Only those that we love have the capacity to hurt us deeply. This ironic truth makes resolving the pain tricky because walking away isn’t always an option, nor is it always in our long term interest.
The aim of this article is bridging the divide between reason and feeling, and how to reconcile our pain with our partner’s understanding in a way that strengthens the relationship rather than rips it apart.
Simplify: Ask Yourself The Right Questions
Emotions defy logic and for this reason will confuse not only our partners, but ourselves as well.
Being overwhelmed and hurt by something our partners have said or done is a perfect example of this conflict between how we feel and our partner’s interpretation of the same circumstances. If they lack the experience of context that drives your hurt, there’s every chance they have no idea what you are truly experiencing.
If they seem oblivious to the extent of the damage done, it is often because they haven’t contextualized the pain the way you have.
Asking ourselves the right questions is one way of attempting to reduce this complexity of raw emotion into something we can negotiate with and communicate effectively. The simpler we make it, the more efficiently we can address the core issues and resolve them.
The truth is that we can’t make our partners feel what we feel, but if we simplify our pain to its lowest common denominator our partner may find a personal way to relate by using their own experiences as a benchmark.
This isn’t a perfect solution (there’s the risk of trivializing something deeply personal), but it’s better than allowing our indignation to fester inside us to the point that it silently destroys the relationship.
And if we let it rot, I guarantee it will.
A useful question to ask yourself right now:
Forget about trying to explain your pain objectively. Does your partner understand how you feel?
Even if your pain is judged as fickle or overblown by your partner, it is still causing you pain, and therefore it must be addressed!
Emotions aren’t driven by logic, so keeping the relationship healthy means addressing these feelings as they bubble up, not having an empirical debate about how justified they are.
Of course, being objective has its place and time in any relationship, but if your partner’s peace of mind is buckling at the knees it is in everyone’s interest to tackle the hiccup before it mutates into resentment. And I’ll say it again, it will.
Sometimes our sense of right and wrong have to take a back seat to dealing with feelings openly. This goes for our indignation and hurt, and it goes for our partner’s oblivious or defensive reaction to it.
Communicate: Channeling Your Pain Effectively
Communicating effectively is not just a way of reaching an understanding with our partner, it is a way of managing relationship stress.
Nothing feels better than making up after a heated argument, and this isn’t just because you’re relieved it didn’t end in a breakup, it is because conflict leads to greater understanding. Raw feelings are finally thrust into the open and confronted as is, without the bullcrap. Screw logic, now we’re really talking.
The importance of communicating is therefore both a psychological and physiological tool. It’s our relationship swiss army knife.
How To Communicate Emotional Pain
It is important not to inject judgment into our communication or it will make our partner defensive and steer the conversation away from what matters.
Limit yourself to expressing the way you feel, rather than your partner’s intention. This will allow your partner to relate in a personal way, by drawing on personal experience. They may not understand why you feel the way yo do, but they now understand how you feel the way you do. Focus the inwards outwards, not the outwards inwards.
Here’s a bad way of communicating hurt.
The way you just turned your back on me at the party last night proves you don’t care.
Here’s a better way of conveying the same thing.
The way you just turned your back on me at the party last night made me feel worthless.
The difference is subtle but important. Communicate your feelings without projecting and give your partner the space necessary to digest your pain without forcing them to retreat defensively. Tell them how you feel and let them deal with it.
This isn’t about letting them off the hook. If they spitefully left you dangling at the party you are fully entitled to feel they crossed a thin red line. But if you want to address that spite, you need to be willing to temporarily let go of your indignation in order to get there. If you don’t, then you don’t.
If the hurt was a step too far, and that is obviously also up to you to decide, then communicating would serve no real purpose other than being a form of revenge. You’re better off not communicating at all if this is the case. As the saying goes:
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Evolve: Setting New Boundaries And Moving Forward
Relationships evolve because people change. It is unavoidable. With that in mind, communicating serves no real purpose if the end-goal isn’t understanding and then making room for this change. If you can’t, the whole relationship collapses when you wake up one day and realize your partner is now a stranger.
Erecting new relationship boundaries (and actually enforcing them) is the name of the game from here on out.
Forward motion is also critical. Don’t root the relationship in place and hang about waiting for the changes you want to magically materialize. Be the change you want to see and lead by example. The risk with staying put and arguing the point relentlessly, attempting to intellectually brute force your way out, is that you will come to define your relationship around this problem.
Evolving means moving. It means recreating and overcoming through active change. It may seem like a bit of a cop-out if you are resentful, and it may seem like your partner is getting off lightly, but positive reinforcement and operant conditioning are demonstrably better ways to achieve a fulfilling future relationship than demanding a mea culpa.
It all depends on what you want from the relationship and for yourself. If it’s reconciliation then sacrifice will be involved. If it’s closure or vindication then do whatever you feel like doing.
Final Thoughts: When Someone You Love Hurts You Deeply
I’ve spoken about juggling our actions and feelings, which thankfully are things we can at least attempt to control.
The one thing I haven’t mentioned is our partner’s feelings. This is because I fundamentally don’t believe in attempting to steer or manipulate them.
Not only do I feel it is counter-productive (asking our partner to change for our sake will only make them miserable in the long run, and therefore the relationship miserable by extension), but also impossible to realistically achieve in a balanced and healthy way.
What we can do is make our decisions based on their actions. For example, I can’t convince an ex to want me back, but I can stop them from leading me on. The same principle applies to dealing with an ex who has hurt you. You can’t force them to validate your pain, or to apologize for their screwup, but at the end of the day you don’t need them to. You just need them to not do it again, and that’s something you have control of.