Why It’s so Easy to Hurt the People We Love

Whether we’re involved in a lover’s quarrel or caught up in a rumor mill spread by a “close” friend, it seems like the people we think would never betray us end up hurting us the most. And we’re not without blame; we can unconsciously cause pain to the people we care about. Unintentional or not, here’s how and why it’s so easy to hurt and be hurt by the people closest to us.

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What happens
According to author and psychology professor, Deborah South Richardson, we are more likely to be aggressive (directly or indirectly) towards the ones we know and love the most. Direct aggression involves blatant hitting, yelling or hurtful language while indirect aggression constitutes hurting someone else through gossip, rumors or silent treatment (actions that avoid confrontation).

Why it happens
Richardson’s research gathered that the people we interact with most frequently are the ones most likely to make us angry. She speculates that the freedom we have in communicating our anger is due to the strong link we have between these connections. Richardson says, “… as in, I can confront my sibling, and I’m safe when I do it. I don’t need to be indirect. I don’t need to be passive. My sibling will always be my sibling.” This dynamic can apply to romantic partners, too.

How we protect ourselves
Based on an article via Psychology Today, by author Steven Stosny, Ph.D., we learn how lovable and valuable we are in our interactions with our loved ones. So when we hear about our flaws that the people close to us point out, a part of us is likely to take them to heart. Our assumption is that our partner or loved one is displeased as a result, and so we choose anger or resentment to protect ourselves.

How we can let go
More often than not, we place high expectations on the people we love. We trust that they won’t hurt us because they care about us just as we care about them. Managing our expectations and recognizing that our loved ones are only human will help us from taking their mistakes so personally.