What to Do When You Love Someone Who Hurts You

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Angry Fingers

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” ~Pema Chödrön

There is a person in my life who I love with all my heart, but in this relationship I struggle to keep a full cup myself. They are family, the situation is complicated and tender. But learning to have compassion for this other person begins with having compassion for myself.

A nasty divorce spanning most of my childhood set the stage for our current situation. My mother was deeply emotionally wounded by my father, and carried that pain into her parenting of my sister and me.

Contact with the ex (my dad) dropped to nil—maybe a week a year, far below what the court had decided.

Any efforts on our parts to connect with our absent parent, even recounting fond memories, were seen by our mother as attacks on her legitimacy and a discounting of her pain. And what emotional intimacy we shared was often exploited—it kept us locked into the family unit, not believing we could have our needs filled elsewhere, least of all with our absentee father.

A few short years prior, I felt part of a happy, perfect family. Suddenly one parent was effectively gone. My relationship with the other became a labyrinth of confusion—love down this path, hurt down the other, and at my young age I …

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