At some point, we’re probably going to hurt each other. That’s a simple and unfortunate truth. It’s what we do afterwards that can really make the difference in our relationships…
Have you ever told your partner that something they did hurt or upset you only to have them explain why they did it, say ‘it wasn’t my intention to hurt you’ or talk about a time that you hurt them?
You were probably left feeling like they didn’t care. Or that they were too busy explaining their side of the story to really listen…
Hearing that we’ve hurt someone we care about is a challenging position to be in. We can feel like they’re angry with us, like they don’t understand how much we really care about them or that we’ve done something wrong. And those feelings can lead us to act defensively or justify ourselves.
I see this scenario playing out over and over in my therapy room. And the result is usually more hurt, more resentment and a lack of intimacy. Over time, if this dynamic continues, one partner will usually stop telling the other how they feel because they won’t really ‘be listened to’ anyway.
When I tell my partner that his actions have hurt me, I know that it’s about me, not him. My hurt (although triggered by his actions) comes from my own patterns, beliefs and history. I know that someone else might react in a different way; they might not feel hurt, angry or upset.
I don’t think my partner is ‘wrong’. I just want my partner to understand what’s going on inside of me. I want to know that he understands and cares about my emotions. Because that’s what intimacy is; trying to understand each other at the deepest level.
Acknowledging that we’ve hurt someone doesn’t mean that we’re wrong or that we’re a bad person, mother/father, lover, friend…
Acknowledging that we’ve hurt someone is about us saying that we see their hurt, we understand they’re feeling pain.
We don’t send sympathy cards because we’ve done something wrong, we send sympathy cards because we want someone to know that we see their pain, we understand their hurt and we care.
There is something incredibly validating about someone saying “I’m sorry” to us. Something that allows the hurt and anger to dissolve – even if just a little. We feel understood, we feel listened to.
“I’m sorry”, is a powerful sentence.
“I’m sorry” doesn’t mean “I’m wrong”. “I’m sorry” means “I care that you hurt”.
The next time you hear your partner tell you that they’re upset, hurt or angry, put aside just for a moment your own feelings, take a deep breath and let them know that you care – that you’re sorry for their hurt. It isn’t always easy, but in my experience it is worth it.