Are Grudges Holding Your Marriage Back?

You may harbor grudges inside or outside of your marriage. Both can be harmful. One of the most common grudges outside of a marriage is being angry with your parents for past hurts, for a lousy upbringing or for breaking up their marriage and family.  Another common grudge is against a friend who wronged us, and who we feel has never made amends. It eats away at us, and we complain to our spouse whenever we get the chance.

When we focus our energies on these past wrongs, they affect all our relationships, including our marriage. They sap our energy, our thoughts become negative, and our time is wasted. It’s time to move on.

Perhaps more harmful are grudges within our own marriage. Often, they are unexpressed, but closely held. They cloud our interactions and cause defensiveness or an inability to fully celebrate life with our partner. Maybe the grudges are based on old hurts your spouse has long forgotten about.

Rather than burying these grudges, if they are affecting you, bring them into the open. Communicate your hurts with “I” language. Ask the other person for what you need, and begin the process of forgiving them. Forgiveness is a gift you are giving yourself, not just the other person.

Alisa Bowman (who went from wishing her husband would die already to renewing her wedding vows and writing about what she’s learned) offers four steps to get over marital grudges in her e-book, Project Happily Ever After:

  1. Commit to releasing the old grudges.
  2. Remind yourself that you’re part of the problem. (Neither of you are perfect, but you each deserve forgiveness.)
  3. List all your old grudges on a piece of paper, reliving every drop of anger and hurt. When you are both calm, go over your list sharing how these incidences made you feel. Tell him or her you really want to move on, and it would really help to share these old wounds and to hear an apology.
  4. Be patient, as forgiveness takes time.

 Consider that what you are being asked to forgive may not be as difficult as you think. I have a wonderful friend who spent years learning to forgive the man who murdered her sister—his own wife. I’ve interviewed couples who have forgiven everything from infidelity to drug and alcohol abuse. In some of these more challenging cases, professional counseling may be helpful.

The first step is to recognize the need to forgive. Maybe forgiving old grudges will be the decision that allows your marriage to blossom.

Do you find it difficult to move on past old hurts? How do you handle feeling wronged?

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9 responses to “Are Grudges Holding Your Marriage Back?

  1. Lori,

    Great post, thanks for writing this.

    “When we focus our energies on these past wrongs, they affect all our relationships, including our marriage. They sap our energy, our thoughts become negative, and our time is wasted. It’s time to move on.”

    I do tend to hold onto things, I have a hard time letting go – I think in some ways it’s a defence mechanism, because if I let it go, then I will forget and perhaps allow myself to be hurt again.

    The ironic thing is by holding onto past hurts I’m simply perpetuating the pain.

    Something I need to work on.

    • I don’t know anyone who finds it easy to brush off past hurts and let them go, but I think discussing them in this manner may help us move on from them.

  2. I need to try these steps as I am notorious for holding grudges and bringing up things that have hurt me from the past. I’ve tried to let go and understand the value in forgiving in order to move on, but somehow it still lingers.

    • Lindsey, I think having these old hurts not dealt with will negatively impact intimacy. You might first try addressing a less threatening issue, practicing using “I” language and asking your partner to hear you out. I think the grudge list can also work well because your partner understands there are not 100 issues out there, but probably a few significant incidents that caused you pain that he may be able to apologize for and try to rectify. Good luck getting beyond these.

  3. Pingback: He many not be who you think He is. | Daily Generous Husband Tips

  4. I keep grudges for so long.. I retreat in my cocoon.. never talking about the issue and assuming that my hubby will somehow figure out why I have not been communicating with him for the last 2 weeks or more.

    I think I have a real problem…. the recent incidence is the worst so far. I have retreated to my cocoon for 3 months.. . with minimal conversation.. absolutely no physical contact between the two of us… are there any self help tools you can recommend…

    • It sounds like you are taking reponsibility for your part in this conflict, which is good. You are correct that keeping your concerns to yourself is only hurting your marriage. They way you address them is important, but keeping silent while withholdng conversation and intimacy are only hurting you both. You CAN improve your marriage if you choose to. There are so many resources out there. A few I like include Take Back Your Marriage by Bill Doherty, PhD (he’s a nationally renowned counselor and very pro-marriage); Divorce Busting: A Step-by-Step Approach to Making Your Marriage Loving Again by Michele Weiner-Davis; and The Love Dare. Check out Alisa Bowman’s Website Project: Happily Ever After on how she turned her marriage around. She has an ebook on her web site with some useful advice. I wish you the very best. If you decide to try marriage counseling, please read what Doherty and Weiner-Davis have to say about finding a pro-marriage counselor. Feel free to email me directly if you have any trouble finding these resources.

  5. It’s very easy to hold grudges when you are newly married and think that your way is the right way. It does take some maturing to understand that keeping a grudge doesn’t help you or your relationship. I don’t know why we don’t see the danger of holding grudges until we have inflicted pain on the very person we care about or once held dear to our heart.

    • You’re right. It’s part of the learning process to forgive and move on so that you can preserve your relationship. Best to you.

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