Why Do I Hurt Girls Who Fall In Love With Me?

Medically reviewed by April Brewer
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Are you repeatedly falling into a pattern of treating the women who love you badly? Do you hurt your partner’s feelings in relationships and feel guilty afterward? Understanding why this pattern continues can help you break the cycle of hurtful behavior. 

Many people learn unhealthy relationship models early in life and act them out because it’s all they know. Freeing yourself from these patterns may require recognizing where they originated and learning more constructive habits.

This article will explore common reasons people treat others badly in relationships and suggest ways to overcome this behavior.

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Therapy can help you heal toxic patterns in your relationship

Could insecure attachment be affecting your relationships?

One potential reason for destructive relationship behaviors is an unhealthy attachment style. This psychological term refers to a person’s deep-rooted attitudes toward connections with other people. Attachment theory, first developed by developmental psychologist John Bowlby, suggests that children’s early relationships with their caregivers can affect their emotional security later in life. Those who learn they can count on affection and care from the adults around them typically have a secure attachment style. 

On the other hand, children whose parents are inattentive, withholding, or inconsistent may develop various types of insecure attachment styles. Because they can’t rely on their caregivers, they may have difficulty trusting that affection from others will be real or lasting. Research suggests that attachment styles in childhood can affect adult romantic relationships.

Avoidant attachment

You may tend to hurt people who fall in love with you because you have an avoidant attachment style. This can happen if you perceived that you were on your own as a child and never got fully comfortable bonding with others. As an adult, it can make you uncomfortable moving toward greater intimacy. If so, an avoidant attachment style could be part of the problem. Studies suggest that avoidant attachment is typically more common in men than women, though it can occur in individuals of any gender.

Anxious attachment

This emotional style is also sometimes known as anxious-ambivalent attachment. It may be related to a pattern in early childhood in which your caregivers demonstrated inconsistent, conditional affection. This can create the sense that you constantly have to work for positive attention from others. 

If you’ve ever wondered why your romantic partners stick with you and tries to make you happy even when you’re unkind to them, one possibility is that you’re attracting people who have an anxious attachment style. Because struggling for affection seems familiar to them, they may take a long time to recognize it as unhealthy.

An anxious attachment style could also be at the root of hurtful behavior on your part. It could lead you to try to micromanage the relationship or control your partners. In extreme cases, a person with this attachment style might turn to spying, stalking, or abuse to maintain a connection.

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Suppressed emotion

Another reason many people hurt those close to them is that they have feelings they’re refusing to address. Do you tend to blow up at your partner or retreat into a sulk over something that seems insignificant when you think back on it? You may let negative emotions such as resentment, fear, sadness, or anger build up under the surface for a long time. You may not acknowledge these feelings' strength until you can’t contain them anymore. 

This can happen when you internalize that expressing negative emotions is hostile, disruptive, or unsafe. It may also result from a desire to avoid the unpleasant sensations that come with those feelings. But research on this topic suggests that accepting painful emotions without judgment does more to defuse them than pushing them away.

Holding on to shame

Some people who exhibit cruelty toward their partners may be trying to deflect from their own feelings of shame. Do you sometimes sense that you’re a bad person? Do you wonder why any good woman would love you? That could be the voice of shame talking.

Studies show that men are more likely to express feelings of shame through anger. You might be turning your negative feelings about yourself outward, hurting your partner’s feelings to turn their attention away from the things you dislike about yourself.

Thinking about these actions later may make you feel even worse, reinforcing your shame even more. You might even believe that you’ll never be able to avoid causing pain to those who love you. If this is the case, addressing your feelings of shame can be helpful. 

Instead of feeding into negative thoughts or berating yourself for not being perfect, acknowledge that everyone has flaws and treat yourself with kindness. Acknowledging your feelings of shame and taking steps to manage them will help you build a healthier relationship with yourself, leading to healthier relationships with others.

Personality disorders

The American Psychological Association identifies certain persistent patterns of thought and behavior as personality disorders. These long-term mental health disorders can interfere with a person’s ability to have stable and successful relationships. Some personality disorders could increase your likelihood of behaving badly toward relationship partners:

How can you learn to treat the people you love better?

Several strategies can help you improve your approach to relationships. Here are a few techniques you can try:

Keeping a journal

Sometimes keeping a record of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions can help you change them. If you can look back at what was happening in your mind and your world when you behaved badly toward your partner, you may better identify what’s behind your hurtful actions. Studies suggest journaling can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety by helping you process negative emotions.

Meditating

Mindfulness meditation, in which you pay attention to your emotions and thoughts without judgment, could also help you release negative emotional patterns. There is evidence that mindfulness has positive effects on changing certain behaviors. Meditation may help you get past feelings of shame that make you believe that improvement is impossible.

Open communication

Talking with your romantic partner about your feelings can be an important part of learning to treat them better. You may act in a hurtful way if you feel unable to communicate your negative feelings. Openly telling your thoughts and emotions to your partner can help build a stronger bond and open the possibility of finding solutions to problems together.

Practicing gratitude

Are you treating your girlfriend poorly because you take her for granted? Reminding yourself why you’re grateful to be with her may help you become a better partner. Consider taking a few minutes daily to reflect and feel thankful for the positive things she brings to your life.

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Therapy can help you heal toxic patterns in your relationship

Seeking therapy

A trained mental health professional may be able to help you change your negative relationship habits. It may be difficult to imagine discussing your hurtful actions with someone else, particularly if you are ashamed. In that case, online counseling may be a good option. Talking with an online therapist can feel more intimate, helping you feel more comfortable discussing difficult topics. 

Studies show that internet-based treatment is as effective as traditional face-to-face therapy for many conditions. Your therapist can help you identify the causes of your toxic behavior patterns and work with you to develop healthier habits. Online treatment can often remove barriers to treatment for some people, such as transportation and scheduling issues. You can connect with a therapist from the comfort of your home or wherever you have internet.

Takeaway

A tendency to mistreat people who fall in love with you can be linked to longstanding challenges such as difficulties with emotional attachment or persistent feelings of shame. Identifying and acknowledging what’s behind your behavior can be an important first step in changing it. And practices such as reflective journaling, open communication, and practicing gratitude may also help.

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