I watched a movie titled “Greenberg” and in it was one of my favorite lines, “Hurt people, hurt people.”
The actress who played Florence in the movie said it to the actor she loved, Robert Greenberg. Robert struggled with OCD, was neurotic, jaded, and a 40-year-old guy. He had recently gotten out of a mental hospital, and was house sitting for his brother and family while they went to Vietnam on summer vacation. Robert’s inability to live in the real world and his fear of dying, and fear of everything else that living people have to do, left him with one job to perform while he was there, to build a dog house for the family dog (who happened to stay with him). Robert’s brother’s assistant (Florence) was left in charge of helping Robert. This was complicated by the fact that she was wounded from another relationship. Robert showed interest in her, and he couldn’t drive a car.
The movie had no plot except to depict how we all get into these relationships and someone gets hurt, and then that person goes on to hurt someone else. We all live it, and we all do it.
Greenberg was also able to poignantly show that on the outside, it is difficult to see these things. It is only when you are in it that you can see it, and then we are usually too deep in it to get out. Time and time again, Florence’s best friend told Florence to leave Robert alone, that he was too messed up, but Florence recanted with “He has a soft underbelly, he is the guy who leaves a party, and freaks out at something stupid.” She went on to say, “I like that.” Florence knew what she was getting and apparently liked the drama or rush that was involved with loving a guy like Robert Greenberg.
To be sure there are many couples in the “Greenberg situation.” What usually happens is they get divorced or break up in the hopes of getting together with someone else. It would be great if we could see them coming with a big “H” for hurt on their forehead and stay away from them. Many times, people who are hurt don’t present as being hurt. They present as being vulnerable, shy, or aggressive. They may present as being funny or the silent type.
We like them, and therein lies the problem. We see their pain and try to change them. We believe if we can understand them and are patient with them, they will come around and love again. With enough time, patience and understanding maybe one out of ten of them can and wants to change. If you are in love with one of the other nine, the odds are poor they will change or heal.
Below are four critical ways that hurt people often hurt others when they merge their lives with a partner. The list could go on and on, but if you identify any of these in a relationship prior to getting married, don’t go there. If you are already married to a hurt person, try to seek counsel with someone who can help you unravel their mess you're in.
Hurt people have a way of making you feel shame, blame, and guilty for existing. These feelings may be felt deeper if you have become their enabler. One other note, I left out physical or sexual abuse which is the biggest red flag of all. If it's happening to you, don't make the mistake of thinking that getting married will fix it, trust me, it won't.