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  • One of the most striking features of relationships  is that, after a while, if things are going well,  

  • one or both partners will almost naturally  start to refer to the other as 'baby'.  

  • They might, alternatively or in additionstick a diminutive on to the end of their name  

  • ('-ie'), buy them a teddy (or  show them their own from way back)  

  • and late at night speak to them in an unusually  high pitched, soothing and sing-songy way.

  • We all invest a considerable part of our energy  and our pride in growing up, in ensuring that we  

  • no longer need help in tying up our shoelacesdon't need to be reminded to wrap up warm on  

  • cold days and can take care of combing our own  hair. In short, we try very hard to be adults.

  • But successful grown up relationships  demand something rather peculiar of us:  

  • while we are rewarded for the overall maturity  of our characters and way of life, we are also  

  • invited - when striving properly to be close to  someone - to access the less developed, and more  

  • puerile sides of us. It belongs to authentic  adulthood to be able, at points in an intimate  

  • relationship, to curl up like a small child and  seek to be 'babied' as one might have been many  

  • decades before, when we wore pyjamas with elephant  prints on them and had a lisp and a small gap in  

  • our front teeth. It belongs to health, rather  than pathology, to realise how much one might  

  • at difficult moments want to be 'mummied' or  'daddied' by a partner and to connect for a time  

  • with the helpless, frightened, dependent child  one once was and at some level always remain.

  • Sadly though, this selective regression is no easy  or charming journey back for those whose childhood  

  • involved them in scenes of petrifying suffering  and humiliation. For them, growing up has  

  • involved a superhuman effort never again to place  themselves at the mercy of those who might take  

  • advantage of their vulnerabilities. Returning into  imaginative contact with 'mummies' and 'daddies'  

  • therefore holds no particular charm; their  teddies will not be having a picnic any time soon.  

  • These bulletproof characters are likely to walk  through the world with defiance and strength.  

  • They will have built a heavy shield  of irony around their hearts.  

  • Sarcasm may be their favorite mode of defence  - and they will have ensured in a thousand ways  

  • that no one would ever attempt to  ask them, even in the briefest,  

  • most lighthearted and humorous wayto 'come to mummy or daddy' for a hug.

  • The defensiveness is hugely understandablebut it is not necessarily aligned with the  

  • real requirements of maturity. True health would  mean recovering an easy and informal contact  

  • with one's less robust dimensions; it  would mean being able to play the child  

  • because one knew one was resolutely the adultit would mean being able to be 'baby' because  

  • one was in no doubt that one had safely overcome  the fears and traumas of the defenceless past.

  • The more difficult the early years have been, the  more of our undeveloped self must be disavowed,  

  • the more we must appear grandioseimpregnable and daunting. Nevertheless,  

  • we will know we have acceded to genuine adulthood  when we can hold out a protective hand to our  

  • frail younger self - and reassure them that we  will from now on be their reliable guardians and  

  • protectors and allow them to visit us for  a cuddle and a play whenever they need to.

One of the most striking features of relationships  is that, after a while, if things are going well,  

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