How to deal with the “ if you really loved me you would……..” syndrome!
Relationship Advice Tips by Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Do what I say or else I will punish you for not proving your love!
Obedience versus freedom of choice – what's the criteria for proof of love?
If Tim did what Koren asked of him it meant that he really loved her. Obedience to the wishes of your mate was Koren’s definition of love.
If Koren gave Tim her blessing to do things according to his priority list he felt loved, cherished and respected. Permission to do what he wanted was Tim’s definition of love.
Two differing views of love brought friction, frustration and fury to the relationship. Each kept demanding proof of love and care in ways that mattered to them.
Koren demands to get her proof and Tim insists on having his proof of care
So Koren kept asking Tim to take care of things for the family and around the house on her schedule.
Three of her most frequent demands were
- Get the plumbing repair done cheaply
- Come to bed at the same time as me
- Stay by her side at all times at a party
Tim stops Koren from controlling him by pinning her down with solutions to her complaints
Tim’s hot button got pushed. He wasn’t going to let Koren control him. He would give Koren alternative ways of getting things done, in the hope of getting her off his back.
Three of Tim’s solutions
- My aunt knows plumbers who are reasonably priced, call her.
- Watch TV or read until I am ready for bed and then we can have out time together
- Mingle and make friends with other people at parties
Tim’s ‘alternative solutions’ pushed Koren’s hot buttons. She didn’t care about the jobs that needed doing. She just wanted proof that Tim would do what she asked so she could be reassured of his continuing care and love for her.
Koren escalated her demands and Tim became more rigid in his determination not to be controlled. Fierce clashes broke out, each accusing the other of being mean, selfish and unloving.
Koren’s angry demands became ‘orders’ and ‘threats.’
Tim’s ‘alternative solutions’ became outbursts of defensiveness aimed at maintaining his autonomy.
How did Koren and Tim end up feeling under threat, unloved and desperate to have the exact proof of love they needed from their partners?
The rule in Koren’s family was that you only get loved if you do as you are told. When she did what her parents wanted, when they wanted she was noticed. She received smiles, and soft loving satisfied tones of voice directed at her. If she delayed or put her needs first, she was ignored, spurned, forgotten and compared unfavorably to her siblings.
Tim grew up in a home where he too was controlled but in a different way. He was allowed to have his wishes and desires but only up to a point. He had to practice what his parents preached. Tim knew he was loved, but he didn’t feel it in his heart because his parents didn’t accept his wishes, ways and choices.
Koren 'knew' Tim loved her but she didn't believe it in her heart
Knowing you are loved and ‘feeling it’ are two different things!
Koren discovered that it was pointless having wishes and desires. She would only have to kill them off when she found a partner. Obligation and love became synonymous. Koren knew Tim loved her, but she didn’t feel it in her heart unless he proved it by doing what she asked and in the time frame she expected.
Tim discovered that it was futile hoping for loved ones to give him space and freedom to have his own way of doing things, especially if they were waiting on him to get things done. He knew that Koren loved him, but he didn’t feel it when she ordered him around and demanded immediate action.
How can Tim and Koren feel the love they each say they have for one another?
Research indicates that controlling mothers inhibit the development of empathy in their children for future romantic partners. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2010.
Both Tim and Koren experienced controlling mothers and were denied the opportunity to have their feelings and wishes taken into consideration as part of the family experience.
They can learn to develop a sense of empathy for the experience of their partner. They have to practice doing for each other what they were deprived of as children.
Koren and Tim can share their experience of being controlled and stop the cycle
- They can ask each other what it’s like to have demands made, or personal choices unaccepted.
- Tim can tell Koren how threatened he feels when her demands trigger a fear that he is going to have to give up his thoughts, ideas, and vision of life.
- Koren can tell Tim how scared she feels when he fails to do what she wants. She can share her fear of being banished from his world and left alone, unwanted.
- Tim and Koren can connect through the empathy they build when they both appreciate the threats they are defending against.
5. With understanding and connection Tim and Koren will approach each other with more compassion stoked by empathy.
6. Tim and Koren will feel the love and understanding during their interactions in the way the speak and look at one another.
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educational purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Jeanette Raymond for any reactions you may have while reading the article or implementing the suggestions contained therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.