Whether you mean to or not, at some point, you're going to hurt the one you love the most. It might be a hurtful comment, rejecting your partner physically or being unfaithful. Being hurt by the one you love can feel more painful than being hurt by someone else because of the closeness. When you hurt the one you love, it causes strain in the relationship. You're only human, so you can't expect to never hurt the one you love again, but you can work on your behaviors and communication skills to improve the relationship and the way you treat one another.
Identify the Behaviors That Hurt Your Loved Ones
You can tell your partner is hurt by your actions, but do you know what you're doing that causes the pain? If you haven't reflected on the dynamics of the relationship, take some time to look at your actions and your loved one's emotional response. This helps you identify which behaviors are causing her pain. Having an honest conversation with your partner can also help. Let her know you want to be more supportive and hurt her less, but you need some help. Once you identify the things that cause the emotional pain for your loved one, focus on changing those behaviors. If you're pushing her away because you're afraid of intimacy, be more aware of the things you're doing to distance yourself. Work on slowly letting her get closer to you emotionally.
Work on Healing Your Emotional Trauma
Why do you hurt the ones you love? It may come from your own emotional trauma. Everyone experiences some form of emotional pain in childhood and adulthood. If you experienced significant emotional trauma, you may be recreating those situations in your current relationships without realizing it. Think back to your childhood or past relationships as an adult. Are you using some of the same hurtful actions people in your life used on you? Working with a therapist to address those deep hurts may be necessary if you experienced abuse, neglect or other deep emotional trauma.
Improve Family Communication
Hurt often comes from a lack of communication or poor communication skills. The words you say are often open to interpretation, and sometimes they may not be interpreted in the way you intend. You might make a straightforward comment thinking you're just being honest, but your partner takes it as you being cold or mean. How you say things and how you interact while communicating can have a big impact on how people perceive your words.
Improve your communication with your loved ones by being present in the conversation. Set aside your phone and any other distractions, so you can look the person in the eye while you talk. Listen to everything the other person says without jumping to conclusions or interrupting. You can often pick up on subtle hints about how your loved one feels or what he's trying to say if you really pay attention.
Protect Intimate Details You Have
You have access to intimate details about your loved one. You have a shared history with firsthand information that could potentially hurt your loved one. You may also know stories about her past that she's shared with you because she trusts you. Protect that trust by leaving her personal details out of it. Never bring up past mistakes she's made or things she doesn't want to talk about in an attempt to hurt her. You leave her feeling vulnerable and betrayed.
Keep Your Emotions in Check
Anger and other strong emotions often lead people to say or do things that are hurtful. It's absolutely normal to feel anger at times, and you are entitled to your feelings. However, you have to keep those emotions under control to prevent lashing out at those around you. If you feel your anger is out of control, step away from the situation to give yourself a chance to calm down first. Once you take some deep breaths, relax your muscles and talk yourself through the situation, you can return to your loved one without lashing out at him.
You can also help yourself by reevaluating the situation. Perhaps your husband shrunk your favorite shirt. You're naturally upset, but is it really worth hurting him emotionally and potentially causing long-term strain on the marriage over a piece of clothing?
If you struggle with anger that you can't seem to control on your own, consider working with a therapist. Anger management strategies may help you keep your emotions in check to improve interactions with the ones you love the most.
Empathy can be a big part of improving interactions with your loved ones. It's easy to focus on your own needs and feelings. Sometimes even small things can lead to major conflict and hurt in a marriage. You want the house spotless. You get angry when you come home to a messy house. You take it personally that the house is never organized and clean, so you get angry. When you feel yourself getting upset, try putting yourself in the other person's place. Perhaps she has too many responsibilities on her plate and needs help keeping the house clean. Maybe she feels like you won't be satisfied no matter what she does, so it's easier to do nothing. She might see your constant requests to keep the house tidy as a hurtful criticism of her as a person. When you practice empathy to see the other person's point of view, you may be able to handle situations more gently without hurting your loved one.
- Relationship Institute: Why Do We Hurt the One We Love?
- Psychology Today: Why Family Hurt Is So Painful
- American Psychological Association: How to Recognize and Deal With Anger
- HealthyChildren.org: Improving Family Communications
- HelpGuide.org: Emotional and Psychological Trauma
- Psychology Today: Why We Hurt the Ones We Love, and Let Them Hurt Us
Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.