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 —Married 12 years, age 38, New York


What to Do When Anger Is Leading
You To Marriage Separation

By Nancy Wasson, Ph.D.

Do either you or your spouse frequently bring up old unresolved issues from the past in your marriage?

Many a troubled marriage is burdened with heavy suitcases full of resentment and anger that the partners feel toward each other. And often new conflict erupts every time one of the spouses unpacks these suitcases to review painful events from the past.

It is the “historian” who continuously relives events in the relationship in which they feel they were wronged or treated unfairly.

And even though that person feels justified in bringing up their hurt, they are missing a critical point that could have dire consequences for the marriage. It’s a truth that has led countless couples to marriage counseling.

Why Anger Leads to Marriage Separation

The point is that when you hang on to resentment and anger, the effect is toxic. The resulting poison can slowly push your marriage toward marital separation and divorce, if you let it.

Many spouses lose their sense of perspective in their relationship about the bigger picture. It's tempting to start thinking how your spouse "should" have acted and how things "should" have been. In your imagination, perhaps you’re reliving situations over and over again in your mind.

You might see yourself hitting your partner with the perfect spoken comeback. You might see yourself getting even with your spouse in some way. And the more you allow your mind to speed in that direction, the angrier you feel yourself getting. And the more you feel self-righteous and justified in your reaction, the more you hurt your marriage, long term.

Because when you become bogged down in blame, anger, resentment, and revenge, you are only shooting yourself in the foot. And while this is happening, you are putting yourself in jeopardy for having sleeping difficulties, health problems, relationship rifts, depression, and daily agitation. You increase your level of stress and diminish your enjoyment of living. And you’ll find that the longer you harbor a grudge, the bigger and heavier it becomes. And the end result of these toxic emotions is marriage problems.

And the looming potential for an unhappy marriage and a marriage crisis gets bigger and bigger.

How to Stop Marriage Separation

There is nothing you can do to find inner peace when you are full of resentment and anger. As long as you keep resentful feelings bottled up inside you, you are ruining any chance that you have to experience mental and emotional tranquility.

What, then, is the solution? What do you have to do to gain peace of mind? How can you manage your resentment and angry feelings from the upsetting experiences with your spouse? What will it take to have a peaceful relationship with your spouse now?

The answer to these questions lies in releasing resentment and learning to practice forgiveness. You cannot change what has been said and done, and you cannot control whatever your spouse decides to do. But you can control the choices that you make.

You will find that you are the main beneficiary when you forgive. Forgiveness does not mean that whatever the other person did was OK. Not at all. It simply means that you have found a way to release its grip on you.

Liberate Yourself and Avoid Marriage Separation

You can decide to break the emotional cord that is tying you to your resentment and anger. In contrast, you can choose to have the joy of liberty from the heavy baggage you’ve been carrying in your mind for so long. In order to get the assistance you need in letting go of the past, you can always ask a minister or marriage counselor for marital guidance.

Without relying on forgiveness, your thoughts can descend into an endless cycle of anger, resentment, and retaliation. And when this pattern is repeated over and over for months, or even years, a broken marriage becomes increasingly likely.

You want to forgive in order to stop obsessing about the past and to put your mental energy toward the present moment. And you will discover that as you begin to practice forgiveness, you have liberated yourself from what was a crippling tyrant.

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Copyright © Nancy Wasson.  All rights reserved.  Nancy Wasson is co-author of Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This is available at http://www.KeepYourMarriage.com, where you can also sign up for the free weekly Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine to get help with your marriage problems.

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