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  • The story of the path to coldness in love is well known:

  • we start off full of affection for one another

  • and then, with time, feelings fade.

  • We start prioritizing work,

  • we check our phones while they're speaking,

  • we don't especially want to hear how their day went.

  • There's a popular surface explanation for this kind of emotional frost:

  • that people naturally get bored of one another in the same way as they get bored with everything else:

  • the gadget that once seemed so amazing,

  • the film they used to love.

  • Going cold is, in this story, simply the unavoidable consequence of familiarity.

  • But there's another explanation, dark at first,

  • but in the end, more hopeful.

  • The loss of interest isn't either natural, or inevitable.

  • The boredom is something at once more complicated and more active -

  • It exists, because we felt hurt by, angry with or scared of our partner

  • and because we haven't found a cathartic way to tell ourselves, or them, about it.

  • Tuning out isn't inevitable, it's a symptom of disavowed emotional distress,

  • it's a way of coping.

  • We're internally numbed, not just a touch bored.

  • This can sound strange, after all we might have no active sense

  • that our partner has been hurting, angrying or frightening us.

  • The idea appears laughable or extreme;

  • it makes our partners sound like monsters or ourselves like weaklings,

  • neither of which is true.

  • But the self that loves within a relationship is not the normal, adult self we know from other zones of our lives.

  • We may mostly be hugely resourceful and resilient, but the person who loves is an infinitely more vulnerable being.

  • We should imagine it like a smaller, younger, more defenceless version of ourselves

  • that lives in our heads and is no tougher and not much wiser than we were as babies,

  • which is when so many of our needs for and ideas about love were formed.

  • It's this vulnerable self that continues to direct our hearts even if we're 6'2" with a pointy beard.

  • The loving self has a gossamer thin ego.

  • It gets hurt, frightened and upset with desperate ease.

  • You can deeply distress it by interrupting it during the story it's telling you about the sandwich it had for lunch,

  • by not asking it enough about the little spot it got on it's arm yesterday,

  • by preferring a book to cuddling,

  • or being a bit tricky about which channel it should watch on TV.

  • Of course, these are, by ordinary adult standards, tiny slights;

  • but we don't love by adult standards.

  • These small arrows are enough to wound the self that loves to it's tender, emotional core.

  • Ideally, of course, the small self would at once point out what's happenned,

  • It would carefully explain that it'd been frustrated and hurt,

  • it's voice would be measured, undefensive and charming,

  • but mostly it just stays silent.

  • That's forgiveable - it doesn't properly understand what's wrong,

  • it just knows it's in pain

  • and it's driven by an instinct to withdraw and protect itself

  • which translates into behaviour that looks pretty cold.

  • If the adult self had to give voice to the loving self's upset, it could sound and feel absurd,

  • which is partly why it doesn't.

  • There can be something especially humiliating in having to say:

  • 'I don't feel you took enough interest in the details of my lunch break.'

  • or 'I'm 45 years old but not capable of sharing a TV remote control'.

  • These truly are small issues for an adult to dwell on,

  • but the parts of us that make themselves vulnerable in love don't obey the ordinary adult rules.

  • The consequence is that the loving self dries up, it doesn't want to have sex,

  • it gets sarcastic and irritable,

  • but it doesn't even know why it's like this.

  • It isn't putting on an act, it's confused.

  • To learn to cope, we need a prominent mutual awareness and forgiveness of this dynamic of sensitivity and distress

  • and a commitment to decode it when disengagement and indifference descend.

  • We have to create a forum in which so-called minor, love-sucking hurts can safely be aired without the other dismissing,

  • as they always so easily can, the issues at stake as childish or imagined.

  • The touchiness of the loving self is ridiculous, if judged by the more robust standards of the rest of life,

  • but this is not the rest of life.

  • When we've gone cold, we may not truly have lost interest in our partners,

  • we might just need an opportunity to imagine that we are quietly really rather hurt and furious with them

  • and we should have access to a safe forum

  • in which our tender but critical feelings can be aired, purged and understood without risk of humiliation

The story of the path to coldness in love is well known:

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B1 UK adult loving distress bored vulnerable hurt

Why We Go Cold On Our Partners

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    Kristi Yang posted on 2017/01/09
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