Daniel and Teresa invested a day in a marriage intensive. They were in a long pattern of negative interaction that included frequent and intense use of the Marriage Killers. By the end of the day, each had made individual, unilateral commitments to move toward the marriage they wanted.
About two weeks later, we met them for a follow up visit. He had done almost everything that he had committed to doing. She had not fully kept a single commitment on her list. During the session we helped her uncover deep anger and resentment about how her life was different than the dream she had about it.
Why You Hold On To Anger
Like many spouses we have worked with, holding on to anger is a major block to moving the marriage forward. There are two primary reasons why we keep our resentments instead of moving forward.
- Revenge – Most spouses holding resentment and bitterness admit that they believe that their spouse should suffer the pain at the depth that they were hurt. Although many times unconscious, they want to punish their spouse for what they have done. They hold onto the resentment until they believe their spouse has suffered enough.
- Permission – By moving beyond their resentment, they believe that they are somehow giving their spouse permission to do it again. They fear that if they let go of their anger, they are “letting them off the hook.”
- Drive – Holding onto resentment and anger can provide motivation and drive for what they are doing. If they let go of their resentment, then they will have to find some other driving force within them for what they do.
- Comfortable – Living with resentment can become comfortable. Over time, it’s familiarity in their lives becomes so familiar that they forget what it is like to live without it. Not knowing for sure what it might feel like to live without it, they stay stuck in it.
- Excuse – The stories about the sources of the pain become the wall behind which they hide. It is the reason given for the spouse’s relational laziness and selfish decisions. They blame what they are doing on their spouse’s worst relationship moments.
Letting Go Of Resentment
Letting go of anger is not easy. Resentment is difficult to be free from. But until you make a conscious decision to move in the direction of letting go, you cannot have space in your heart for peace and joy. Here are some tips to moving forward.
- Forgive – Forgiveness is not about your spouse, it is about you having room for other things in your head and heart other than resentment. Stop worrying about how it will affect your spouse and do it for you. Whether this relationship ends or it grows healthy again, you need to forgive so that you can experience freedom, joy and peace again.
- Trust – Realize that trust and forgiveness are not the same thing. You can forgive your spouse, for your sake, and keep boundaries around your heart to keep you from being hurt again. Trust is built through interactions. That means you cannot trust again until your spouse shows their trustworthiness. You have to give your spouse some room to show their trustworthiness in order for you to begin to regrow your trust.
- Appreciate – You cannot maintain appreciation and resentment in the same heart. The more you find to have gratitude in your marriage and in your spouse, the more room you will find in your heart to experience something other than resentment.
- Pray – Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for people who have done bad things to us (Matthew 5:44). I believe He told us that because He knows that it changes us, not the person we are praying for. When you hold resentment, you have made your spouse your enemy. You need to pray for your spouse every day and see what God does for your heart.
- Get Help – There are some times in life when you need to call in a professional. Go visit with your minister about letting go of your resentment. Schedule an appointment with a Christian Counselor or Coach. Give us a call at 281-949-8115 if we can help in any way.
What do you have to say?
We love to hear from readers. Do you find that anger is holding you back in your marriage? How is the resentment you have about your spouse keeping you from building the marriage relationship you want? What has helped you move beyond resentment and bitterness? What other suggestions you would add to this article? Do you know someone you need to forward this article to?
This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2016. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.