I’m sensitive. That’s true. I’m also demanding. Maybe even needy.
But I’m also perceptive.
When you ask me what I want, what I need – when you tell me it’s important that you meet my needs – and then, and then, after all that, you give me something else?* I understand that you’re telling me something.
When you tell me you’ll give me something and then you don’t? I understand that you’re telling me something.
And when you do both of those things repeatedly? I understand that you’re telling me something.
Here’s what I hear you telling me. I want to be careful not to veer beyond what’s, objectively, indisputable. I don’t want to attribute motives or feelings about which I’m ignorant. I’m trying to stick to facts here.
When you ask me what I want, what I need, and then you give me something different?* I conclude that giving me what I told you I needed wasn’t at the forefront of your mind when you gave me something different. I conclude that the problem you were solving with whatever you decided to give me was a problem other than giving me what I told you I wanted, what I told you I needed.
I can guess at what problem, or problems, you might have been trying to solve. (Trying to hurt me? Trying to avoid hurting me? Trying to check a box? To get back to what you wanted to be doing? To demonstrate to yourself your power over me? My lack of power over you? Something else? All of these or some combination?) Unfortunately, none of them, in the end, has anything to do with me.
When you tell me you’ll give me something and then you don’t? At the most basic level, I understand this to mean that, relative to whatever else was happening in your life, the promise you made me is less important.
Sometimes, of course, this is inevitable. I was late for Thanksgiving dinner once because I had a flat tire. It was more important to me that I attend to the flat tire, that I not damage the car I was driving, than that I arrive on time.
Other times, it’s less inevitable, more communicative. In my CPOS days, I often got home later than I said I would. Because I valued porn, or sex workers, more than I valued – or could tolerate – being at home.
And when you do those things repeatedly? Well that presumably means that you can’t or won’t – that it’s beyond either your ability or your desire to do otherwise.
And a final case: when you miss easy, costless opportunities to demonstrate that I’m in your mind? Well, in those instances, I can only conclude that I’m not, in fact, in your mind. Or that if I am, it’s not in the way I long to be.
… Of course, the much more interesting (to me) question here isn’t about you. It’s about me.
* Sometimes, of course, you think you’re giving me what I asked for, or that, at least consciously, you’re trying to give me what I asked for. This is a whole other special – and confounding – case. Especially when I clarify what I ask for and the misunderstanding continues, grows. When the delta between my ask and your offer feels clear to me.