- Gender and Relationships
Why and how we hurt those we love
How and Why we hurt those we love
It is easier to understand why we hurt those we love with an understanding of the reason for vulnerabilities in those relationships. In family relationships, we have built in vulnerability. With family members, there is a bond. With that bond, you assume that you can automatically trust them. Assuming you can automatically trust family members has both good and bad parts. The good part is that is allows the family bond to have additional bonds of trust added to it. The dangerous part is that when you trust someone, you are vulnerable to them. They likewise are vulnerable to you. That built in vulnerability is part of what makes it so easy to be hurt and hurt family members.
This same kind of vulnerability also occurs with loved ones and relationships with respect. Although there is no family bond, when we love someone or respect them, we open ourselves to them. You let down your guard and they often let down theirs. With that increased vulnerability is the increased risk of hurt. Besides vulnerability in close relationships, there is also the role of expectations. Whether it is a family member, someone you love or respect, when you let down your guard and are in a vulnerable spot, you have expectations. The expectations are often a two-way street. You have expectations of them and they have expectations of you. In these vulnerable or ‘special’ relationships, the expectations are higher than other relationships. It is only natural to expect something more from a relationship that is special, than from other relationships.
When the expectations associated with the special relationships you have, some disappointments and frustrations. It is often the disappointments and frustrations that are at the root of the hurts. We expect more from them and they from us. When those expectations do not happen, there is hurt. With greater expectations that in the relationship, comes the greater the depth of the hurt. Since we have special expectations for those we love or those that love us, there is more hurt. When there is love, it is assumed that they have your best interest at heart and that you have their best interest at heart as well. When what you do or say are not in keeping with what is considered the ‘best interest’, there is hurt. The hurt is often compounded by poor communication or unforgiveness.
There are times that family members or loved ones are very unforgiving when it comes to hurts. Since more is expected in special relationships, when you hurt them, they often have trouble letting go of that hurt. The hurts considered ‘unforgiveable’ are often viewed from the perspective of “you failed me”. This is often followed up with the logic that “since you failed me, you do not deserve my love”. When a relationship has this kind of talk focused on failure, you know that there has been a disappointment in the expectations. Some hurt people focus on what they consider as the failure, while others focus on the motivation for the behavior. Whether the behavior or the motivation is focused on, they still believe that you failed them. When you know whether it was the behavior or the motivation, you have a clue as to where you can start rebuilding the relationship. It is risky to have closeness in relationships. When there is closeness, there is a higher risk of hurt. You can choose to go the other direction and not allow anyone, including family get close to you. That is a way of playing it safe and avoiding hurt, yet you also do not have any meaningful relationships. To have a meaningful relationship means you also risk being hurt, or hurting them. In terms of hurting those close to us, there are many reasons for it. There are times that we hurt them out of ignorance. There are times we may have not considered how our actions would impact others, and there are times that we intentionally do hurt them. Since these are special relationships, others are more easily hurt. Even such simple things as unkind comments or actions can trigger hurts. A marriage counselor once told me that in those special relationships, “you enter them with one eye closed and forgive half of what you see.” His comment has helped me get through some obstacles in my life. Poor communication can always make things worse.
Poor communications include expectations that are never mentioned or talked about. Poor communication also includes not listening to other people or telling them about my expectations. There are many hurts that I have inflicted or been inflicted on me, by not speaking up. I have learned from my mistakes and now speak up more in those special relationships.