When Love Hurts: How Hurting Someone You Love Hurts Your Relationship

Updated September 21, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Being in a relationship means that there will naturally be some type of conflict and hurt feelings. As you grow comfortable with your partner, you may have less of a filter around them, causing you to say or do things you don’t really mean. While this doesn’t excuse abusive behavior, even happy, healthy couples hurt each other every now and again. Hurting someone you love can bring harm to your relationship, but it is possible to move past it with the right tools and understanding. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Wondering How To Repair After Hurting Someone You Love?

More Than Hurt Feelings: How Hurting Your Partner Hurts Your Relationship 

When you hurt someone that you love, your relationship can inevitably change. Although every couple experiences conflict at some point, how each partner chooses to handle it can have a profound impact on what happens moving forward. While many people think that avoiding an argument can help save their relationship, this strategy may actually cause more harm than good. Choosing to avoid conflict in favor of comfort can cause emotional scars to callus as opposed to heal. As time goes on, these old wounds can reopen with each new conflict, revealing raw, painful emotions underneath. Small disagreements may be blown out of proportion for seemingly no reason, not because your partner is “irrational,” but instead because they are reacting to conflict and pain that has compounded over time.

When the wounds of past conflict are left unaddressed, they may also become infected by insecurity. Pain that has festered over time may quickly breed contempt and distrust; your partner may become more reluctant to talk to you about their feelings because they don’t trust that their needs will be met. This, in turn, can complicate communication between you and your partner, quickly causing your relationship to deteriorate. Your partner may seem to avoid you, become unusually distant or irritable, or show less physical affection towards you. These warning signs may suggest that they are unhappy in the relationship.

A relationship can be equally damaged if conflict is mishandled. It’s not about intent; it’s about impact.  When you hurt someone that you love, they often don’t care to hear why you caused them pain because it usually doesn’t change how you made them feel.  Repeatedly telling your partner you didn’t mean to hurt them may send them the message that their feelings are less important than their perception of you.

Similarly, pain caused by the people who love us can be amplified when it is played down.  When you don’t understand how or why your actions hurt your partner as much as they did, you may dismiss their dismay by telling them to “calm down” or saying that they are “overreacting.” This attempt at de-escalation often only worsens the conflict. Effective conflict resolution is predicated on your partner feeling heard; by invalidating their feelings and experiences, you are effectively stifling an opportunity to fix the problems between the two of you at that moment.

When Love Is Painful: Growing From Conflict

Dr. Julie Gottman says that “conflict is an opportunity to learn to love our partner better over time.” While this may sound counterintuitive initially, the science behind it is sound; when a couple has conflict, working together as a team to resolve their differences allows them to build a deeper feeling of trust that can strengthen their relationship. 

Many relationship experts note that some of the strongest relationships they’ve seen have been formed from overcoming conflict. So, how exactly do you build trust in a relationship after it’s been all but destroyed? The Gottman Institute suggests the idea of attunement, which refers to “the ability and desire to respect your partner’s inner world.”  This may be easier said than done; for many of us, learning to respect our partner’s thoughts and feelings may mean coming to terms with the fact that we may not yet know how best to love them. These same relationship experts say that the research regarding attunement is detailed; and, while this work may be difficult, it can be done using six simple steps.

Repairing Your Relationship

While the Gottman Institute originally introduced the concept of attunement to build trust in a relationship, the same principles of attunement can also apply to repair a relationship after trust has been broken.

Awareness Of The Problem: “I Hurt Someone I Love, Now What?”

Tony Robbins, a relationship expert, says that “Insecurities are bound to surface from time to time in even the most stable relationships. You can’t control your partner’s emotions, but you can be the most supportive, loving version of yourself possible.”  Awareness can be the first step toward emotional attunement.  When you can recognize that you hurt someone you love, you can start repairing your relationship.  Simply acknowledging your partner’s pain can provide them with some small comfort of feeling seen.

Turning Toward The Emotion:  Steering Into The Pain


When you hurt someone you love, your first reaction may be to try and resolve the problem as quickly as possible to put the pain behind you and move forward with your relationship.  This, however, can do more harm than good.  By bypassing the pain you may have caused, your partner might be left with unresolved feelings that can linger long after your initial conflict.

Instead of trying to repair what is broken immediately, try to learn to sit in discomfort and respond to your partner’s various needs as they’re being communicated to you. While these small talks and tasks may feel tedious and time-consuming, they can provide your partner with affirmation that you still love, respect, and cherish them.

Hurting Someone, You Love: Respecting A Different Viewpoint

Few people want to cause their partner pain. Oftentimes, the worst conflicts can actually be caused by you acting with the best of intentions. The conflict caused by these types of miscommunications can be incredibly frustrating for both partners. You may feel as though you’ve done nothing “wrong,” while your partner could have a different perspective entirely.  Instead of fighting about who’s in the wrong, consider conceding that you could both be right. The truth is this: reality is entirely subjective. What is a known fact to you may be fiction to your partner, and vice versa. By learning to respect and tolerate each other’s varying viewpoints, you and your partner can work to overcome almost any conflict.

Understanding Your Partner:  Effective Communication And Conflict

While couples in conflict may bicker back and forth about a particular point, neither is actually communicating their point with the other if they are not actively listening to each other as well. Open communication can occur when partners choose to talk less and listen more.

If you’ve ever hurt someone you’ve loved before, the chances are high that you’ve probably apologized profusely for causing them any pain and promised never to do such a thing again.  While apologies can play a profound part in putting pain in the past, they cannot help your relationship grow if you don’t take the time to understand why they are significant.  

Before simply apologizing to your partner for whatever you think has made them mad, consider taking the time to really understand why they are upset.  Ask your partner open-ended questions about their experience and validate their feelings along the way.  Let them air out their emotions by talking through their thoughts and feelings; while some of what they say may be painful to hear, having the ability to clear the air and speak their peace may help them begin to heal from the pain you’ve caused.  By taking the time to understand your partner’s point of view, you can resolve current conflict while preventing future problems.

Non-Defensiveness: The Art Of Responding To Your Partner After Causing Them Pain

Defensiveness is the enemy of intimacy. When you become defensive toward your partner after causing them pain, you may be communicating that you are unwilling to listen to their thoughts or feelings. This, in turn, can create an invisible wall between you and your partner that breaks down your bond over time.

To repair your relationship with your partner, let yourself be a little vulnerable during conflict.  Consider counting to ten when your partner says something that upsets you to prevent yourself from snapping back with a quick retort. Use “I statements” with your partner to describe how you feel. Acknowledge that while your actions might have an impact that doesn’t match your intentions, this explanation hardly helps when your partner is in pain.

Using Empathy To Support Your Partner

If you hurt someone you love, respecting their feelings can be paramount to repairing your relationship.  While you may want to swoop in and “fix” how your partner feels, often, it can be more helpful to sit with your partner in their pain and show them some support. Empathizing with your partner can help them feel like you have taken the time to listen to and understand their concerns. Oftentimes, simply feeling understood can help rebuild lost trust in a relationship.

Wondering How To Repair After Hurting Someone You Love?

Online Counseling With Regain

Every relationship can experience ups and downs, including moments of conflict, tension, and hurt feelings. If you and your partner struggle to move past the pain, you may want to consider consulting a professional. Licensed mental health professionals can help couples work together to overcome difficulties in their relationship and become a stronger, more unified team. Regain is an online counseling platform that can help couples in a variety of areas. Whether you and your partner are experiencing issues with hurt feelings, infidelity, finances, or something else, a Regain counselor can work through them with you. Since you can meet with your therapist anytime, anywhere, it may be easier for you and your partner to find a time that works for both of you by utilizing online counseling. 

The Efficacy Of Online Counseling 

Grappling with hurt feelings and other issues within your relationship can affect your well-being, particularly if you don’t know how to move past them. Studies have shown that online counseling interventions can successfully improve the mental health of individuals and couples experiencing relationship distress. In one study, researchers found that couples participating in an online intervention showed reduced symptoms of anxiety. They also had fewer depressive symptoms and were more satisfied within the relationship overall.

The Takeaway

Hurting someone you love can, in effect, cause you to hurt as well. People who are hurting might need different things, like time or space, in order to process their emotions. 

Remedying the situation can look different from couple to couple, but in general, you can help a partner move forward by listening to them and apologizing when necessary. In some cases, couples may feel unable to move past damage that has been done in their relationship. In these instances, online couples counseling can help them develop tools for reconciliation and teach them how to view one other as a team. Hurt can be an inevitable part of being in a relationship, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be worked through and overcome.  

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