Often, our partner isn’t necessarily being terrible in any overt way but we feel a growing sadness about the character of our relationship. The partner isn’t as focused on us as we’d hoped. There are often times when they don’t understand us properly. They’re often busy and preoccupied. They can be a bit off-hand, or abrupt. They’re not hugely interested in the details of our day. They call their friends rather than talk with us. We feel disenchanted and let down. Love, was supposed to be lovely. But without any one huge thing having gone wrong, it doesn’t feel much that way, day to day. This sorrow has a paradoxical source. We’re upset now because at some point in the past, we were really rather fortunate. We’re sad, because we’ve been lucky. To explain this seeming paradox, we need to have a look at the intimate origins of love. Our idea of what a good, loving relationship should be like and what it feels like to be loved, doesn’t ever come from what we’ve seen in adulthood. It arises from a stranger, more powerful source. The idea of a happy couplehood taps into a fundamental picture of comfort, deep security, wordless communication, and of our needs being effortlessly understood that comes from early childhood. At the best moments of childhood, if things went reasonably well, a loving parent offered us extraordinary satisfaction. They knew when we were hungry or tired. Even though we couldn’t usually explain. We didn’t need to strive. They made us feel completely safe. We were held peacefully. We were entertained, and indulged. And even if we don’t recall the explicit details, the experience of being cherished has made a profound impression on us. It’s planted itself in our deep minds as the ideal template of what love should be. As adults, without really noticing, we continue to be enthralled to this notion of being loved. Projecting the best experience of our early years into our present relationships. And finding them sorely wanting as a result. A comparison, that is profoundly corrosive, and unfair. The love we receive from a parent can’t ever be a workable model for our later adult experience of love. The reason is fundamental, we were a baby then we are an adult now. A dichotomy with several key ramifications. For a start, our needs were so much simpler. Back then, we needed to be washed and amused, put to bed.. But we didn’t need someone to trawl intelligently through the troubled corners of our minds. We didn’t need a caregiver to understand why we prefer the first series of a television show to the second. Why its necessary to see our aunt on Sunday. Or why it matters so much to us that the curtains harmonize with the sofa covers. Or that bread must be cut with a proper bread knife. The parent knew absolutely what was required in relation to certain basic physical and emotional requirements. Our partner on the other hand, is stumbling in the dark around needs that are immensely subtle, far from obvious, and very complicated to deliver upon. Secondly, none of it was reciprocal back then. The parent was intensely focused on caring for us but they knew and totally accepted that we wouldn’t engage with their needs. They didn’t for a second imagine that they could take their troubles to us, or expect us to nurture them. They didn’t need us to ask them about their day. Our responsibility was blissfully simple. All we had to please them, was to exist. Our most ordinary actions, rolling over on our tummy, grasping a biscuit in our tiny hand, enchanted them with ease. We were loved, we didn’t have, to love. A distinction between kinds of love which language normally artfully blurs, shielding us between the difference between being the privileged customer of love, or its more exhausted and long suffering provider. Futhermore, our parents were probably kind enough to shield us from the burden that looking after us imposed on them. They maintained a reasonably sunny facade, until they retired to their own bedroom. At which, the true toll of their efforts could be witnessed but, by then, we were asleep. They did us the honor of not quite showing us what looking after us cost them. Which was immensely kind, but did us one lasting disservice, It may have unwittingly created an expectation of what it could mean for someone to love us which was never true in the first place. We might in later life, end up with lovers who are techy with us who are too tired to talk at the end of the day, who don’t marvel at our every antic, who can’t even be bothered to listen to what we’re saying and we might feel, with some bitterness that this is not how our parents were The irony which has its redeeming side, is that in truth, this is exactly how our parents were, just up in their bedroom, when we were asleep, and realize nothing. The source of our present sorrow is not, therefore, a special failing on the part of our adult lovers. They are not tragically inept nor uniquely selfish. Its rather that we’re judging our adult experiences in the light of a very different kind of childhood love. We are sorrowful not because we have landed with the wrong person, but because, we have sadly been forced to grow up.