Archive for October, 2012

The Problem with Holding Onto Hurt Feelings in Your Relationship

October 11, 2012

This post was written by Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT. Lisa is the creator of The Toolbox and author of The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples and The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples.  She is a frequent consultant for the media and has been interviewed, quoted or has appeared in numerous publications and online news sources including,, Shape Magazine and Martha Stewart Weddings.  See more marriage and relationship tips by Lisa.

An ideal relationship is one where there are two lines of open communication, where both feel safe to “be” and there are no “monsters” lurking under the radar.  One type of relationship monster is one that is born out of hurt feelings and/or anger that has decided to lurk in the shadows rather than come out; when your pain is not expressed.  You may believe you are making a better choice in “letting it go” or minimizing your feelings.  If you tend to hold onto hurt feelings in your relationship, you and your partner may have an even bigger problem on your hands down the line.

What are some of the consequences of holding in hurt/angry feelings?

  • Your baseline of sensitivity to your partner may rise.  Feelings are still there as much as you think you have buried them. They can come out in other ways that often having nothing to do with the original incident.  You may react on a bigger scale to smaller things, leaving your partner at a loss as to “where that came from.”
  • The emotional safety in your relationship will be eroded. If you choose to sit on your feelings, inherently the comfort you feel with your partner will be diminished.  There will be a wound that you never allowed the chance to heal.  This will compromise the stability of your relationship as you possibly pull away (likely without even realizing it).
  • Your partner isn’t allowed to make a repair attempt.  If your partner inadvertently did something to upset you and would want to know if that occurred, they won’t.  They may not have any idea they hurt you and if so, certainly wouldn’t be allowed the opportunity to apologize.  Couples who are good at communicating their pain and making repair attempts are typically happier.
  • Your relationship may become disconnected.  The more resentment and distress that is carried in a relationship (by one or both), the more an emotional gap can grow between the couple.
  • Your pain may lead to relationship-damaging acting out.  Affairs often happen when there are unresolved relationship issues.  If you are not getting your needs met or you have underlying anger or sadness, you are at risk for making choices that can do further harm.  It’s better to put the issues on the table rather than let too much time and unprocessed feelings get the best of you.
  • You may be wrong!  If you are feeling hurt about something you assumed your partner meant and you didn’t clarify – but rather said nothing – you could be in pain for no reason!  Not only are you suffering but your partner may suffer for something that didn’t happen.
  • Holding onto hurt feelings can show up in your body.  People who internalize their emotions can run the risk of psychosomatic symptoms; physical ways the pain expresses itself.  Examples of this are chronic headaches, stomach issues and rapid heartbeat (panic attacks).

There are lots of reasons we struggle with communicating difficult emotions.  Most of us have experiences in our family of origin or past relationships that have taught us it is safer to stuff feelings than express them.  If only it were true that we can pack our feelings into a box and nail the lid shut and NOT have it backfire.  Unfortunately, pain has a way of becoming a “monster” as it tries to break free to be heard.  And it will.

But we know a safe, structured way that allows us to speak to our partner and it is—you know it—the Imago dialogue.

Dare y’a:

What hurt feelings are you holding onto? Why? Here’s a weird question…What do YOU get out of holding onto hurt? For example, some people hold onto hurt because it allows them to feel better than their partner and feel righteously resentful. For some it’s plain old pride! What might be your reason? What is one step you could take to find the courage to let go of your hurt?

If you hold onto hurt you will just keep feeling worse and angry and the R word.

Remember the heart disease of relationships is the R word RESENTMENT! (A direct quote from Lawrence Pillon stated at all our Getting the Love You Want Workshops).

Yours truly,