I’m perpetually stumped by the demands made by one partner on another in relationships. There’s a shortlist of expectations in any romantic relationship, which includes fairly obvious things such as fidelity. And yet I find people happily wandering into an Alice’s Wonderland of expectations and demands.
My friend VD (he of the unfortunate initials) was in the throes of new passion with KT, whom he had dredged up from the black creek of his high school days. Everything was fine until they exhausted the frothing fount of sexual enthusiasm, and then things took a left turn when KT purred into VD’s ear, “Come on baby, prove to me you love me.”
VD, whose concept of romance is a quick shag followed (if not accompanied) by a kathi roll, turned to her and asked with dull innocence, “Prove it how?” Which snowballed into his first fight with KT. The more upset she became with VD, the more abstract her demands became. It eventually boiled down to this: VD was supposed to divine or concoct some hare-brained spectacle of his utter devotion to KT, which would likely still be adjudged insufficient.
So VD engineered an intersection of his and my schedules. As much as I sigh at the sight of VD’s affected hangdog performance, a part of me perks up in anticipation of his latest offering. “Prove you love me?” I repeated, rolling my eyes. “What is she, twelve?”
“I wish,” VD mumbled into his beer.
Glossing over the several things that were wrong with his response, I mused on the facts he had presented. Why do so many people demand proof of love? And not just proof of love, but ludicrous examples of it? A woman I once worked with proudly recounted how her boyfriend climbed a snake-infested hill to bring back a flower she wanted from the top. A guy I know socially makes all his girlfriends snoop on their close friends to find out embarrassing secrets. These are serious risks taken to ‘prove’ love to someone.
Part of the reason people demand proof is the rhetoric of merit in society. For example, people who finish their day’s work early are expected to stay until the end of the business day or risk being considered shirkers, when in fact they’ve just proved they are better performers. As though these grown adults are still in school. School and generic parenting are where this all starts. Young children are purposely conditioned to scramble to prove their merit, regardless of whether the result itself has any merit: the scrambling is what matters, what gives parents and teachers the feeling of satisfaction that this child is jumping when they say jump. It’s an exercise in power.
The other part of the reason is a more genuine, emotional one: that the overwhelming majority of people have experienced an overwhelming majority of betrayal in their life. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t felt acute betrayal from every person they’ve ever loved. Even circumstantial, innocuous acts can cut us to the core: a mistimed laugh, a deprecating gesture, a roll of the eyes, a twist in the smile. We all bear the scars of what we have perceived, rightly or wrongly, as indisputable evidence that the one we love doesn’t love us. There’s a Russian tragedy in this, that so many people in KT’s life have proved, beyond her doubt, that they don’t love her, so much so that her automatic reaction is to demand evidence of love from VD.
These socio-psychological factors aside, asking someone to prove their love is just redundant, especially when dating. Everyone knows their time is the most precious commodity they have. As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it, and for me that simply means that the only proof my woman needs is that I’m giving her my maximum time.
Of course, the facts that 1. VD is in it only for the nookie and 2. KT is rather psychotic (independent of aforementioned sad Russian tale) make the foreseeable conclusion not so blameworthy. VD proved to KT just how much he loved her by dumping her, and then telling her to “consider that her proof pudding and eat it.”
Olivier Lafont is an actor and scriptwriter.