other person it feels that we can’t possibly love them anymore. Yet the truth is we do! We just fear rather too much that they don’t love us, but if are rather harsh graceless behavior could be truly understood for what it is it would be revealed not as rejection but as a strangely distorted yet very real plea for tenderness. We should have sympathy for ourselves. Relationships require us to put ourselves in a very weak position vis-à-vis partners. If they ever want to use the power they have over us and sometimes they do, they know exactly where to put the boot in. This can be deeply frightening. This aspect of relationships is even more difficult if our early experiences and childhoods have made closeness rather scary if we’ve encountered people who have taken signs of vulnerability as targets. So we’re not frightened of closeness because we’re fools but because it is a challenge to be around another person who might easily hurt us and to keep on in a relationship despite the fact that they do sometimes use this knowledge to strike out at us. Closeness is inherently threatening but we can gradually with courage and difficulty replace defense with explanation. We can say with frightened and why rather than turn cold or controlling, and we can begin to see what our partners might be trying to communicate through their off-putting behavior. We can never be through with a requirement for acceptance This isn’t a curse limited to the weak and the inadequate. Insecurity and love is a sign of well-being. It means we haven’t allowed ourselves to take another person for granted, it means we remain realistic enough to see that things could genuinely turn out badly and that we’re invested enough to care. We must get better at seeing the love and longing that lurk behind some of our and our partner’s most frosty managerial and brutish moments. We’re just in our own way of dealing with the anxieties of trying to get close.