Why We Sometimes Try to Make Our Partner Sad – Free Ebook

There is a kind of argument that begins with
one partner deliberately – and for no immediately

obvious reason – attempting to spoil the
good mood and high spirits of the other. The

cheerful partner may be cooking a cake for
their visiting nephew or whistling a tune

while they rearrange the kitchen. They may
be making plans for the weekend or discussing

what fun it will be to see an old school friend
again soon. Or they may be expressing unusual

optimism about their professional future and
financial prospects. Despite our love for

them, something about the situation may suddenly
grate with us. Within a short time, we may

find ourselves saying something unusually
harsh or critical: we may point out a flaw

with their school friend (they tell very boring
anecdotes, they can be pretty snobbish); we

may take exception to the arrangement of the
cupboards; we find fault with the cake; we

bring up an aspect of their work that we know
our partner finds dispiriting; we complain

that they haven’t properly considered the
roadworks when planning the weekend. We do

everything to try to induce a mood of anxiety,
friction and misery. On the surface it looks

as if we’re simply monsters. But if we dig
a little deeper, a more understandable (though

no less regrettable) picture may emerge. We
are acting in this way because our partner’s

buoyant and breezy mood can come across as
a forbidding barrier to communication. We

fear that their current happiness could prevent
them from knowing the shame or melancholy,

worry or loneliness that presently possess
us. We are trying to shatter their spirits

because we are afraid of being lonely. We
don’t make this argument explicitly to ourselves

but a dark instinct in our minds experiences
their upbeat mood as a warning that the uncheery

parts of ourselves must now be unwelcome.
And so we make a crude, wholly immature but

psychologically comprehensible assumption
that we will never be properly known and loved

until our partner can feel as sad and frustrated
as we do, a recalibration of mood that we

put into motion with malicious determination.
But of course, the truth is quite the contrary.

We may succeed in making our partner upset
but we almost certainly won’t thereby secure

the imagined benefits of their gloom: they
won’t – once their mood has been spoilt

– emerge with any greater appetite for listening
to our messages of distress or for cradling

us indulgently in their consoling arms. They
will just be furious. The better move – if

only we could manage it – would be to confess
to, rather than act out, our impulses. We

would learn to get to know the mechanisms
of our immaturity with unfrightened curiosity

while making every effort to protect others
from its effects. We would admit to our partner

that we had been seized by an ugly fear about
the consequences of their happiness, would

laughingly reveal how much we would ideally
love to cause a stink, and would firmly pledge

that we naturally aren’t about to. We would
all the while remind ourselves that every

cheerful person has been sad and that the
buoyant among us have by far the best chances

of keeping afloat those who remain emotionally
at sea. The spoiling argument is a wholly

paradoxical plea for love that leaves one
party ever further from the tenderness and

shared insight they crave. Knowing to spot
the phenomenon should lead us – when we

are the ones baking or whistling a tune – to
remember that the person attempting to ruin

our mood isn’t perhaps just a monster (though
they are a bit of that too); they are, childishly

but sincerely, worried that our happiness
may come at their expense and are, through

their remorseless negativity, in a garbled
and maddening way, begging us for reassurance.

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