Sulkers are hence the worst of teachers. There is a lesson to impart combined with an utter unwillingness to spell it out patiently to an audience. This tells us something about successful teaching: it helps not to care too much whether or not the audience winds up understanding. A little bit of indifference is a genuine asset for a teacher. Yet because we care so much in love that we are understood (our life is in the person’s hands), we simply cannot react calmly to a minor instance of being misread. Something that would be forgivable in 99.9% of humanity becomes grounds to slam doors and leave rooms in fury. Behind the sulk, there is panic: we may be wasting our lives with someone deeply unsuited to interpreting us.
The cure is, as so often, a dose of pessimism. Time always helps because it brings with it evidence of how many other people there are who understand us even less than our lovers: global misunderstanding takes the pressure of its particularly painful local instances. In a more helpful culture than our own, we would be reminded that our partners may be very nice and at the same time very likely to misunderstand, without evil intent, a good number of our moods. Even at their best, they will be mistaken in their interpretations of a raft of our central needs.
To calm us down in the midst of a sulk, we should be reminded that it is not really a sign of love for every aspect of our souls to be grasped without us needing to say anything. It is no insult to us to be called upon to develop our eloquence. When our lovers fail to understand, it isn’t an immediate sign that they are heartless. It may merely be that, out of a romantic prejudice, we have grown a little too committed to not teaching them about who we are."
I Know What You Think of Me, by Tim Krieder.
La bride sur le cou (1961)