Marriage and Family Therapist
Julie Cohen is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist MFT and a Child Mental Health Specialist with a private practice in Los Angeles. Her areas of focus include: depression, anxiety, panic, post-traumatic stress, bipolar…
5 Things to do When You've Hurt the One You Love
Posted in Anger Managemen... by Julie Cohen on Aug 14, 2008


I apologize in advance for being the voice of doom and gloom.  But, if you invest your heart and love in someone inevitably you will hurt or be hurt by that person.

Disclaimer:  I am not referring to physical violence or emotional abuse.  I am referring to what often happens when you are in a long-term relationship.  The old "Foot n Mouth" disorder!  You didn't mean to hurt them.  In fact you had only their best interests in mind before you said or did whatever caused the hurt.  Usually, you're partner's reaction is swift like they have just been punched in the stomach.  In turn, you suddenly have a deer in the headlights look on your face and the caption above your head reads, "uh ohhhhh"

All is not lost, even though in the moment it feels that way.   I believe that in every relationship debacle there is an opportunity for growth and connection.  Of course there is also an opportunity for it to turn into a huge irreconcilable fight.  Unfortunately, many of us fall too easily into the latter category.   To avoid falling into the pit of relationship despair, several things have to happen. Two of which are:  you must learn how to tolerate your own feelings when you've hurt someone and you must learn how to tend to the hurt you've caused your loved one. 

This takes time and practice and if your relationship hurts turn into disasters often, I would encourage you to seek couple's counseling.  But, to explain the concept further, here is a starter list to avoiding a big fight and growing closer.

1.      Talk:  Ask to talk about what happened.  Ignoring the situation will not make it disappear and probably only increase the tension and distance between both of you. 

If your partner is very angry or sad they may need some time to regroup before getting into a discussion.  If they aren't ready to talk about it, don't assume you are off the hook. 

It is up to you to ask again later.   If they still don't want to talk about it when you've asked a second time then you can let them know that you are available to talk whenever they are ready and to let you know. 

2.      Listen:  when your partner is talking really focus on what they are saying.  Tune out what's going on in your head and listen.  As you listen, accept their thoughts and feelings even if you do not understand.  If you are confused by something they are saying it's ok to ask questions for clarification.  Be careful not to interrogate or dismiss.  Just be a good listener!

3.      Acknowledge:  Repeat back in your own words what your partner said.  Most importantly, focus on key thought and feelings.  It does not have to be word for word, just the key points.  Again do not be dismissive or defensive. 

4.      Apologize:  Apologies only work if they are genuine and until you really understand why your partner was hurt it's going to be hard to offer a genuine apology.  They usually sound something like, "if I have said or done anything to offend you...I'm sorry."  It acknowledges nothing and accepts no responsibility and often drives the wedge in further between you.

A genuine apology accepts responsibility and is specific to the hurt.  For instance; I know that I hurt you when I said (or did) ______ (fill in the blank).  I am so sorry. 

5.      Problem Solve: Ask your loved one how they would have liked you to broach the subject so it won't happen again.  Problem solving helps both of you feel empowered and on the same team.  It is instrumental in resolving the issue and feeling more connected to your partner.


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thank you for how the comment should be worded when the client doesn't know.. but can't they tell by how concerned the client is. that they know they screwed up somehow and still greatly loved they are? thank you how does a women then create the scenairio
By dewounded  Feb 18, 2011
Thanks a lot for sharing it!
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By mar4ela  Nov 04, 2009
Great article
By Texy  Jan 11, 2009
I really thought you hit the message on the head. Good article!
By Winger  Sep 28, 2008
Thanks!!! I really needed this information!
By olisa  Sep 04, 2008
Thanks for posting this. It's the reason why DS has helped me the most out of anything else.
By WarrenT  Aug 19, 2008
This article really hit home with me. My boyfriend and I are "in it" right now. We had a really big argument a few days ago, and we actually did come to blows over it. He isn't ready to talk yet, but I've tried to impress upon him my willingness to talk, and to let him know I'm sorry for what happened. I need to be patient, and wait for him to come around. It's an ongoing problem, and this article was a good reminder to offer, and then sit back and be patient while he processes what happened. He'll be ready to talk eventually. Thanks for the article.
By ticketytah  Aug 18, 2008
Bless your heart. You are a wonderful,giving person. Dont forget to take care of you! Wish your husband could see that! My heart goes out to you. Take Care
By eskelsont  Aug 15, 2008
great advice, my problem is my husband gets angry when i have to take time from our lives to deal with my mother who is very very ill, literally dying and she needs me. she is in nursing home. he thinks i get too involved, i have to get involved, i am her legal guardian and she has no one else and she is my mother that i love dearly and would do anything to ensure her last days are as easy and dignified as possible. his reason for being upset, when i go deal with mother, i am not there to deal with his autistic son, who also needs me, due tome being the only one that gets through to him. its a very hard situation that i am at the end of my rope with. he tells me, in anger, that i am not taking care of my family, but i am., my mother is also my family, its hard to choose and to this day he has yet to listen to me, hear me, understand just how hard it is to watch my mother die right before my eyes and all i can do is be there for her. so how does a person find a happy medium in a situation like this?
By Priscila  Aug 14, 2008
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