Reader Asks: Why Do I Keep Hurting Her?

I’ll have to go back and find this email to share with you all, but a longtime reader sent me a deeply personal email in which he more or less explored the realms of self-loathing as he told me about how he’s gone around fucking up the lovelife of this girl he cares passionately about. His question, more or less, was, what do you do when all you can do is hurt the one you love?

There is a young woman whom I’ve known for over three years, whose smile alone melts away every fear and worry I have. …I knew ahead of time, based on past experiences, that I break stuff. In this case, I was subconsciously sabotaging their relationship. …It’s been quiet and awkward between us ever since. We will stumble upon one another, but the hugs have stopped. The smile is still there, but I don’t know if it’s sincere anymore.

…And this is what I’ve done. For three-and-half years, I have hurt this girl. I have, directly or indirectly, negatively impacted her life. In a way, I want to walk away, hoping, feeling, that maybe, it would be the best for her. …Yet I am deathly afraid of losing her. I’ve come to terms with losing her to another man, but the idea of her being out of my life entirely… scares me. How can you love someone so much that it tears you apart from the inside when they’re unhappy and yet you continually find ways to hurt them?

Well, there you have it. See, he’s hating himself like he’s some kind of monster brought forth from Dante’s Inferno or something. To protect his identity, I’m omitting more specific infractions. But tsk, reader. Tsk.

I wrote him back and just cleared up any misconceptions that I’d be writing something sunshiny in his favour.

Thing is, I can’t go all medieval on his ass, either.

See, love makes beasts of us all, goes some old saying. Let’s update it. You know, a little more politically correct and equality-minded. It should say, “beasts, bastards, and bitches”.

After all, every single one of us has done something duplicitous or slightly unkind in love. Who’s kidding who? One of those dirty little secrets we all keep tucked away in hidden pockets. Me, I’ve occasionally been duplicitous, manipulative, and unkind. I’m human. I have the “fuckin’ up” gene built-in and far too easily accessible, thank you very kindly. Hell, I think the gene’s on auto-pilot at this point. Fuck, man. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, like the Jesus guy once said. We do dumb, even bad shit, but then we learn to do better. You’re done the doing bit, now it’s time to do the learning bit.

Yeah, you’re being an asshole, reader. You are. You deserve a moralistic kick up the ass, but that’s just stating the obvious. We’re better than obvious. We’re intelligent.

So, whilst being an asshole, you’re also being an incurable romantic. And a really lousy little coward. Actually, a really successful coward. Full marks for you, friend.

I too have been a coward sometimes. It is what it is. Easy, is what it is. Easier to somehow never rise up and face the challenge, and decide “It’s better to know now how she feels, and then I can move on… either way.” The irony is, living in fear’s so fucking hard, and it makes us all become the people we’d sooner not be. But we are. When we deceive ourselves in that way, we’re those bitter, sad, underwhelmed people not chasing after what they really want. And it’s all because we’re too cowardly to face the truth and learn a little.

We would rather live with the possibility of there being that chance but living under the shadow of doubt and worry, while we play our little manipulation of keeping them close without having to come clean… because to find out definitively that they’re not interested in us would be devastating.

To know means having the power to move on, either way. You’ve simply never, ever admitted to how you felt, and instead sought to manipulate her life. If you couldn’t have her, then she shouldn’t be able to be happy with someone else. It’s almost like a Hollywood cliche. Dying villain-hero, raging against the world, “If I can’t have you– nobody can!” But you got weird and started insinuating yourself into situations you shouldn’t have entered, and as such are now dealing with The Wrath of Scorned Lovelorn Woman.

Yeah, good one. But you know this. I don’t know, what do you want me to say? You stop hurting people if they matter to you. We all hurt people we love. Most of us don’t do it as a matter of course, though. It just happens sometimes. You think you love her? Stop hurting her. Be honest. Tell her how you feel. Tell her you’ve been an ass. Tell her. Beg her forgiveness. A thousand apologies. And a good gift never hurts. Start the communication and see where it goes. Don’t be surprised if there’s a “Fuck you” somewhere in the mix, but there’s always the chance that the cosmos will align in your favour and love’s swift arrow pierces her offended exterior. There’s always chance. I believe in chance.

But the truth is, you continue doing what you’re doing and you will find yourself both without a lover, and without a friend. That’s almost a certainty. End it, be a man, and there’s hope something better can come of it.

Now go say 10 Haily Marys like you really mean it.