How To Tell Her She Hurt You (Without Turning it Into a Nuclear-Level Fight)
It’s not easy to tell someone — anyone — that they hurt you. It’s even less easy when it’s your girlfriend and you’re worried you might seem sensitive or weak! It’s perfectly normal for men to experience hurt feelings in the course of a long-term relationship, for any number of reasons. But the fact that we have no cultural scripts for it in movies or TV can make this an extra hard conversation to have.
Never fear: we have some tips on how to make this go as smoothly as possible. Everybody is capable of hurting and being hurt: what distinguishes grown-ups from children is that the former should be able to handle it with grace.
1. Don’t Minimise Your Hurt – Address It Up Front
“I wanted to be honest with you. I’m thinking about [X thing that you did]. I’m hurt about it. I feel sad.”
This kind of vulnerable admission can be scary as hell, but that’s why it’s important. Don’t sweep the issue under the table, or play it off like it is a minor problem. If you were hurt by something your partner did and you pretend you’re not, this will fester inside you and cause resentment (which can erupt in anger later).Would you want your girlfriend to act like things were fine when they weren’t? No, so don’t do it yourself.
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Tell her simply and clearly how you’re feeling. It will make her much more empathetic and she’ll be less likely to go on the defensive! Instead of accusing her, use statements about your own emotions (“I’m feeling”) to defuse any tension in the conversation. That reframes the discussion (from her own actions to the consequences of those actions).
2. Explain Why It’s Bothering You
“When you compared me to your ex, it made me feel insecure — like I’m not good enough. I keep thinking about it because it makes me feel you’re not as happy with me as you were with him.”
Remember, she likely had no intention of hurting you — she was probably being careless and had no idea how her words would land! So how would she understand unless you break it down for her?
Do explain so that she knows where she went wrong and so that she doesn’t do it again. Be patient — yes, you might feel silly having to spell it out, but it’s always better to provide context and clarification. Your feelings are valid no matter what, but it helps if you can explain why they exist.
3. Don’t Generalise
Resist the temptation to say “You always do X” or “You’re a hurtful person.” Generalising is a habit that’s hard to break, but in this case it is unhelpful. All you’re doing is antagonising her! She has to let her guard down, and this won’t happen if you’re making wide-ranging statements about her bad behavior or general tendency to hurt her feelings. If she isn’t actually a repeat offender, refrain from characterising it that way.
Keep it to the specific. “That night, when you gossiped about us to your friends — that bothered me.” That way, you have a peg for her to refer to: That’s something that she can’t refute. She has to address it fairly; this is a much better outcome than you two getting into a shouting match.
4. Don’t Get Angry If She’s Defensive
“What do you mean, you don’t think you did anything wrong? You messed up. You acted like a terrible person. How can you have zero accountability?”
Most people are very, very resistant to the idea that they are capable of causing hurt especially if they didn’t mean to. Say you confront her, and she doesn’t immediately apologise and fall at your feet begging for forgiveness. (It would be strange if she did!)
Remain calm. Don’t freak out. You’re in the right here, and you can help her see that little by little. If you get angry, lose your cool and turn the conversation into a big relationship fight, you’re essentially undoing all your good work. Your anger won’t make her any more sympathetic to your cause, remember!
“I get that you don’t think you did anything wrong. But I still got hurt, and your intent doesn’t change the impact of what happened. I hope you can see that.”
This is an excellent way to frame it. By pointing out to her that intent doesn’t diminish impact, you’re refuting her logically without getting red in the face about it, or shouting her down. If you put it in this kind of way, she will be much more open to seeing (and hopefully admitting!) her mistakes.
5. Finally, Give Her A Way Forward
“I don’t know where we go from here, but I am confident we can figure it out. I love you, and I told you this because I don’t ever want to be hurt like this again. Please think about it and let’s try to be more careful with each other’s feelings.”
It’s not enough to tell her she hurt you. What do you want? Where do you see this going? If you want her to make amends, great. Tell her so, but tell her gently, and end on a positive note.
In the face of bad news, people search for ways to cope: what can they do to mitigate the situation? What concrete action can they take? If you offer her some examples of concrete actions — “Let’s promise not to say careless/casually hurtful things to each other” — she’ll feel much more reassured and likely follow your lead. Your relationship will only be stronger for it. Good luck!