“I love you.”
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, in many relationships, there’s often one partner who feels constant pressure from the other to ‘prove’ their love. The requested proof can take many forms, but the feeling imparted is always some form of, “If you love me, you would..,” or “Show me you love me by..”
Why Your Partner Keeps Wanting Proof
Neither gender has the corner on feeling pressured to demonstrate proof of love. It happens to both men and women equally.
It doesn’t really matter who’s doing it. If one partner has a constant need for affirmation of love, it isn’t healthy. So, why do some people need that reassurance so routinely? And why do some partners put up with it?
The overwhelming reason behind needing constant proof of love is a deep feeling of being unworthy of love to begin with. This goes beyond the typical insecurities that we all can experience and is far more damaging.
These feelings can originate from several places. Among them are:
- Experiences growing up
- Abusive relationships
- Abandonment by someone they loved
- Lack of satisfaction within their own lives and accomplishments
These issues can cause feelings of worthlessness that run deep and be difficult to overcome.
However, when they’ve been left unchecked and unaddressed, they can leave a person with doubt about their own worthiness of love and respect. As a result, they look for constant reassurance of their partner’s love and indeed may ‘love-test’ them frequently.
Partners experiencing this may feel irritated, exhausted by it, and frustrated, but many don’t recognize what’s happening quickly enough to put a stop to things.
Unfair Ways a Partner May Ask For Proof
Love-testing a partner, is unfair, unhealthy, and can lead to resentment within the relationship. The constant need to prove love sends the message they can’t be trusted or they’re doing something wrong. It can also make it appear that the problem lies with them and the way they express their love, rather than with the partner that’s struggling with issues of self-esteem.
Sadly, many couples experience this dynamic and never realize what’s happening. The pattern, as frustrating as it may be, becomes accepted and “normal” despite it being damaging.
So, how do you know if you’re constantly being love-tested and asked to prove your feelings? Look for some of these sneaky and unfair ways that your partner may be testing you.
- Cold-shoulder behavior when they don’t get sex. In a healthy relationship, sex happens naturally, or at least with mutual interest (even if it takes a little work). But when one partner insists on sex, doesn’t respect the reasons you’re not in the mood, and then tries to manipulate or guilt you into it by accusing you of not loving them and giving you the silent treatment, there’s a problem – a big one.
- Insisting you cut ties with opposite-sex friends. Nothing sets insecurity on fire like a partner’s close relationship with a member of the opposite sex. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with having friends of the other gender unless you’re actually riding the line of being inappropriate or exclusionary to your partner. If you’re sure that’s not the case and your partner still insists that if you really loved them, you’d drop your opposite-sex friends, it’s time to reevaluate this dynamic of your relationship.
- Pouting when they think your response isn’t enthusiastic enough. If your partner does your laundry, a sincere thank you should be enough. If you find that they’re expecting a ticker-tape parade every time they do something nice, then what they’re truly doing is asking you to acknowledge their value to you and prove your love and appreciation.
- Expectation of gifts or money spent. No one should have to prove their feelings monetarily. Not only is it superficial, but it’s also irresponsible and sets up a dangerous dynamic. True expressions of feeling don’t require $$, so be careful if your partner thinks the only way they know you love them is by the amount of money you spend.
- Telling vs. asking. “Jack, you’re going to help Alma move this weekend,” or “Jenny, I need you to arrange a party for my boss,” not only shows a lack of respect but also assumes that your love for them means you’ll do what they ask without question.
- Comparing you to others and expecting you to emulate them. “Doug surprised Teresa with a midnight picnic. He must really love her – how come you’ve never done that?” Or “Wendy always irons Leon’s pants and sends him sexy pics during the day – that’s real love.” Neither of these is proof of love, and although they “appear” to work for the couples in question, they may not work for your relationship.
If any of these strike a chord on some level, your partner may be regularly engaging in love-testing.
How to Get Away From the ‘Prove It’ Cycle
If your partner expects you to constantly prove your love does that mean the relationship is doomed and you should break up? No, not by itself, at least.
Your partner’s lack of self-confidence and misconceptions about what healthy expressions of love really look like doesn’t mean you don’t love them or they don’t love you. Nor does it mean you won’t be able to find a way to a healthier relationship.
Your first step should be to begin to help them see what they’re doing and why it’s unfair. Your second will be to explain to them your feelings and help them understand the genuine ways you express your love for them.
Depending on the success of those conversations, you may need a third step – counseling. If your partner is struggling with issues that they can’t resolve on their own, an experienced counselor may be what’s needed in order to move forward. They may also be needed to help your partner hear and accept the truth of what you’ve said in the first steps above.
Keep in mind that these things don’t generally resolve quickly, especially if the issues that have led to a need for continual reassurance have existed for a long time. As a couple, you may have to repeat the steps several times before progress will be really felt and seen.