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Why do people who claim to care about us hurt us when they see that we’re suffering? Shouldn’t our suffering be enough for them to stop the behaviors?

It’s one of the most common questions I receive:

If they really love me, why do they hurt me? 

My goal is to help you improve your relationship or navigate through one to get to the next phase. Or maybe even leave a relationship that’s not working. I don’t encourage leaving a relationship; I encourage working on it until you’re exhausted. Then you might have to leave or change direction if something changes in the relationship or if both of you are being difficult.

This show is all about figuring out what to do next. But I emphasize trying to work on a relationship. Most people tune into shows like this or read material like this to make their relationships better. If anyone thinks I’m trying to drive people apart, it’s not my fault. I’m here to encourage love, connection, intimacy in romantic relationships, healthy communication, and of course, healthy boundaries.

When you have healthy boundaries, there might be a problem because some people don’t want you to have them. If you don’t, they have power over you. But this is about personal power, feeling good and confident in yourself to make decisions that are right for you. So you can have a satisfying life, if not happy. If we’re in a relationship that makes us unhappy, we have to work on it, figure it out, or leave. That’s a personal choice.

When you’ve tried everything and you’re exhausted, it might be time to leave or say things like, “I’m sick of this behavior; I won’t take it anymore.” Some relationships might be aggressive or dangerous. This is why I say at the beginning of every episode, pick your battles wisely. Sometimes you have to get away from hurtful people to protect yourself. That can be tough. But I’m here to talk about getting through most relationship problems.

How many problems come up in a relationship? Sometimes daily. I just got engaged, and I’m very happy. But every previous relationship was a failure and a success. Or, perhaps just a failure that I created because of who I used to be. I used to be emotionally abusive.

It took many relationship failures for me to take responsibility and say, “I am the common denominator of all these problems.” Even if they caused some of it, I’m taking responsibility for my role.

Is your attention always on them?

One of the most important components in a relationship is not to focus on the other person as the problem for everything that happens. Take responsibility for what you do, think, and how you show up. It allows you to keep your power.

You can, of course, look at someone else and say, “It’s their fault,” but don’t look at them and say, “Unless they change, I’m going to be unhappy.” As soon as you do that, you give up your power.

When you focus on somebody else changing for you, it takes away the energy inside of you to do something different. I’m not saying you have to change for anyone. If what’s happening isn’t working, you might have to do something different. The other team isn’t going to change their strategy so that you can win; they want to win.

In an emotionally abusive relationship, the person causing the hurt doesn’t want to lose. They want what they want, regardless of your needs. They’ll keep playing their game until something big happens. It could be you getting your power back, setting a boundary, or leaving temporarily because they’re being hurtful. It could be a simple conversation where you say, “Do you realize that when you do that, it hurts me? Will you stop?” Some people will respond healthily, and some won’t. Some will turn it back on you and say, “Well, you hurt me too.”

But that’s a great conversation starter. It’s a way to communicate that you need something to change in the relationship. If you’re listening to a show like this, you’re probably willing to make changes to improve the relationship. Sometimes we need to change to see different results.

We all know that definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you have the same reactions to hurtful behaviors and they don’t change, what you’re doing isn’t working. Your reactions aren’t affecting them. Sometimes it’s necessary for you to make changes to see change in the relationship.

That doesn’t mean submitting or accepting terrible behavior. It means gaining the confidence and strength inside yourself to not accept anything less than what you’re worth and what you deserve.

You deserve respect and kindness. It’s actually very easy to respect and be kind, yet many people struggle with it. But you deserve it.

Even people who have been hurtful can change, but some don’t want to. And because of that, sometimes there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes you just have to say, “I can’t take it anymore.”

In my Healed Being program, I help emotionally abusive people who want to change. I talk about “the threshold,” the point where the person you’re hurting reaches their limit. If you’re wondering why your emotional connection is waning, it may be because you reached your threshold.

If you do as I say, we’ll both be happy

I used to believe I was right and could do no wrong. If my partner would only listen to me, we would be happy. I had sky-high standards they could never meet, and I made sure they felt bad for not meeting my expectations. It’s a terrible place to put someone, and I feel awful for doing that to good people.

I wasn’t happy inside myself. I had problems, fears, and traumas that I had to deal with. I had old behavior patterns and unhealthy coping mechanisms that didn’t help me in my adult relationships. Things happened as a child that I carried into my adult relationships and ruined them.

One day I finally said, “I have to stop.”

My relationships kept failing, and I realized I was the common denominator. I pushed people away and blamed them until I stopped focusing on them and realized they weren’t the issue. Even if they had issues, the way I showed up was hurtful and abusive.

This is why I do this show. I don’t want relationships to go down that same road, and there are so many more people in similar situations out there that I learn about through the messages I receive every day.

Everything you’ve gone through in your relationship, in your life, I want to address. I want to help you navigate those challenges.

When we figure out a healthy, empowering way to deal with life’s challenges, especially relationship issues, we feel better in ourselves, even if the relationship doesn’t work.

It’s vital to feel like nobody is taking away our power. When we’re hurt, especially in a relationship, it feels like we’ve lost some of our power.

Power, to me, means being able to stand up for ourselves and say, “No, I won’t take any more.” When you do that, something changes inside you because you’re willing to risk the relationship to be treated right.

In emotionally abusive relationships, victims often feel they don’t deserve better. The slow drip-feeding of abusive behavior wears you down and erodes your self-worth. You start believing untrue things about yourself.

Even if you’re headstrong and brilliant, you may feel weak and lose confidence. As self-worth erodes, you might believe you’re not as worthy as you once thought. That’s a terrifying place, and I never want you to go there.

Many people feel like it’s their fault. They wonder, “Is it me? Am I doing something wrong?”

My heart goes out to you if you’ve felt this way. When you’re trying to improve yourself to satisfy someone who never seems satisfied, you’re doing all you can. It’s not about you not trying or not being good enough. You are lovable and deserve kindness and respect because you’re trying.

Those who don’t try and just know they’re right, even if they believe making you feel bad is right, are wrong. It’s not right! That’s not an equal partnership.

In a relationship, you’re both driving the same ship, responsible for keeping it afloat. But if one of you is drilling holes, and the other is trying to plug them, it’s never-ending stress. It doesn’t end until you say, “I can’t take it anymore.”

I’m not telling you what you should do, but I want you to feel inside that you are worthy and deserve better. If you’re hurtful and listening to this right now, and you want help changing that behavior, I’m here for you. Taking that first step to change is a huge step forward.

I didn’t want to change until my marriage ended. She reached her breaking point, and I finally realized I must be doing something wrong.

Most of the time, when I hear from emotionally abusive people, they tell me their partners couldn’t take their behavior anymore. That’s when I knew I needed to change too.

To the victim of hurtful behavior, it often feels too little too late. They might say, “You should have changed when you saw me crying every night. Why didn’t you change then?”

That’s the big question:

If they loved me, why would they hurt me?

That’s one of the most common questions I receive. It’s an insightful question because it teaches you a lot when you know the answer.

Looking back at when I was the hurtful person, I loved the person I was with, but not in a healthy way.

So why didn’t I change when I saw her suffer?

The answer is that some people don’t change because they believe they’re right. And they think the victim is doing it to themselves.

That might sound strange, but consider this:

If the hurtful person believes that if you do something differently, you’ll be happy, but you don’t do that thing, they see it as your fault.

I used to think that way. I believed that if my partner did what I wanted, she would be happy. If she didn’t, she was unhappy, and it wasn’t my fault.

That was a total delusion because I believed I was right!

This might solve a mystery for you or perhaps raise more questions. But in most cases I’ve seen, the emotionally abusive person believes they’re right. They carry the delusion that the only path to happiness is for their partner to do exactly what they want.

The victim keeps feeling judged and controlled, and no matter what they do, it’s not right. Even if the victim meets the abuser’s criteria, it’s still not good enough. The abuser always wants more or finds fault.

That’s what happens: you’ll “mess up” in their eyes, and they’ll make you feel bad again. Then they’ll see you unhappy and think, “Why don’t you just do what I tell you to do?”

If you’re a victim of this behavior and wonder why they don’t stop, 99% of the time it’s because they honestly believe you’d be happier if you did what they wanted. This is why the cycle of hurtful behavior doesn’t change.

How do you get out of that?

That’s what I teach on this show. Listen to the episodes and work on regaining your power so that you can know your worth and realize that you deserve respect and kindness.

Share this with someone who might benefit.

Paul Colaianni

Host of Love and Abuse and The Overwhelmed Brain

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