Pain is a part of love, they say, and some people even believe that hurting is considered proof of genuine love.
But why do we end up hurting the ones we love the most?
Scientific evidence proves people are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior toward people close to them. For example, hatred among siblings is very common, and close friends often direct their anger toward each other in some instances.
Most of the time, the people closest to you, such as significant others and siblings, are on the receiving end of direct aggression. Meanwhile, nondirect aggression is often received by people who are in your close circle of friends.
Nondirect aggression can come in two distinct forms; indirect and passive aggression.
Indirect aggression can include hurting another person by spreading lies to ruin their reputation or talking badly about the person behind their back.
On the other hand, people who exhibit passive aggression include purposely ignoring or avoiding the person, refusing to talk to that person, or completely shutting down all forms of communication with that person.
Eight major reasons we hurt the ones we love
Here are eight possible reasons why we tend to hurt the people who matter most in our lives.
- Hurting others is a means of punishing oneself and sabotaging one’s happiness.
There are some instances where hurting others is not done out of spite for them but rather out of feelings of inadequacy about themselves.
When someone feels unworthy of love, they tend to hurt the ones they love because they believe that the guilt, regret, and torment of hurting the ones they love is all they deserve in life.
This self-destructive behavior stems from the need to punish oneself, which is usually caused by deep personal reasons brought about by sad experiences.
If you feel like the reason for this kind of behavior is because you ultimately feel like you do not deserve to be happy, it’s important to spend time on personal reflection as to how this belief came to be.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- What have you done that made you think you deserve such punishment?
- Why do you think you are not worthy of love and happiness?
- What do you think you need to do to redeem yourself?
- How can you help yourself heal from feelings of inadequacy?
- What concrete measures can you commit to discourage sabotaging your happiness?
- Hurting others gives a person a twisted sense of control.
In some instances, some people consciously choose to hurt other people as a way to protect themselves from being hurt in the first place.
If a person senses that there is a high possibility that the other person may end up hurting them in the future, they will try to turn the situation by being the one to do the hurting.
Another reason people hurt the ones they love is to reciprocate the feeling of the hurt they have received from them in the past. Trying to get even is typically done to regain a sense of control after getting hurt by the other person.
Eventually, as this pattern continues, the relationship becomes toxic, transforming into a never-ending cycle of retaliation.
This kind of toxic relationship can become the starting point of an abusive relationship that can overwhelm both persons physically, emotionally, and mentally.
- There is too much openness and comfort between you and your significant other that you unintentionally end up hurting them.
Admit it or not, developing a sense of comfort over another person is one of the reasons why people end up hurting those closest to them.
The more trust and intimacy between two persons, the higher the possibility of unintentionally hurting the other person. Since there is too much comfort and openness, there is less room for inhibition.
Offensive jokes and comments may not be perceived as inconsiderate and hurtful because they can be easily dismissed since there is a high level of openness and closeness shared.
- You learned early on in life that pain and hurt are part of any relationship.
The way people perceive love is shaped by their childhood experiences, and it unconsciously affects relationship perceptions.
Although pain is a natural part of life, some people are raised to believe that love and hurt should always go side-by-side in any healthy relationship.
While this may be true in some cases, this should not be the norm, especially for healthy relationships. It is inevitable to hurt the ones we love, but that does not mean we should hurt them on purpose to keep the love-pain balance.
If you feel your hurting behavior may be due to unresolved issues or traumas during childhood, you may ask yourself the following questions.
- How was love expressed in your family as you were growing up?
- Do you have memories of seeing family members getting hurt? What are some of the ways this happened?
- Do you remember any form of recovery after one family member hurt another?
- Hurting others is your way of staking your independence.
Relationships require intimacy, which can come in various forms. The most common form is breaking the emotional distance in the relationship. However, not everyone is a hundred percent okay with this.
For some, getting too emotionally close to another person can be intimidating, and whenever they are faced with this kind of situation, their immediate reaction is to staking their independence by unintentionally hurting the people closest to them.
Pushing away anyone who gets too close gives a false sense of comfort and security. The mature thing to do is to constantly work on communicating how you feel to the ones you love so you can escalate any damage done whenever faced with this intimidating situation.
- Hurting others is our way of testing boundaries in the relationship.
Hurting the ones you love may sometimes be done on purpose because you want to test how far your loved one is willing to put up with you before they finally draw the line for good.
It has been part of our nature as humans, as evident in our childhood experience of exhibiting boundary-testing behavior to our parents or caregivers to see if they genuinely care or not.
Such is the same in most relationships you have during adulthood. Boundaries are being tested, so one feels more secure and safe in the relationship.
Although the end goal of testing boundaries contributes to improving the relationship, the means can seem unjustifiable to most people.
Remember that there are more constructive ways of communicating and setting boundaries in the relationship that are not as counterproductive as hurting the other person.
- You get hurt more by the ones you love because you set high expectations of them.
It seems unavoidable to set expectations towards the ones we love the most, and most of the time, these expectations get overly high to the point of perfection.
The more important a person is to your life, the greater the expectations you attribute to them. This can be because you think highly of them and constantly create an idealized version of them in your head.
However, expecting too much from the ones you love can only lead both of you to frustration and may lead to a painful ending.
- You hurt the ones you love because you spend more time with them than you do with other people.
There is a higher probability of hurting the ones who are closest to you simply because there is more time spent with them than with other people.
Whether your cause of aggression is the person you are with or not, you are still bound to project such negative feelings onto them at some point.
There are times when people connect how they feel to a particular person, thing, or situation, causing them to project such feelings onto them.
This phenomenon is called displacement, and it typically happens between people who spend so much time together.
How To Stop Hurting Our Loved Ones
The more you love a person, the more pain you may inflict on them. Pain may be an unavoidable part of loving, but it should not be a constant part of any relationship.
While occasional hurt in a relationship may help strengthen it, too much pain can cause serious damage that may no longer be remedied.
If you are aware of your behavioral tendencies of hurting the ones closest to you willingly or not, then become more mindful of your actions by contemplating the root cause of such behavior.
Unless you become conscious of such aspects of your personality, hurting the ones who matter to you will be a continuous cycle in your life.
The key to minimizing this unwanted behavior is through understanding yourself and reflecting on what you can do to improve your interaction with loved ones.
Nicole Graham is a relationship expert at Womenio.com. She is helping women grow into their best selves so they can be confident and bring more love, passion, and purpose to their lives. Nicole enjoys studying the psychology of love and is passionate about writing on them. She offers helpful tips and advice to help overcome any relationship issue, whether you’re single or already in a relationship.