When you’re feeling hurt about something in your marriage it can build up over time. It’s lots of little resentments that have built up and built up and you feel that you’ve been wronged in some way. You’re not being heard, validated, perhaps you feel invisible and not important. They begin to multiply if they haven’t been dealt with at the time resentment begins to build. Feelings under resentment can include anger, sadness, doubt, grief and many more emotions. Getting to a place where you can learn to stop feeling the resentment and instead feel gratitude, peacefulness and compassion is the pathway to an empowered marriage.
I believe acceptance is needed and it involves making a conscious decision to let go of resentment. Now, resentment is often associated with what’s happening in your present day, your marriage, but also it can link up with childhood events and things that have happened previously in other previous relationships.
When you accept and get to that place of gratitude and that place of peacefulness, you are no longer in the victim role and you can remove yourself from the negativity associated with the hurt that you feel inside. I’ll put my hand up and be the first to say that I had a lot of resentment. As a teenager with my parents and I had resentment in my marriage, and it is toxic and it hurts the marriage. Getting to a place of being able to, accept what has happened or happening. You might not like it, may not want it on any level, but it is what it is. And do you have any control over how other people treat you? No, you don’t. So, the process of acceptance doesn’t require the other individual to actually do anything at all. Nothing. The other person involved that you are resentful about. They do not need to apologize for hurting you. They do not need to earn your forgiveness for you to accept.
Practicing acceptance, it doesn’t lessen the wrong that’s been done against you by another person. It also does not mean that you are accepting that the wrong is okay or that you can justify what happened. It does not mean that you must forget about the hurt. What acceptance requires is for you to rise above the resentment that you feel. I can remember deciding around my family of origin. I’m adopted and I had a lot of resentment around my biological mother and my adopted mum. I can remember that I had to decide to discard this unfinished business that I had been carrying around for years. It meant that I was able to abandon the hurt, the pain, the anger, because I was hanging onto things from my past, but also bringing it into my marriage.
What are you hanging onto? If you’re in a long-term marriage and you’ve got resentment, you could have years of resentment and it’s only getting heavier and heavier, you’re getting more toxic and negative.
Some people feel that the process of acceptance it shows a weakness in character. I don’t believe that to be true at all. It is the most powerful thing that you can do for yourself and it breaks the hold on the hurt that you carry, and it means that you refuse to allow the person or the experience to continue to inflict pain. Say for example there’s betrayal and you’re continuously hurting yourself over and over and over again in your thinking. It is a decision to release the hurt to get to a place of acceptance. Of course, with betrayal, that takes a little bit of work, but it is very do able. So, there is a process of acceptance and I believe with acceptance it’s a journey that begins with a conscious decision.
I believe that the process, it is unique for each one of us. I think you need to try different approaches that’s right for you. And it requires patience and it might take months or even years. I have done a lot of work on this and patience is hugely important. You might feel uncomfortable at times during this journey, but to achieve the end result, you need to keep going. The result, when you’re not carrying resentment, is you’re very present and you feel peacefulness. There are several steps in the process of acceptance.
Step 1: Acknowledge the hurt
• Stop minimising the hurt and pain you are feeling. Stop pretending that it doesn’t affect you. The ‘I’m okay’ and ‘I don’t care’ masks that you may have been wearing do not support you in the long-term.
• Stop avoiding the hurt by using tactics such as being busy, watching television, eating, drinking or overspending.
• Don’t make excuses for the person you are forgiving.
• Stop avoiding the person that you are forgiving if you are doing this in order to escape the buried emotions relating to the hurt.
Step 2: Recognise the cost
Reflect on the following:
• Resentment and anger hurts you and absorbs your energy. Even if you are not consciously thinking about something regularly, you may still be hurting. It is just in the unconscious. Do you think this may be the case for you?
• The presence of resentment and unfinished business that needs attention may be more noticeable at certain times such as around birthdays, Christmas or anniversaries. You may find yourself a little irritated, stressed or short-tempered at these times. What could these emotions be about?
• Sometimes we avoid our emotions and let the patterns of the past impact on the present. Is this happening for you?
Step 3: Let go and make the commitment to accept
Make a conscious decision to let go of the anger and resentment. When you refuse to hold on you are no longer in the victim role. Things don’t happen to you anymore.
Remind yourself that the incident or hurt with which you are dealing – the reason for going through the forgiveness process – is a specific event and not your whole life. Becoming overwhelmed or consumed by it may lead you to avoid doing anything at all and that will only hurt you.
Step 4: Express the emotion
• Allow yourself to feel the emotions that you are experiencing. Acknowledge that they are real and that it is okay to experience them.
• Verbalise what you are feeling directly to the person, if that is possible. Alternatively, imagine the person who has inflicted the hurt is sitting in an empty chair opposite you. Tell him or her how you are feeling.
• Write a letter to the person you want to forgive. Describe how you felt when the incident happened and how you have felt since. You do not have to give the letter to the person.
• Express your anger in a way that does not harm you or anyone else. For example, you may find somewhere private to go in your car and scream at the top of your lungs, or bash the ground with a rolled up towel or pool noodle. This process of venting helps to move negative energy caused by the anger.
• Expressing how you are feeling by writing in a journal is also extremely beneficial because it enables you to empty out your hurts and pains.
Step 5: Set boundaries
Decide not to allow the person involved to hurt you now or in the future. Choose whether you want the person in your life. If you do, it is vital to have strong, clear boundaries. For example, if someone is verbally offensive towards you insist that you will not communicate with that person unless he or she is willing to speak kindly to you.
Choosing to let go of resentment in your marriage is a choice. It sets you free to live in the present with peacefulness and calmness. Sometimes working on it yourself is not enough and counselling and /or psychotherapy can be very effective and helpful to speed the process along. We also sometimes need to work with the unconscious and working on a surface level isn’t enough.
Commit to and persevere with it. It takes courage and persistence, but with perseverance the benefits you will receive are endless.
Room will open up within you and a stirring for participating in life will emerge. You will begin to become excited about your life and you will venture into a new journey called living and an empowered marriage.