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Why do we hurt the ones we love?

Updated on November 24, 2013

Below you will find what I have deemed the Top 5 reasons why we hurt the people we love. I'm positive that there are more reasons, but most of them are what I would call "sub-reasons" that branch out from these main categories.

Keep in mind while reading, that while one woman's life experiences may not make this a science, it also might add some insight into someone's life who needs it right now. As always, if you have anything to add, please sign in and leave a comment below so that we can enrich the lives of others together!

We hurt them BECAUSE we love them...

Sometimes we think we are helping, even when we know it might hurt them. This is a common reason in many types of relationships. Parents create consequences for their children that will teach them to curb or modify their behavior, so that they can learn to get a long in society and become self sufficient adults someday. Bosses might be critical of their employees to help them grow as professionals and keep the company flowing. Husbands and wives might tell their partner that they feel a choice they made could lead to a negative outcome, because they don't want to see their partner get hurt or the relationship suffer because of the potential negative consequences of such choices.

I've found that more often than not, this reason for hurting the ones we love, seems to be the most altruistic in our minds, but in effect, it is one of the most selfish reasons. We often tell ourselves that we are doing it for their own good, but in reality, we are doing it for our own good, because we don't want to suffer or watch another person suffer.

Now, while that may or may not be the case, everyone has been or will be guilty of hurting someone they love for this very reason. It may not happen often, but when it does come up, I've found it most effective to do two things at that point:

1. Don't deny the level of selfishness involved with this process.

You can tell yourself that you are just helping the person you love and that the hurting part is just a nasty side effect, but the truth stares you in the face. If you have to hurt them to help them, then you are not really helping them. If they don't go through with their plans or they changed because you hurt them, then you're left to deal with the fact that they never got to do what they really wanted to, because they wanted to please YOU, or you'll be dealing with the resent they'll be directing at you for not supporting them. Likewise, if they do whatever it was you didn't want them to and they find out you were right, they'll resent you for having "told them so", and if they don't change, instead of finding a new way to grow together, you'll find yourself trying to find further ways to "hurt them to help them", which goes on in a vicious cycle. Furthermore, if you feel that it's okay to hurt the ones you love, in order to help them, what makes you think they won't use that same tactic with you?

2. Make your intentions CLEAR.

If you really feel that it's necessary to hurt someone you love by hurting them, at least do them and yourself a favor, and be honest about them. Let them know from the beginning that while you want to support them and be happy about their actions/decisions/thoughts, that you don't agree with them and that you feel the consequences could be negative in a way you're not comfortable with. Let them know clearly, that if they continue down the path they are going, that you are likely to react negatively. Be clear about how you will feel and potentially act. If its your romantic partner, and they want to quit their job and live off the state for a few months or years and you don't like that idea at all, let them know that you are likely to rescind your normally happy demeanor, financial resources, emotional support and probably any sexual intimacy to boot.

Whatever it is that they are doing or going to do and whatever it is that you might do to hurt them to help them, be direct and clear about it from the beginning. If you're going to do it anyways, you might as well be fair and honest about it.

We hurt them because they love US...

Consciously or subconsciously, some people have an issue with being loved, and that causes them to pull away, create chaos or ruin their relationships with the people who love them. This is most common in romantic relationships, and often happens because of unfavorable events that occurred in the past. It might be that a person was severely neglected or abused as a child, and so they don't believe they deserve to be loved, which causes them to withdrawal from anyone who appears to love them. For these people, love is like a foreign language and when they are faced with it, they don't know what to do.

Likewise, it could be that a person who has allowed themselves to be vulnerable and open in a relationship where they believed someone loved them, they found out they were wrong and got hurt. This could have come about through a serious relationship where their partner cheated on them or lead them on and then dumped them when they were expecting it. Regardless of the way that this kind of trauma unfolds, the truth is that each time it happens, it because more difficult for the reptilian part of our brains to not start associating love with pain. When this happens, it can cause us to start to be wary of any situations where a person we love is reciprocating that love. It because a scary and anxiety filled situation that can cause a person to lash out or distance themselves.

In this scenario, most people are not aware they have this problem, even if they are aware that they are hurting someone they love. When this happens, the only way to move forward is for both partners to recognize what is happening and decide whether or not it's worth it for both of them to make the large commitment to move forward.

We hurt them because we're not thinking about them...

No one's perfect, and sometimes we hurt the ones we love because we simply weren't thinking about them and their feelings. Have you ever said something to a friend or lover, simply because you were thinking about it? Maybe you were venting about someone at work, or thinking about a topic you don't like, and suddenly you found that you'd said something that hurt their feelings. Maybe the jerk at work wore something crazy outfit that you thought made them look like a fool, and you're partner happens to like that sort of outfit, and when you voiced your opinion, you hurt their feelings.

Or maybe you were making a joke about something your romantic partner does, that you think it funny, but that they don't like about themselves. It could be that little pudge in their belly or some crazy eyebrow hairs or maybe it's the way they talk a lot when they're excited. To you, it may have been a harmless comment, but to them it could be taken as an insult.

Alternatively, you might come home and be livid about something that happened in your day and so you start taking out your upset emotions on anything in your current environment, including the person you love.

Last but not least, it could be that we eat the last cookie or take the last coveted beverage in the fridge because we were hungry or thirsty. It may not have seemed like a big deal at the time, but if someone we love was counting on that cookie or drink to be there when they got home, they're gonna feel like you didn't care about them or their needs.

These are all ways that a person might hurt someone they love because they simply aren't thinking about them. It's probably the hardest one to work on, because we are hardwired to think about ourselves and our needs before we think about others. Even the most altruistic person is wired this way. In my experience, the best thing you can do is to make it a habit to list all possible consequences in your head before taking an action that might possibly be perceived as an emotional injury to someone you love.

Before you take that last cookie, think about your partner, children, parents, roommates, etc... Do they usually have a cookie after work or school as a part of their just got home ritual? If so, why don't you leave it for them.

Before you start a tirade about how crazy and horrible your day was, consider letting your partner or housemates know that you're in a mood and it would be wise to give you a wide birth for a while if they don't want to potentially be hurt by your scathing attitude.

Before you tease your partner or make a joke about something they do, consider how much you know about them. Would they find your joke funny or playful, or would they be insulted by it? How would you feel if the tables were turned?

Honestly, foresight and being considerate are the only ways you can keep these kinds of hurt to a minimum.

We hurt them because we know they'll forgive us...

This isn't usually a conscious decision, but it happens a lot. We often hurt the people we love because we know that they know we're not perfect, that we didn't mean it or that we'll overcome the problem together.

This problem is most common in intimate relationships and familial relationships. There are times when we just feel upset with someone we love and because we've been with them so long, we don't restrain ourselves when we lash out.

Honestly, this is no better a reason to hurt someone than any other reason, and is probably one of the biggest reasons for long term fallout because families or couples. It's way too easy to push the envelope with someone you consciously or subconsciously believe will forgive you. And while this sort of assumption is usually accurate, you never know when you'll cross that line or finally pile on that last straw.

We hurt them because we feel hurt BY them...

Just as we might hurt some one to "help" them, the people we love will often try to "help" us by hurting us, and that often causes a reciprocation of hurt. Likewise, sometimes our loved ones hurt us accidentally, usually because they weren't thinking about us (just like we can do to them), but we don't see that. We just know we feel hurt and some people take that as a reason to send the hurt right back.


Submit a Comment
  • WiccanSage profile image

    Mackenzie Sage Wright 

    6 years ago

    What a great, thorough look at this often puzzling topic. It's so true, it's easy to hurt the people who give you their trust and their heart, and it's easy to take it for granted that you'll always have those things. I know it's going to make me think before I speak in the future. Great hub.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    6 years ago from The Caribbean

    You raise some serious points which cause us to reflect on the real reason we do some of the things we do. Are we ever really unintentional when we cause hurt? Thank you for dealing with this sensitive topic.

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    6 years ago from New Delhi, India

    That was an interesting read, nicely done. I think we hurt the ones we love because we are sure of their love. We know that whatever may happen, everything will be sorted out in the end.

    Thanks for sharing this insightful hub!


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