“Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Everyone you ever love will hurt you.
And you have to decide that you’re going to be okay with that.
A good friend recently asked me how he was supposed to get over his fear of falling in love again. His last relationship ended very painfully and he wanted me to tell him how to stop believing that he would get hurt if he let someone else in.
While it’s perfectly natural and understandable that he’s scared, the truth is that if you decide you’re going to love someone you have to accept that at some point that love is going to be a source of pain. Because anyone you get close to, however much they mean to avoid it, is going to hurt you at some point.
They’re going to screw up. They’re going to let you down. They’re going to do things that you don’t like.
They’re going to say something hurtful in the heat of an argument. They’re going to happen upon a raw nerve. There’s going to be an unfortunate misunderstanding. There will be issues with conflicting loyalties – maybe between you and their family. They’re going to forget something important. There will be times when they aren’t there for you or they make you feel neglected. They’ll get scared and lash out. They’ll do or say things that will make you feel scared and insecure.
They might leave you.
You might leave them.
And even if by some miracle they manage to avoid all those things eventually they’re going to die.
And, y’know what, you’re going to be responsible for a few of these things as well and you’re going to hurt them in your turn.
This isn’t just true of romantic relationships. The same goes for family, friends, neighbours, co-workers – anyone who plays any significant role in your life is going to be in a position to hurt you. And they will.
Whether they mean to or not.
And you must accept it because it is the price you must pay for having those relationships.
Now I’m not suggesting that you should let people walk all over you. Or that you should tolerate people who hurt you maliciously or behave inexcusably.
But emotional pain stems from intimacy.
The things that people say and do hurt us because we care deeply about them, and they for us, and this makes us vulnerable. And so when someone hurts you, you must consider whether the pain and the damage that has been done to your relationship negates all the positive feelings and experiences that led to you becoming close enough to hurt one another in the first place.
Because the pain will pass. Almost always. No matter how much it hurts in the moment, and however much that scares you, it will get better. But in that moment when we’re hurt and scared it’s easy to lose sight of that, and to make decisions – either to end relationships or to avoid new ones – based on our pain and fear.
And as someone wise one said, a life lived in fear is a life half lived. We need to have relationships, we need intimacy, we need to feel connected to other people. Isolation and detachment are, in the long-term, far more painful and damaging than any pain that we can expect to be caused by our caring but fallible loved ones.
So you will forgive people. You will accept that their clumsy humanity is a part and parcel of their love. Or you will find that you can’t forgive them and you will move on. You will take solace in the rest of the people in your life who you have previously managed to forgive until you feel brave enough to forge a new relationship with the attendant risk of new hurt.
But the only way to inure yourself to the pain is to accept that it is an inevitable part of life and of love, to know that you will survive it when it happens, and to decide to be okay with it.
Once you have achieved acceptance you won’t be so afraid; you can put the risk of getting hurt into its proper perspective against how much you stand to gain through loving someone and allowing them to love you in return.
And that’s how you find the courage to fall in love again.