Much of what we do in love happens without thinking.
Meet Katrina and Kevin. They’ve been married for 7 years, and have two little girls.
When asked about their relationship problems, Katrina starts first: “He’s pissed at everyone. Me. The kids. The dogs. We’re never enough. He throws temper tantrums that are exhausting me.”
Kevin cuts her off: “I look forward to seeing her all day, but she never misses me. I text and call but she ignores me. It’s like I’m annoying her. Do you know how many women crave a man who misses them during the day?”
Katrina eyes widen. She turns to him. “You never give me a chance to miss you. If you missed me so much, why do you come home so angry?”
“I’m angry because when I get home the kids are out of control, I’m exhausted, and you ignore me.”
“No I don’t. If I greet you I get put down.”
“I’m not the mean person,” he responds “You’re the cold one. You’ve even admitted it. When I call you during the day or ask to spend time with you at night, you’re always busy. You never say anything nice to me.”
Katrina lets out a sigh full of frustration. “You ignore the nice things I say. Or you spit them back in my face. Why would anyone want to be around that?”
Kevin glares at her, “I’m not the bad guy here. Do you know that every occasion, like our anniversary, is planned by me? Why don’t you ever plan it?” He crosses his arms. “You never know what to get me for my birthday, and if you even buy anything, it’s days late. Oh, and you don’t even want to have sex with me.”
“You’re too much.”
“I know. You’ve always felt that way. I’m just too much trouble, huh? You’re sorry you married me, don’t lie.”
My Insecurity Is Too Much
You may think Kevin is a needy nutcase. But his behavior is quite understandable when you realize that it stems from his experience with his parents. Kevin doesn’t know this, but he came to this relationship with his insecurity.
Kevin’s ambivalence comes from his desire to connect coupled with his fear of connecting. As he gets close to Katrina, he pulls back, anticipating disappointment. Katrina doesn’t help the situation either, because her life experiences have taught her to remove herself from stressful situations in her relationships. Her removal reinforces Kevin’s insecurity.
While Kevin did receive plenty of affection from his mother, his life story focuses on the times she was upset with him. He remembers the moments she was too anxious to deal with his childhood fears or too occupied with her own life to deal with his needs.
The way that we perceive our life experiences determines the filter through which we see our present experiences.
When Kevin was little, he loved to talk, play games, and cuddle. But he often felt like this was a burden. His talkative nature was “annoying,” or at least, Kevin’s parents made him feel that way.
All of our childhood experiences condition us to behave in ways that gain approval so our caretakers stay close, and avoid behaviors that lead to rejection, isolation and disappointment.
Kevin has yet to grasp why he attacks Katrina with anger whenever he reunites with her. His reaction disturbs him as much as it bothers her. During the day he really misses Katrina and looks forward to cuddling and having a great evening together. Yet, once he comes home, he is overcome with emotion. He feels that he’s drowning in a flood of anger without any indication of why.
Sometimes Katrina will greet him and say, “Hey babe. I’m glad you’re home.” And while Kevin may believe her, he thinks she might hiding her true feelings and feels defensive. So he responds, “you’re just happy I’m home so I can fix the garage door.”
He doesn’t want to insult her, but he fears what she is really feeling; that she finds him annoying. It’s been a fear his whole life. He’s afraid he requires too much to be loved. Even he says, “I’m a burden, you know. Really hard to love.” While Katrina denies her need to depend on someone, Kevin is very aware of his need to depend.