Have you ever had a fight with your partner you just couldn't forgive? Maybe the issue kept coming up every single time you fought, or perhaps you buried it deep down and kept returning to it because of insecurity or lack of trust. There are several ways holding grudges can impact your relationship, and according to Dr. Gary Brown, a prominent couples' therapist in Los Angeles, a growing number of grudges and resentments can really weaken your bond.
This is true regardless of whether or not you communicate your resentment to your partner, because as Dr. Brown says, a grudge is unresolved hurt and anger that needs to be addressed. "Holding grudges means that there is unfinished business in your relationship," Dr. Brown tells Elite Daily. "Unfinished business is analogous to rust — it slowly eats away at the core of your love." His advice is to try and truly forgive your partner whenever possible. "Sometimes it is relatively easy to do, and sometimes it is difficult," he admits. Brown adds that it's important to not just go through the motions, but to actually put in the work it takes to forgive. "What you don’t want to do is say ‘I forgive you,’ when you really don’t mean it," he says. "This is what I sometimes refer to as ‘false forgiveness.’ Typically, this means that one of the partners is secretly holding a grudge."
The key reason it's important not to hold onto a grudge, says Brown, is that grudges can lead to resentment — a true relationship killer. "When we hold onto a grudge, and depending upon what happened that resulted in you feeling a grudge, is that we tend to feel resentment over time," he shares. And when you hold onto resentment, it can turn into something even more toxic that can really undermine a relationship: Bitterness. "Once you’ve reached the point of bitterness, it is extremely difficult to come back unless you and your partner find a way to work it out," says Dr. Brown.
Grudges can also impact a relationship by eroding the trust between partners, regardless of who is holding onto resentment. "There may not only be resentment by the partner who is holding a grudge, but your partner may also begin to feel a grudge that you aren’t letting go," says Dr. Brown. "It can lead to an impasse that prevents your relationship from growing into something more fulfilling for both of you."
If this is resonating in your relationship, Dr. Brown says the first step in addressing the issue is to do some self-reflection. "One of the first things you need to do is to examine just why you are continuing to hold a grudge. If you felt wronged in some way by something your partner said or did that left you feeling hurt, then it is important that you communicate this to your partner," he advises. That second part may be especially difficult when it's something you've been holding onto for a long time, but Dr. Brown says to truly move forward, you have to be willing to open up. "Secretly holding onto a grudge can seriously hamper your ability to move on. It can leave you feeling stuck," he notes. "Talk to your partner. You need to let them know, even if it was over something relatively small. Otherwise, you could get into the bad habit of holding onto grudges in general."
Holding grudges can, over time, become an unhealthy pattern that extends beyond your relationship. If you sense that it's becoming one in your life, Dr. Brown suggests getting some outside help from a therapist to forge new ways of dealing with resentment or disappointment. You don't have to go it alone. You deserve to be in a happy, healthy relationship, so if you're holding grudges, then getting help might be the first step toward letting go and healing. Making big changes isn't always easy, but you're stronger than you think. You've got this.