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My experiences with the Cycle Of Hurt


During conflict resolution with one of my partners, there is a common pattern we fall into. She will often blame herself for making me sad, then try to console me but only feel like she's hurting me more. This is incredibly hurtful to hear. Not only am I hurting, but I'm feeling guilty for how I am affecting her. It can be a dangerous cycle.

In season 3 of the popular Netflix show Young Royals, I noticed a similar trend with the young romantically involved characters. Wilhelm is constantly hurting due to unresolved trauma and inner conflict, and Simon feels as if they can never console them. It's another unhealthy cycle of hurt.

The traumatized individual has needs that feel continuously neglected. When they finally speak up about things and don't receive the expected amount of support, anger and frustration build up quickly. Feeling silenced, abandoned, and ostracized leaves a person constantly on edge. Every action and inaction others feels like an intentional attack. This leaves the individual in a long-term defensive state.

The resulting depression often has more to do with reminders of past traumatic events than what's happening in front of them now. Even something as simple as a passing remark or inconsequential relationship conflict can push a person into a flashback where the pain and panic are as real as ever. Suddenly, it feels like their partner is ready to abandon them in the moment they most need support. How do you tell them what you're feeling when your trauma has you by the throat?

The supportive partner often feels like any attempt to help only causes more pain, which in turn makes themselves feel worse. Being the strong one may require hiding that they too feel neglected because there just isn't space to be vulnerable. What if sharing how bad they feel makes the situation worse?

Hurt people hurt people, and the answer is communication. In Young Royals the mother told Simon (the supportive partner) that "love shouldn't be this hard." I disagree. Love is hard, and you have to fight for it in order for it to be meaningful and deep. Hurt multiples when clarity, understanding, and mutual support isn't there. My partner and I have found many points where we could have communicated our needs better; then when emotions do overwhelm us, we can take a "timeout" and reassess after we've calmed down. Only by working through the conflict can the relationship grow strong.

Some things I've learned, things that have really helped me, include:

  • Apologize when you hurt someone, even if it wasn't your intention, even if you're also hurting. This is something I struggle with a lot, but it's worth doing. Apologizing isn't about admitting you're a bad person, it's showing that you care about the other person's feelings. Your ego is wrong when it tells you that it's a sign of defeat instead of strength and maturity.

  • "Fixing" the issue can be a distraction from what your partner really needs. When people are in distress, what they usually need is someone to slow down and comfort them.

  • Whatever you're doing can wait. Finishing things become much harder if someone you love is in distress. Distracting yourself from negative feelings can't be done through trying to force an important task to completion. Take a step back away from important things until you've had a chance to talk things through with your partner.

  • Put in the effort to restructure the narratives you tell yourself about who you are and what your partner's behavior means. Reexamine what you think you're willing or unwilling to change. There are going to be things you thought you'd never give up for a relationship that you're really just being stubborn about, and you are going to have values you never thought were very important that will start to feel foundational to who you are as a person once they're challenged. Be willing to compromise without being a pushover.

  • People rarely act on all their stated values. Find your core beliefs and pay attention to how much you do or don't follow them during moments of distress. Take time to figure out what you really want out of a relationship, any and all relationships you have, and how you want to act when emotions are high.

In the series finale of Young Royals, Simon and Wilhelm can't console until a sacrifice is made. Trying to fix their relationship in the middle of such intense emotions was only hurting them more, but apart, they could communicate indirectly. Simon writes a song about revolution for Wilhelm that the latter listens to while contemplating his values and core beliefs. Did he want to be the Crown Prince if it meant losing Simon forever? The true source of Wilhelm's pain is his feeling of obligation to the crown and the life of royalty he was born into.

The solution was for Wilhelm to change the narrative he told himself. He did have a choice, and he chose freedom with Simon, freedom from royalty and the limitations it imposed, freedom from a lifestyle that was putting strain on his relationships. Wilhelm finally followed his core values.

At first, I thought this ending was unsatisfactory. If he could be both Crown Prince and with Simon, their relationship would be revolutionary. There was so much more they could have done with the story with a bit more screentime. But many compromises can be frustrating at first. The pressure of such a relationship had already cracked the foundation of their bond. I wanted them to live up to my expectations, just as Wilhelm's mother expected him to live up to hers, but maybe they did what was right for themselves instead. Knowing when to let go and sacrifice the things we think we should do for those we love is important and beautiful, too. Ending the cycle of hurt looks different for everyone.