Author Betsy Hart calls negative emotions like hatred, bitterness and jealousy “poison of the heart,” and she advises parents to teach their children to steer clear of these thoughts. (In other words, she teaches that we have a say in how we choose to feel.) Resentment and unforgiveness are certainly poisons within a marriage. The effects of negative emotions can be very damaging—to our emotional as well as physical health.
Forgiveness research by sociologist Greg Easterbrook and discussed in his book The Progress Paradox concludes that “people who do not forgive the wrongs committed against them tend to have negative indicators of well-being, more stress-related disorders, lower immune system function, and worse rates of cardiovascular disease than the population as a whole.” In short, these emotions poison us from the inside out.
We inherently know that these emotions are bad for us. We feel it when we allow ourselves to be taken away by these feelings. Think about the stomach ache or headache that often occurs during a conflict. But do we work to rid ourselves of these emotions?
While we don’t want to become doormats or become taken advantage of, most of us know that we could be more graceful toward those around us—especially our partners—when they make a mistake. Sometimes a spouse doesn’t even know when he or she has done something wrong, and we are busy holding a grudge, stewing all evening.
We might even have a list of “unforgiveable offenses” that we decide upon before marriage. Things like infidelity and drug abuse are placed high on this list. I’ve seen dedicated couples overcome these and many difficult scenarios with a valuable antidote called forgiveness. But the day-to-day poison of resentment is almost more difficult to overcome.
If you or your partner are regularly resentful, rolling eyes, making snide comments, holding grudges or acting negatively, you are poisoning the relationship. All the small doses of poison can be as dangerous as one nearly lethal dose.
It may require getting some help, but clear the air and learn how to forgive and move on. We can lead ourselves through positive actions rather than allowing our fears, frustrations, anger and resentment to lead us. This week, when you’re feeling less than loving, try to act kindly and calmly. Take a deep breath. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Offer to help them if they’re stressed. Show affection. Forgive. You’ll find you will be improving your own health as well as the health of your relationship.
How much poison can your relationship handle? Are you willing to find out?
Photo courtesy of Stockvault.net by Jake Wood.