I find myself constantly feeling resentful toward my husband regardless of the circumstances. When we argue about any issue we disagree on, my resentment only gets stronger. After 10 years of marriage, I am beginning to wonder if things will ever get better between us so that my resentment can go away, and we can have a decent marriage. Regardless of what I say to my husband I feel like nothing changes, which increases my bitterness and resentment. What can I do to change these feelings within me?
We are very sorry to hear about your situation. Living with constant resentment and bitterness is both harmful to your marriage and to your health.
Resentment and bitterness are byproducts of unresolved conflict or feelings of hurt that persist because forgiveness has not taken place. Studies have found that the act of forgiveness can result in huge benefit for your health by lowering the probability of a heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and also reducing pain, blood pressure, and high levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Research also points to an increase in the forgiveness-health connection as you grow older.
Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, United States, shares that “there is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed.”1 The truth is, chronic anger puts people into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in many changes in a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, and immune response. These changes tend to increase the risk of depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among several other conditions.
In the model prayer in Matthew 6:12, there is a reason Jesus taught His disciples to ask God to “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”2 In fact, in a conversation with Peter—one of Jesus’ disciples—who asked Him how often he should forgive his brother if he sinned against him, Jesus responds in Matthew 18:22: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Of course, forgiveness is much more than simply mouthing or uttering the words “I forgive you.” Rather, it is an active process in which we make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not. In the process of forgiveness, we give up resentment against the individual who hurt us and a desire to punish that person. The process is like canceling a debt by giving up our perceived right to punish that person for what they did to us on purpose or inadvertently.
Jesus further teaches in Mark 11:25: “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.” The reason for this process is that as you release the anger, resentment, and hostility you may have toward your husband—whether he has apologized or not—you will begin to feel empathy, compassion, and sometimes even affection for him despite his lack of understanding and concern.
We encourage you to forgive your husband for what he may have done to you. And if necessary, find a reputable Christian counselor who can help you through this process. At some point you may want to include your husband in your counseling sessions to also help him understand what is going on in your relationship, so you both can be intentional about building healthy patterns of relating to each other.
Please know you are in our prayers as you trust God for the next steps.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, PhDc, LCPC, CFLE, a licensed clinical professional counselor, educational psychologist, and certified family life educator, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.