Being the best partner — 02 December 2011
Why do we sometimes hurt the one we love the most?

Most people marry their true beloved. Yet, some of the most unkind and hurtful comments are sometimes uttered toward the person we love, admire and respect above all others. How can this phenomenon be explained and rectified?

Most human beings are endowed with the capacity for kindness, compassion and caring for others. Couples certainly share their appreciation of each other early in the relationship and could not fathom then that they would ever behave otherwise. They later explain their surprising hurtful words toward the one they cherish as a justified response to hurts inflicted upon them.

Since the strongest emotional human need is to be valued, mates become incensed when they feel disrespected, rejected, or unloved by the mate. This negation of the original promise to uphold their preciousness evokes primitive survival impulses that permit them to verbally violate the offending mate without restraint.

There are common emotions that trigger couples to engage in open, un-censored verbal warfare. Both men and women sometimes experience the impetus to cross the line from loving to hateful exchanges.

One common issue of contention for couples is the emotion/action preference. Men need autonomy, independence and self-sufficiency for their self-definition, while women desire tenderness and emotional sharing to feel connected and loved.

Terrence Real, in “The New Rules of marriage,” maintains that for men the requests for emotional intimacy violate “the central aspect of traditional, twentieth-century masculinity [which] is the denial of emotions.” As boys ‘learn’ to be men they are taught to disown their own vulnerability and deride the vulnerability in others.”

When men resist emotions and capitalize on actions women feel abandoned and devalued. Women may become critical, which assaults men’s esteem and power. When understanding and compassion give way to judgments, lovers end up being hateful toward each other.

As mates are criticized they feel attacked and assaulted and may instinctively counter with a demeaning retort to exonerate themselves. Dr. Real summarizes: ”While the human impulse to hit back is often so fast and so visceral, we manage to control our physical retaliation. But far too often, we give ourselves permission to lash out verbally. Humiliating, ridiculing, telling your partner what he should or should not do are all aspects of verbal abuse, and they have no place whatsoever in a healthy relationship.”

  • To maintain your loving attitude toward your mate
  • Validate the other’s perspective: “I understand that you would feel more loved if I were more open with my emotions,” Or, “if I were more action oriented.” How can I please you within my style?”
  • Avoid ever reacting to your partner as though he/she is your enemy.
  • Understand that being unkind is a reaction to deep hurt. Inquire about your partner’s pain and provide a validating, healing response.
  • Accept that committed love sometimes gets needlessly contorted but can be lovingly straightened and restored.














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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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