As I thought about writing this post, I asked Susan to share with me an example of something I’ve done to cause her to be bitter in our marriage. She explained how there are times when I tell her she needs to stop using unkind words, only for me to turn around and use unkind words a few minutes later. Then when she tries to confront me about it, I shut her down and do the same thing again the next time. She’s annoyed but holds it in. That annoyance then leads to frustration. And frustration leads to anger. And unresolved anger leads to bitterness.
Bitterness is like a small crack in the windshield of your relationship. It might look insignificant on the surface, but left alone it branches out and continues to split until the glass shatters into a million pieces. So let’s look at this important issue a little more closely.
What is the cause of bitterness in marriage?
Author Sabrina McDonald hit the nail on the head when she wrote, “In every marriage, a husband or wife does something that hurts the other. It’s bound to happen because none of us are perfect. And in some cases, a spouse has a habit of doing the same thing over and over again, even after the behavior is confronted.
Bitterness comes when you hold onto hurt and refuse to forgive the person who hurt you. Most of the time, this comes as a result of ongoing actions of a small nature—lack of understanding, misuse of finances, harsh comments—that build up over time. Each offense takes residence in the heart, and at some point there is no more room left. That’s when bitterness is manifested and causes the most damage.”
How to Spot Bitterness
Have you ever been around someone and you can just tell that they’re bitter about something? You may not know what they are bitter about, but you can easily identify bitterness by their sad or sorrowful countenance or scowl on their face. They are often sarcastic and critical as well. Sound familiar?
How to Be Set Free from Bitterness
Are you bitter about something hurtful your spouse has done over and over again in your relationship? Well, it is important for your spouse to hear you, see the error of their ways, ask for forgiveness for the part they played in hurting you, and then make a change in how they handle it in the future. But hear me on this—your spouse cannot take away your bitterness. Only you can address that.
Here are 4 things you can do to be set free from your bitterness.
1. Communicate your hurts to your spouse.
Your spouse can’t read your mind. And though you may be convinced that your hurt is obvious, there’s a chance your spouse is unaware of the way they’ve hurt you. So rather than emotionally shut down or give up on a change, choose to not distance yourself. One of the strongholds of bitterness is the secrecy of it. Once you voice your concerns, they can be addressed. If you need help on how to communicate with your spouse effectively, check out this Tried and True Technique for Marriage Communication.
2. Approach your spouse with love.
While communicating your hurts to your spouse is important, it’s even more important that your motive for the conversation is to renew the love in your marriage. So keep focused on how you’re hurting. Address how you feel; don’t accuse your spouse. Accusation won’t get you very far. Also, be quick to own up to your mistakes and be ready to share in the exchange of apologies. Because the truth is that while bitterness may be evoked by your spouse, it is still your responsibility to let go of it.
3. Forgive your spouse and ask for forgiveness.
Seek peace with your spouse and have the grace to forgive. Giving forgiveness is critical. Also, you may not realize it, but you need to be forgiven as much as you need to forgive.
4. Vow to avoid the chains of bitterness in the future.
Once you’ve been set free from bitterness, don’t be enslaved by it any longer. Instead, once frustrations arise, deal with them immediately by using the principles I shared in Putting Conflict to R-E-S-T in Marriage.
I hope these thoughts will help you to let bitterness go and enable you to embrace the sweetness that your marriage offers. What are some of the ways bitterness has affected your marriage? What are you doing about it? You can leave a comment below.