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:
- Commit to releasing the old grudges.
- Remind yourself that you’re part of the problem. (Neither of you are perfect, but you each deserve forgiveness.)
- 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.
- 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?