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Short Inquisitions #4: Why do we want them to hurt?

1 min read
Short Inquisitions #4: Why do we want them to hurt?

Table of contents

Short Inquisitions is a series of blog posts where I spew out my questions and thoughts, hoping to retain an ever-curious soul.

There’s this interesting phenomenon that seems universal. When we get broken up with, we want to see the other person hurt. But why? We spend so much time and energy on one person—hoping, caring, loving them—yet we turn into the person we would’ve never let them meet.

It’s not as if the relationship was fake or that they didn’t care about us, but for some reason, we want to see them hurting. Maybe crying. Maybe not being okay.

Is it some sort of need for validation? To know that our absence truly does strike them with pain? To know that we meant something?

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Common ideas of morality tell us not to wish pain upon others. I think most of us would agree that this rule applies even more to the ones we care about. It’s not great if a stranger is hurt, but please please please don’t hurt my family or friends.

So why do we all feel this want to see them in pain after the breakup?

Because they’re no longer ours? Were they ours to begin with? Is it possible to possess someone?

Because we don’t care about them anymore? As if emotions were like a switch and we just turned them off?

Because we need to know that they’re as hurt by our absence as we are by theirs? Because they never said, “I miss you” or “I wish you were here” before?

Maybe it’s a mix of all of those. Maybe not.

Michel Liao

Michel Liao

Boise, Idaho, United States
Hello! I'm a sophomore studying computer science at Princeton. I like reading, rock climbing, and running.