If you're wondering how to save your marriage you have to start with resentment. Resentment can be significant and is common because both you and your partner are imperfect people. Before long, someone's going to get their feelings hurt, be offended, or have their needs unmet. It's inevitable, hurt is going to occur. When it occurs, most people handle it poorly by escalating, withdrawing, or becoming passive aggressive, which injures the marriage further. Unresolved resentment will block you from filling up your partner's love bucket because you have a clog in your pipe. So, learning how to effectively resolve resentment is critical if you're wondering how to save your marriage. This post will show you three concrete steps to get started.
How To Save Your Marriage - Getting Started
Step #1: Go to the initial pain point
The first step if you're wondering how to save your marriage is go back to the moment when your feelings first got hurt. What happened? Maybe it was a week ago? Maybe it was five years ago? Maybe it was 30 years ago? You have to go back to the original experience or moment when the pattern began. What went down? An example from my life was after my wife and I got married in 1999. My wife started avoiding all sexual contact because her repressed sexual trauma from her upbringing started surfacing, which made her realize how much she hated sex and me for wanting it. Whenever we tried having sex she would get triggered and angrily reject me because my sexual desire reminded her of her trauma and perpetrators growing up. Her rejection during my most vulnerable moments triggered wounds of rejection from my past, making me respond with anger in response. My anger made me seem even more unsafe to her sexually so she would avoid intimacy further. It was a nasty vicious cycle that left a deep trail of resentment for both of us.
What was the starting point of your resentment?
Step #2: See their innocence and take ownership for your part
The second step if you're wondering how to save your marriage is search for the innocence in your partner's hurtful behavior and take ownership for your part. In my example above, I had to reflect on why my wife's sexual trauma surfaced right after we got married. It took me awhile to realize trauma tends to surface when someone feels secure. So, my wife wasn't sexually rejecting me to be malicious, quite the opposite. She was expressing her trauma because my marital commitment made her feel secure enough to do so. Realizing this was an important step for me to see the innocence in her hurtful behavior. It didn't mean she was entirely innocent because she could have worked harder at healing her trauma. However, it did show me she wasn't intentionally trying to hurt me.
The second thing I eventually realized is when someone has a trauma trigger they need to be comforted and reassured. They need to see they're safe and that the "lion isn't chasing them." Trauma triggers move the person into fight or flight in their sympathetic nervous system. Therefore, they need to complete the trauma cycle by recognizing they're not in danger and everything is okay, which moves them out of fight or flight and into their parasympathetic nervous system. If someone receives comfort and reassurance in response to their trauma triggers enough times, they can be healed within the context of their relationship. However, instead of providing my wife comfort, I provided anger in response to her sexual rejection. Therefore, without realizing it, I was making her trauma worse! My anger exacerbated her trauma.
I used to blame my wife for all of our sexual problems and had tremendous resentment around it. However, when I finally realized her sexual rejection wasn't malicious and my reactions worsened her trauma, my heart flooded with compassion. I still remember the conversation as tears were running down our faces as we both acknowledged our parts of the vicious cycle that had wrecked our relationship. It was one of the most healing moments of our marriage.
What about you?
What was the innocence in your partner's hurtful behavior?
How did you possibly contribute to their hurtful behavior? What was your part?
Step #3: Apologize for your part sincerely
The third step if you're wondering how to save your marriage is apologize for your part. The piece that was your fault. The way that you made things worse. I had to apologize for responding with anger toward my wife's sexual trauma triggers. I had provided the opposite of the comfort she needed. When I sincerely apologized for doing so and empathized with how it must have made her feel, the chains broke loose. The wall between us started coming down.
Resentment can't be healed without heartfelt ownership, empathy, and apology.
What are the areas of resentment in your relationship? You're not going to win the argument of who was right or wrong. You need to talk about how the resentful topic made you both feel. What were both of your core needs? What emotional wounds from your past were getting triggered? What was the innocence in your partner's hurtful behavior? How were you making things worse? As you heal the resentments in your marriage, love will slowly start coming back!
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What other ideas would you suggest on how to save your marriage?