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How to you test your relationship – and whether you should

Relationships: A growing TikTok trend, whereby partner’s commitment and love is tested for world to judge, can be destructive

Relationships rarely simmer along nicely in a quiet way. They bubble and overflow, and sometimes explode so drastically when the heat is not turned down that the remnants ooze down the walls and surfaces of life, leaving a solid mark that is occasionally difficult to clean away.

We may be left with the remains of difficult or complicated relationships as we cook a new connection or friendship, or season others. Sometimes, we may turn the heat up and test the pots that have the potential to bubble over and burn because we are lacking control or struggle to communicate our needs.

Relationships need a little stirring, taste testing if you will, but testing the recipe can be destructive, especially when it is done on a public forum.

A growing trend on TikTok involves testing a partner’s commitment and love for the world to see and judge. These slight experiments come in many forms with one being an “accidental” text to a partner as they leave the house with a message that reads: “They’re gone, come over now.” The implication, of course, being that the person is cheating on their partner and how jealous that partner would be and if they would fight for the relationship. Entertained as a prank but consciously a test, these viral trends are explicit versions of how some test their relationships and friendships without the camera and social media trend.


“Setting up increasingly outlandish tests as an attempt to entertain and go viral with a TikTok post is an unhelpful strategy to find out the depth of a partner’s feelings,” says Sally Baker, senior therapist, and author of The Getting of Resilience from the Inside Out, due for release in May 2024. Tests come in so many forms, but Baker encourages that “having a conversation and listening to more than one speaker is the most effective way of assessing how a romantic partner feels and if a couple are on the same page”.

A person may feel the need to test their relationship when communicating their concerns feels too complicated or they struggle to express their feelings.

“Testing relationships can be a conscious decision as well as an unconscious one,” says Brian Griffin, registered therapist at Counselling for Couples. “In both instances, it can be driven by a feeling of insecurity. Unconscious testing of relationships can be from a past trauma, such as childhood neglect or abandonment. As children, we look to attach to an adult or a primary caregiver or even an institution. If this attachment is not secure, it can lead to an insecurity in later relationships as adults.”

Although conscious testing of a relationship can come across as vindictive and manipulative it can also stem from past experience in relationships when a person was let down, lied to, or cheated on. “In this instance, trust has been shattered,” says Griffin. “Trust is fundamental to any relationship and a lack of trust can lead to doubts and insecurities about the relationship and even about oneself.”

Testing a relationship shows a lack of trust or openness in the relationship. “Not only does it challenge the relationship itself, but it also challenges one’s partner,” says Griffin. “Without understanding the reasoning or the perceived need to challenge a relationship, the other person can see this as a personal mistrust and that their partner wants to control them. This leads to doubt on both sides. If doubt becomes part of a relationship and is not openly spoken of, it can derail the foundations of any relationship.”

Baker recognises that testing our relationships can occur in typical, unhelpful and inauthentic ways such as setting up “artificial or unlikely scenarios to see how their partner responds”.

This might look like lying about their whereabouts to see if suspicions are raised and doubt investigated, or faking an interest in someone else to see if they get a jealous reaction. Testing may also come in the form of asking “hypothetical questions about cheating, breakups, or their future together to gauge their reaction,” such as asking if a partner would stay with them if they lost their job. Others pick fights to test their partner or friends’ loyalty by provoking “arguments or intentionally stressing their partner to see how they’ll handle adversity”.

Withholding affection, communication, or attention to test if they will chase them or get upset is another way of testing relationships, says Baker, as is seeking attention or flirting with others to test jealousy and possessiveness. Someone testing their relationship may “share false information or lies to test if you’ll believe them without question”, says Baker. “They recall past issues you worked through to see if you’ll still get riled up, compare you negatively to exes or other people to see if you’ll get competitive, mention other potential prospects to test your confidence and reaction, and mention a desire for a break-up to see if you fight for the relationship. Essentially, any out-of-character behaviours meant to provoke reactions could be tests.”

However, if a person is to test their relationship, more “accurate tests come from open communication, not manipulation”, says Baker. “If your partner seems to be testing you frequently, honestly discuss trust and your commitment to the relationship. Communication is healthier than testing a relationship. Rather than covertly testing, it’s more effective to communicate worries and areas where reassurance is needed directly. This allows a person to understand their partner’s vulnerabilities and respond lovingly, building trust and intimacy.”

Tests come from valid concerns and are driven by fear, but can damage a relationship or friendship further as they don’t build trust or help navigate the vulnerability we experience in our connections. We are tested so frequently in life that being tested by our partners and other people we love can be more hurtful than any other tests we experience.

“We never do anything without a reason,” says Griffin, “and learning about and understanding the root cause of our behaviour allows us to make changes if we choose. This is not always easy but by understanding our behaviours we can somehow objectify them and not feel so controlled by them.”

Griffin believes that a person can change their behaviours with concentrated work on oneself to align with their needs and wants and those of their partner. If this is not possible with personal work, the guidance of a therapist can help individually and as a couple.

“One of the many things a relationship can offer is support and encouragement,” says Griffin. “Having open conversations with your partner about your perceived need to test your relationship can make these patterns of behaviour easier to face as well as strengthening the relationship.

“Agreeing a strategy that identifies and exposes such behaviour is useful. Such open and honest conversations show your desire to change, and that the relationship is what is really important to you.”