In yesterday’s post Change your REaction, I made the following statement …
Please don’t make the mistake that IF your partner / loved one LOVES you he/she will change their behavior because they care about you. Chances are – they DO care about you – but are too caught up in their own “stuff” to make the change that you are asking for (otherwise it would already be changed).
I will often hear clients say “If he (she) loved me they would…” and it saddens me that we keep this saying a part of our mental vernacular although I must admit that at one time it was a part of mine.
The fact is, people who love us DO act in ways that generate hurtful feelings. The response is often “I wasn’t trying to hurt you” and most often, that is a true statement. The more ‘true’ understanding could all adopt is that when we love someone, we will most often not ‘intentionally, in a premeditated way’, cause emotional pain.
So, when someone we love DOES engage in behavior that is hurtful it is frequently helpful to remind ourselves that:
- They love us
- They probably didn’t intentionally hurt us
- Something else was intended
I am known to pause and ask the question “was it your intention for me to feel hurt?” or “was it your intention to be disrespectful?” Part of good communication is attempting to understand the perspective of the other. By asking a question about the ‘intention’ – you are working to clarify the spirit behind the behavior and/or communication.
Generally, when someone engages in hurtful behavior it is because they :
- Are not aware that it is hurtful
- Self-indulged – seeking personal gratification without empathy to consequences
- Have different priorities and #1 + #2
- Define the behavior differently
- Have a totally different perspective about the behavior
Of course these are general guidelines and there are exceptions but in my personal and professional experience, when an individual becomes AWARE that their actions are hurting someone they care about, behavior changes through compromise and compassion.
A BIG exception is when the individual is so focused on ‘self’ that they are unable to see past their own needs/wants and experience the empathy that is required to comprehend the consequences of their behavior. This happens frequently with people who are in the throws of addiction. While there may be a general ‘knowingness’ that their behavior is affecting people in their environment, they can pull themselves out of their own way.
Outside of communicate, communicate, communicate… your options are to establish strong boundaries and learn acceptance; to decide what your ‘non-negotiables’ are (the things you can not live with) and to develop healthy coping strategies. Taking care of yourself should also top that list!
Needless to say, if you are experiencing difficulty coping or providing strong self-care, please seek support from friends, family, and/or a mental health counselor!