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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 defenseless version of ourselves that lives in our heads and is no tougher and no 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 could 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 its arm yesterday, by preferring a book to cuddling or being a bit tricky about what 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 its tender, emotional core.

  • Ideally, of course, the small self would at once point out what's happened; it would carefully explain that it'd been frustrated and hurt.

  • Its voice would be measured, undefensive and charming, but mostly it just stays silent.

  • That's forgivableit 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: we start off full of affection for one another and then, with time, feelings fade.

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B1 UK adult loving distress hurt bored love

Why We Go Cold On Our Partners

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    Kristi Yang posted on 2021/08/06
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