In my writing, I generally try to have a positive look at relationships and marriage. I’m a big believer that marriage can be a great thing, while acknowledging that often it ends up not being all that it can and should be.
With that, todays headline may seem like an error at first. But it’s not.
Yeah, I am intentionally saying “I promise TO hurt you” (instead of I promise NOT to hurt you). And no, I’m not talking about hurting someone in the “50 Shades of Grey” sense.
I’m talking about actually hurting someone. Not physically, but emotionally or mentally. And I’m not saying I may hurt you. I’m saying I will – and so will you.
So what am I talking about here?
Who can hurt you?
If you’re talking physically anyone can hurt you. Periodically people will bump into me with their carts when I’m out shopping, and it hurts. I play basketball, and sometimes guys will hit me with an elbow or a knee, and yeah, that hurts too. Hell, my kids will sometime hit me with random toys while playing.
Those kinds of hurts? Those are just things that happen. Generally people say sorry (hopefully), bruises heal, and you move on.
But who can REALLY hurt you – the kind of hurt that lingers long after the physical hurt has healed?
The people who can really hurt you the people who are closest to you; the people who love you. The people you never expect it from; parents, siblings, friends, children and most importantly your partner.
Because we care about and trust these people. We believe they value us and want what is best for us. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable with them, and as a result we open ourselves up to potentially be hurt.
I consider myself a fairly good guy. Based on my belief set I try to do “the right thing”, and when I screw up I try to take accountability for my own actions.
I try, I really do.
But I still screw up sometimes.
I have days where I’m frustrated and I inadvertently take it out on those around me. I have times that I think I’m being funny, but in reality I’m being hurtful. I have days that I can be self-absorbed, and not pay enough attention to those around me.
I know these things happen, and I know that when they do they hurt those around me – those who I profess to love the most.
And I don’t think I’m alone in this.
In turn, I can guarantee that I’ve been hurt badly by those who I care about the most. My parents, my siblings, my wife.
It happens with my friends too, but that happens less frequently. Why? Honestly, it’s because I see them a lot less.
When you are around people a lot, they have more opportunities to see you at your worst.
A Higher Standard
Interestingly, I’ve been hurt by my kids too; but it tends to sting less because they are just kids, and I figure they don’t know any better. To me those “teaching moments”, on how you need to be conscious of how you treat other people.
Here’s the thing though, at some level I hold those closest to me to a higher standard. Subconsciously I figure that because they care about me, they should know better and they should DO better. So when they hurt me, it shows they don’t care.
I think we all do this in relationships to some degree. We hold our partners to a higher standard, and when they hurt us it slowly erodes the trust we have in them. And as the trust erodes, so is our willingness to be vulnerable. After all, someone can’t hurt us if we don’t let them in.
I’ve heard it said that relationships rarely die because of some big event. Instead, it’s usually the death of a thousand cuts – a thousand times that someone has hurts us, and we don’t want to let them do that anymore.
The obvious solution to preserve our relationships is for us to stop hurting each other. To always be conscious of what we say, and what we do. To always be considerate and take our partner into account with everything we do.
But that’s a pipe dream.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a goal, and one we should all aspire to. Thing is, we all have bad days. We all have moments we wish we could take back.
That doesn’t excuse bad behavior, and it shouldn’t be a pattern. But maybe we need to accept that sometimes our partners WILL hurt us.
And when it happens, we communicate it. Maybe not right in the moment, but we tell them “hey, when you did this it hurt me”. And then we let it go.
Because holding on to hurt allows it to grow. That allows it to break down trust, break down vulnerability, and break down relationships.
I would never tell someone I promise not to hurt them, because I know that’s a promise I would not be able to keep.
Instead I would promise people that I would not intentionally hurt them. And when I do hurt them, I want to know about it, and I want to be held accountable for it.
I can never change the past. But I can always do my best to prevent the past from poisoning the future.