I was reading a sci-fi romance novel over the weekend and while the plot as a whole didn't thrill me, one of the characters had an epiphany that stuck with me. His live-in girlfriend left him at the beginning of the novel and he's been sullen and withdrawn ever since. He's telling himself that he let her get too close and he should have known she was going to leave because that's what everyone does.
About three quarters of the way through (when he discovers her life may be in danger from a ring of antiquity smugglers), he's struck by a thought. Maybe she didn't leave him because she didn't love him enough. Maybe she left him because her heart had been broken so much, she couldn't stand it any more.
I really liked how this was phrased. We all know or have heard of people who are continually testing their relationships, testing to see how much their partner loves them by behaving badly. The hurt reaction is the payoff, proving that the partner still cares about their opinion and thus is presumably still attached. The testing partner might accuse them of infidelity, of wanting to leave, of not loving them ... all sorts of options.
But the problem with stress-testing a relationship is that each one is unique. Not like a car where it can be tested to the breaking point and thus the factory can reliably say: this is how much this make and model can withstand. Once a relationship is broken, it's usually broken for good. And even they're lucky enough to put it back together, it will always be more fragile than it was.
When the relationship breaks, the tester is justified. They can say: see, I knew it would happen. And it often is interpreted as a lack of love. But really, it's more about how much one person's heart can take before it's shattered beyond repair and the person has to leave in order to painfully put it back together.
In fiction, people often do have to overcome huge dramatic obstacles in order to prove their love to each other. In life, there aren't always significant obstacles to love. People meet, are both single and uncommitted, they hit it off and can progress into a relationship. Easy-peasy and, without confidence, maybe too easy to be believed.
Demonstrating love is an important way of keeping a relationship together. But I think it works best if each partner is free to express their love in a way which is significant to them (although it may have to be explained that switching to snow tires is an actual expression of caring). People shouldn't be forced into constant tests to prove themselves.
Drama may be exciting to watch happen to other people, but it sucks as a way of life.