Is it just me or is it hard not to resent your spouse? It's tough when those that we love the most let us down and hurt our feelings. What makes it even harder is when they refuse to right their wrongs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, holding a grudge is not only hard on us emotionally, it's hazardous to our health and mental wellbeing.
If we know that bitterness is bad for us, why does it seem like the default emotional response?
Anger adds an instant layer of protection that, we believe, helps us avoid more pain. BUT we are hurt (How couldn’t he know?), betrayed (He didn’t have my back), and envious (Why can’t I sit on my a$$ and watch TV when the house is a mess?).
Let's take a look at how resentment INFECTS your marriage:
You and your spouse are on the couch enjoying your favorite TV show. He reaches for his phone to check his newsfeed. You feel insulted, partially rejected and stomp upstairs. He, oblivious to what just happened, continues to watch TV and scroll, while you boil in bed.
He forgets about the night before and attempts intimacy. You give him the cold shoulder and he feels rejected. Tonight, you watch TV on opposite sides of the couch.
You both continue to live with unmet needs, drift further apart, and become hypersensitive to anything negative about each other. You stop watching TV together—he spends his evenings in the garage and you read in bed.
Wow, that could be my marriage…
Obviously, this is an over exaggeration AND a very realistic possibility. Once hostility enters your marriage, it’s death by 10,000 cuts.
Ultimately it turns into, who’s more wrong. The focus shifts from “I’m dying inside”, and fixates on “He’s an insensitive jerk that doesn’t get me at all”. Truth be told, it’s safer to hate on the surface than to be open to the painful discomfort deep down.
How can you kick resentment to the curb?
Let’s go back to our analogy:
- You can come back down stairs, pause the show (very important), and be vulnerable with him about your softer feelings. AND apologize for storming away.
- Tell him how it makes you feel alone when he picks up the phone in the middle of “us” time.
Once he sees you soften, he’ll lower his defenses.
- He’ll share how he’s constantly doing something, which makes it hard for him to relax and not reach for a distraction.
- AND he’ll apologize for making you feel that way.
This is the power that vulnerability has on your relationship. It provides instant emotional connection.
- At last, you’ll take ownership of your part in the ordeal, which allows him to feel understood and heard.
This is Intimacy
Feeling validation is the most powerful tool that you can have in your marital toolbox AND it’s easy to forget that you have it in the heat of the moment.
The key is not to be flawless, it’s to use the tool once you remember that you have it. We’re not perfect, which means that we need to show our self and spouse mercy when we/they mess up.
Our assumptions get us into trouble.
There comes a point in our marriage when we begin to assume too much and forget about giving our spouse the benefit of the doubt.
The next time this scenario plays out in your marriage, remember the course that this poison runs and ask yourself: Do I want us to go out like that?