When you become violently ill, your brain says, "Hey, lets keep this from happening again." You ask yourself, "What did I eat that made me sick." You may simply have a virus, but your brain is searching for something that will prevent you from getting sick again. Getting sick must be avoided - it can kill you!
When you have been hurt in your relationship, your brain says, "Hey, lets keep this from happening again." How can you prevent future pain? The immediate desire to prevent further hurt will take over...even at the expense of your relationship. Your brain is designed that way! Pain triggers survival instincts which are sensed non-verbally; it is a feeling that can be difficult to put into words.
Your brain's primary instinct is to survive. When you feel overwhelming pain, your brain processes this as a danger to survival. When overwhelmed, you feel anxious, hyper-alert, and go into high gear to learn as much as possible about the cause of the pain.
When the hurt comes from your partner, you'll ask your partner to provide the answers to how and why he or she was able to hurt you in the hope that you will find the key to preventing future pain.
It can be difficult for your partner to respond because he/she is likely to feel blamed and shamed for causing the pain. Not only is your partner likely to be defensive but is also likely to try to take your pain away. Your partner may try to minimize your pain or shift your view in an effort to alter the pain.
Your brain will have none of that! Your brain wants to hold on to the pain as a reminder of this danger. You are more likely to be careful in the future if you remember the pain of the past, particularly overwhelming pain that the brain interprets as a danger to survival.
It is useful to be able to discuss your pain with your partner because this triggers the upper regions of the brain that are uniquely human and less confined to survival instincts. If your partner can empathize with your pain and respond soothingly, then the sense of danger to survival can wane and the desire for relationship can balance with the risk of being hurt again.
While your partner cannot alter your view of the pain, you can keep the pain from defining your life. You can reassure yourself that you are a survivor. Use the pain to plan for the future but not to control your future.