Dealing with past hurts and resentments in marriage

posted in: Blog, Guest Posts | 27

I am overjoyed to have Sheila Qualls write a marriage post for me today, she was glad to offer her advice from her 30 years of experience!

My husband and I got married shortly after we graduated college. At that time, I waged a personal vendetta against him which dated back to high school. Sounds crazy, right? Why would I marry someone I harbored resentment against? I was hurt by something that had happened in the past, and I refused to let it go.

It should’ve been settled long ago, and it was…for him. Long before he’d asked me to marry him, he’d put the incident in a box and stuck it way back in the corner of his mind.
Not me.

It was such a tiny thing, but it burrowed down into my heart and took root where I nursed and cared for it. And like anything that’s well cared for, it grew.

I put the incident in a prominent place in our lives. I used it like an ancient torture device against my husband. If we had a problem, I’d pull it out. My attitude was killing my marriage before it even got started.

The problem with holding on to old hurts is you accumulate new ones. Little hurts become bigger ones when we nurse them and pile new ones on top. We say we want a harmonious relationship, but when we let hurts get in the way, it becomes difficult. There’s nothing more dangerous to a marriage than unhealed hurts.

We all have a default setting called “human.”  When we default to human, our selfish, retaliatory nature comes out like a roaring lion. We think the other person deserves to hurt like they hurt us. We justify our feelings as “righteous.” But, God doesn’t.

I had to make a decision to let it go. I still have to decide to let go of things that hurt me, if I want a healthy marriage.

Maybe you’re holding on to something that has happened in your past. Maybe it’s not a hurt your husband caused. Maybe it’s a wound inflicted by someone else in your life. Letting go of past hurts isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Here are steps I use when working through hurts or resentments in my marriage.

Letting go of past hurts isn't easy, but it is necessary. Click To Tweet

1. Pray

Tell God how you feel. He’ll understand. Tell Him you’re angry or hurt or lonely. He’ll comfort and reassure you. He may even give you a new attitude towards the situation. He might even make you aware of your contribution to the situation.

2. Forgive yourself

This is harder than it sounds because many times when we’re hurt, we blame ourselves to a certain degree. Maybe we’ve done something to contribute to the situation. I partly blamed myself for the high-school hurt. So, the madder I got at myself, the madder I got at him. Begin with forgiving yourself.

3. Separate yourself

This can be as simple as going into a room alone to pray and think about the situation or taking a walk. Try to look at the situation from an objective point of view. Pretend you’re talking to a friend. How would you advise her? Tell her how you would’ve handled the situation differently.

4. Write about it

Writing is a healthy outlet because you can get your point across without someone interrupting you. Be real. Write about how you feel, why you’re hurt. What you’d like to see happen. Write all the things you’d like to say to your husband—yeah, even the ugly things. After you’ve exhausted your feelings on paper, tear it up. Then write another letter telling him how you feel. Use language that expresses how you feel, not what he did. It’s a good idea to start by telling him things you appreciate about him. Tell him you know he didn’t mean to hurt you (and chances are he really didn’t). Then close by acknowledging your contribution to the situation or how you could’ve handled it differently.  If he did intend to hurt you, tell him you are working through forgiving him. Remember you love him. The disagreement or hurt isn’t bigger than your relationship.

5. Hold hands

When I was newly married, someone advised me to always hold hands with my husband, even when I’m unhappy with him.  Holding hands was difficult for me. It wasn’t modeled for me growing up. But, there’s something about physical touch that softens the heart. 

When we say “I do,” we relinquish all rights to hold on to stuff. If we’ve made a commitment to God, part of that commitment includes making our marriages the best they can be. Go to the source of all forgiveness: Jesus Christ. It is crucial to the ability to let go.

What past disappointments are you harboring in your marriage? Or in your life? Examine what you need to ask the Lord to help you work through. When will you commit to starting the process of letting go?

Meet Sheila:

Sheila Qualls writes from the experience of 30 years of marriage, 5 kids, home schooling, 10 corporate moves, 2 dogs and a ferret. (May they rest in peace.)  She’s a former award-winning civilian journalist for the Army turned SAHM, speaker and blogger. She blogs about marriage, family, and issues that affect women athttp://www.sheilaqualls.com . . . where real life meets real faith.
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27 Responses

  1. Sheila,

    Thank you for sharing such beautiful wisdom on dealing with past hurts. I especially love this quote,

    “Letting go of past hurts isn’t easy, but it is necessary.”

    Blessings, Misty

  2. Such great tips for dealing with past hurts. I know that I really have to guard against correcting my husband when we are disagreeing. Not quite the same thing, but this was a good reminder.

    • You make a great point about corrective behavior. Past hurts sometimes spur that corrective behavior. I get that. I can get into the same habit. I think most of our negative behavior flows from some hurt.

  3. Sheila, you hit the nail on the head with this advice. I’ve finally come to a point where I let go of a past hurt in my marriage & I finally feel free! I am happy again, & no longer allow myself to become offended this way. God is in control & I am proof that He changes hearts💕Beautiful post! God bless.

    • I am so happy for you, Jaimee. I am proof that God changes hearts, too. Hurts block intimacy and connection. Letting go is such a liberating feeling and breathes life back into relationships.

  4. Sheila thank you so much for these gems. I’m saving these up because I know I’m going to need them again soon. I especially loved your tip about holding hands. While it’s a little thing it can make such a big difference because it really does soften our hearts.

    Thanks for sharing Sheila with us, Sue!
    Blessings to you both.

    • It’s hard to be mad at someone when you’re holding his hand, Marva. LOL! It is a little thing that makes a big difference.

  5. This is amazing advice!! Thanks for sharing. There was one time in our marriage where I was close to blowing my lid and rip into him, but I calmed down and asked myself: how will your actions affect the rest of you marriage?? That question has helped me in being able to let go and to not hold things against my husband.

    • That is an excellent question to ask before blowing up, Anne. I wish I had asked myself that question more early on in our marriage. I started reminding myself that my relationship is more important than this little thing. What a difference it makes!

  6. #4 – YES! I always tell people to write a letter, even if they never plan on giving it to the person it’s about. In my own experience, I’ve been able to understand why I’m upset and come to terms with it while writing the letter.

    • Letter writing helps me, too, Lauren, for the same reasons. Helps me understand why I’m upset and to process the feelings.

  7. Love your blog, woman.Must walk soon. You inspire me!
    Dana

  8. Great advice, Sheila. I’ve pretty much done all of these…praying, walking, writing…and we have been married almost 30 years, so there must be something to it, right? I’m so glad we are in this together. Sometimes, it just helps to know you are not alone. Thanks for sharing you wisdom. – Amy
    http://stylingrannymama.com/

  9. Hold hands – not so easy when you’re still holding unresolved concerns, huh? Been there. Good advice. Dying to self, our life-long road. Thanks for sharing, Sheila.

  10. Wow Sheila, I love how you opened up about the hurt before marriage. We rarely think about such situations. This is deep. True. Unforgiveness in marriage ain’t good. I love how you explained, the HOW part of it.

  11. […] How to Deal with Past Hurts and Resentment in Marriage by Sheila Qualls on Mama of Three Boys | While the name is new, the website should not be. Mama of Three Boys guest contributor Sheila Qualls shares some advice on dealing with the resentment that damages your marriage. […]

  12. Shelia, you make wonderful and valid points. I appreciate the visual of our resentments growing because we nurse them.
    What do you do tho when the resentments are brought up by current actions? For example if your spouse is an alcoholic and they continue to choose drinking over family how can you leave resentments behind when the actions are still in your face?
    I would love to hear your thoughts, as I admired yours in this post.

    • Natalie,

      I am sad for your situation. It is a hard one. I have watched close family members deal with this issue, so I am not unfamiliar with your pain. It hurts to think someone loves alcohol more than he loves you. If you are in danger, I’d suggest getting you and your children to safety. There are no easy answers for this. There’s a great deal of shame attached to this. And shame makes you want to hide when what you really need is the comfort and compassion of people. If you haven’t opened up to someone, I’d suggest trying it. (someone you trust). Or seek a counselor, pastor, or support group. Numbers 1-4 of the post are also helpful in the moment when you feel resentment. Pray that God would change your heart and give you the strength to deal with this and support your children through it. Ask others to join your prayer. I know that’s not what you want to hear because you’re in a hard situation now. But unfortunately there’s no easy fix for resentment. I’m sorry. My heart goes out to you and my prayers go up for you, Natalie.

      • Sheila,
        Thank you for your response and advice. I will work thru 1-4 of your post, all are really helpfuland i will continue to pray. I appreciate you and prayers <3.

        • Hi Natalie, thank you for reading this post. I have been praying for you since yesterday. may the Lord strengthen you, and may you find encouragement through Gods word. Keep trusting, keep believing in His promises.
          Thank you Sheila for your affirming advice!

          • Natalie

            Thank you Sue for your encouragement and your prayers, it means so much <3

        • Natalie and Sue,

          My pleasure! Natalie, my prayers are with you as well.

          The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
          Psalm 34:18

          It might not feel like it , but He is there.

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