People test their partners in all sorts of ways. As a couples counselor here in Chicago, I see it a lot in both men and women, whether it's a wife giving her husband the silent treatment while hoping that he proves his love for her or a husband who purposely withholds information to test his wife's interest in his life.
It's common, but is it healthy?
Testing is a roundabout way of asking for what we need without really being in touch with what we need. People test when they feel insecure or unsure. If I doubt my partner's love for me and I conduct a test, I do it because it feels better than making myself vulnerable by sharing honestly with my partner about my doubt. Testing is also a way to avoid taking responsibility for our part in the demise of a relationship. Sometimes, people test their partners knowing that they will fail. In these cases, failing the test is used as an excuse to end the relationship instead of the real, deep-rooted reason.
Stop testing, start asking!
Sometimes, being healthy means being uncomfortable—but only temporarily. The effort you expend setting up tests for your partner actually does more damage than if you just did the thing you were afraid to do in the first place! Brené Brown, an expert on vulnerability, describes it like this: "Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage." It takes courage to look into why we do what we do.
The next time you feel the urge to "test" your partner, stop and ask yourself, "What is it I truly need to know here?" In other words, what do you hope your test proves or disproves? The strength of your partner's love? Her commitment to you? Your incompatibility as a couple? Next, notice what you're feeling and share with your partner and ignore that urge to set up a test.