Do You Let Your Emotional Wounds Fester?


Are you carrying old wounds?

We all experience hurt in our marriages from time to time.

Our husbands are imperfect humans. They are not mind readers. They have their own issues. Sometimes they are going to say and do things that wound us emotionally. (I am not talking about marriages with physical or emotional abuse here. Abuse goes beyond the scope of what I address on this blog.)

The vulnerability that is a by-product of marriage can make us more susceptible to emotional injury. All sorts of things can lead to our hurt feelings:

  • He forgets to take out the garbage.
  • He jokes with friends about one of your mistakes.
  • He doesn’t talk about his feelings except when he wants to have sex.
  • You’ve caught him watching porn before
  • He pauses when you ask him if he thinks you’re getting fat.
  • He responds too quickly when you ask him if he thinks you’re getting fat.
  • He doesn’t make romantic plans for Valentine’s Day or your anniversary.
  • He forgives a relative more quickly than you do.
  • He often initiates sex after you’ve fallen into bed exhausted from dealing with kids and household chores.
  • He rarely puts his dirty clothes in the hamper.
  • He had an inappropriate texting relationship with a woman from work several years ago, although he has apologized, changed jobs, and has repented.
  • He doesn’t make enough money at his job to provide for your family.
  • He forgot to tell you his parents were coming to visit and you hadn’t cleaned your house.
  • He spends so much time at work that you rarely see him.
  • He rarely initiates conversations unless he wants specific information.

While some of these things may seem more serious than others, the fact is that all of them can lead to hurt feelings that last for years if we let them.


Fifteen years ago, I had an argument with my husband. I’d been alone with the kids for the whole summer while Big Guy was living close to his new job six hours away. I was wiped out from never having a break from the kids or the need to keep the house spotless because it was on the market. My husband came home for the weekend. The lawn needed to be mowed, but he wanted to watch TV instead.

While I now understand that he’d been lonely and just wanted to feel cozy and hang out with his family, at the time, I hurt. I was exhausted and in desperate need of someone else taking over something for even one hour. I wanted him to recognize the difficulties I’d faced.

I saw his preference to watch TV as a sign that he didn’t care about how much responsibility I’d had on my shoulders or how much I needed a break. In other words, he didn’t care about me.

I went out to mow the yard. Some grass got caught in the wheel, so I stooped down to remove it. My husband came outside then and asked me if I was mad.

You really have to ask if I’m mad? Seriously?

I was so busy fuming and trying to think of a clever response that I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing. The inside of my wrist touched the hot engine of the mower. I watched in horror as my skin burned, split, and curled up.

“Look what you made me do! Just get away from me. I have to finish this up because I have to do everything myself.” (I know. Not my finest moment by far.)

The following week was filled with finishing the preparations for our move. I neglected my burn. Bandages got knocked loose and the wound got dirty.

The day came when we loaded up in the minivan to move to our new home. As I was driving, I realized that my arm hurt. I looked down. Not only was the burn much worse than it had been, I saw a red streak leading from the infection up to the bend of my arm and toward my heart. I knew I had an infection.

I hadn’t tended to my injury and my wounded had festered.

I started to panic. I knew that I needed to deal with it as soon as possible or I might get very ill.

At our next rest stop, all I could find in our luggage was hydrogen peroxide, so I poured it on the wound. It stung even more than I’d thought it would, but I gritted my teeth, put a new bandage on it, and hoped for the best.

We arrived at our new home, greeted by my husband who was very happy to see us all. He noticed the bandage on my arm and asked me what had happened.

What? How could you not remember? You were right there when it happened! You should be feeling bad about it, but you don’t even care. Out loud, I said, “I burned my arm on the mower last week. You were there when it happened.”

I’m pretty sure I stormed off.

I clearly had let my emotional hurt fester right along with my physical one.


How often do you let your emotional wounds fester?

Something happens. We hurt—yet somehow we don’t get around to taking care of the wound. We get too busy. We think about how it might sting to take care of it so we avoid it and hope it will get better on its own.

We think it is too small a matter to warrant attention. Or it’s a major hurt but we do only half the work needed to heal it.

These emotional wounds fester. We let the hurt sit, untended. It worsens without our even realizing it.

Eventually, the wound sends an infection that reaches toward our hearts. Even a small wound, if left untended, can invade our whole system.

Only then do we recognize that we are still carrying this hurt around. By then, it may require very painful tending.

Check yourself for signs of emotional infection.

Do you do any of the following?

  • Feel bitter about something that happened long ago?
  • Resent your husband for something that led to difficulty for you?
  • Look at his words or actions as validation of your view of him or your marriage?
  • Resist sexual intimacy because you think he doesn’t deserve it?
  • Assume that his actions or words are a sign that he doesn’t love you or find you attractive?

Is it possible that you are holding onto some emotional hurt that has festered and reached for your heart?


The house we moved into had a lovely swimming pool. After my long drive with three kids, a dog, and a tranquilized cat, I decided that I really wanted to swim.

I jumped into the pool, forgetting about my burn. Ow ow ow ow ow. It stung from the chlorine—but then the stinging lessened and I enjoyed my swim.

The next morning I realized that the red streaks had subsided a bit. After another swim, I realized that they were gone. The chlorine that had stung so horribly had killed the infection.

my actual scar
my actual scar

The physical injury healed, although it left a scar. The burn was bad enough that there was probably no way to avoid a scar, but it would’ve been a lighter scar if I’d tended the wound earlier.

I let the emotional wounds continue to fester for ten more years.

I’ve dealt with the hurt now, although it has left scars on my marriage. If I had tended the hurt earlier, the scarring would be lighter.

Are you carrying old wounds from earlier in your marriage? Have they infected your heart?

Perhaps it is time to tend those hurts and begin to heal.

O Lord my God, I cried to You for help, and You healed me.
Psalm 30:2

Are you carrying old wounds?

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at

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14 Comments on “Do You Let Your Emotional Wounds Fester?”

  1. Excellent post, Chris! I’m sure, as a man, that I’ve done some of the things that your husband did. I can always improve as a husband. However, I don’t think that I will ever get to the point where I can read my wife’s mind!

    My wife comes from the Carribean coast of Colombia. Although I speak Spanish, it is not my native tongue. The “costeños” of Latin America have an accent similar to southern Spain, whose settlers came to these areas of Latin America. They frequently drop the letter s when they are speaking. To me, many times my wife sounds like she has a mouth full of mush when she is talking to me. But, the way she talks is typical of the people of the Carribean coast of Colombia. For me, the people of Bogota and the Mexican people are much easier to understand. So, when I indicate that I didn’t understand what she said, which I frequently don’t (especially when she is yelling at me from another room), she gets a little angry, saying that I am not listening to her.

    Another problem that we have is all the teaching she is receiving from the prosperity preachers on TV. Me saying that I don’t have enough money to buy something is considered a “negative confession”. Instead, I should just believe God for the things that she wants and it will come to pass! She told me that some women would have left me because of the furniture that I have. I told her that these women are not Christians. She said they might be carnal Christians.

    She said that if we are the seed of Abraham and heirs according to the promise, that we should be rich too. That Joseph and Moses were rich as well. I told her that they also had a number of wives. I said that the best examples for us as Christians are in the New Testament, not the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul certainly did not have a lot of money! I also have reminded her a number of times that the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil.

    When I was a contract computer programmer, I earned a lot more money than I’m making now. But, even though I live a lot more humbly than I did then, I am so happy to be a missionary to another country that it really doesn’t matter. Please pray that my wife will also come to think this way!

    (By the way, we do not live in a dump.)

    1. I’ve prayed for a joyful marriage for you and your wife.

      Even though my husband has also done some of the things on the list, my hurt feelings were out of proportion to his actions. You should not be expected to read your wife’s mind.

  2. OUCH! I see myself in here… you and I have similar experiences.. its as if you are writing my heart and thought life.. thanks for what you do…

  3. What do you wish you had done differently in that situation, Chris? What could you have done to stop the hurt from festering? I am trying to think through some practical applications.

    I think Satan likes to rub salt into our wounds and tempt us to let them fester or let a deep infection of resentment spread to the heart. I have found that when old hurts come to mind that I have forgiven, I have to actively shut down those thoughts to prevent myself from letting bitterness bubble up. Satan is sneaky that way. Sometimes literally getting up and moving to another room resets my brain. (I don’t mean to suppress feelings, so don’t misunderstand. I’m talking about how Satan invites us to dwell on past hurts so they fester. Like picking at a scab. Sometimes it feels oddly good to revisit that pain, but if you want to avoid long term scarring, you need to leave it alone!)

    1. That’s a good question. I realize now that I was selfish, spiritually immature, and I liked being in the victim role. My motivation to heal was not strong then.

      However, I still face this kind of thing even now. With a bigger hurt, it can take me from hours to days to process through some of it. Thinking of a recent situation, here’s what I did:

      …I allowed myself to have my feelings for a while. (I’d love to say it was a few minutes, but it was several hours.) I cried. I felt sorry for myself.
      …I slowly began to tell myself the truths that I know: my husband loves me, my husband desires me, my husband can’t read my mind, my husband is not responsible for my feelings, etc. I took lots of deep breaths.
      …I mentally went through various options of what I could have done differently and thought about why I hadn’t tried any of them.
      …I realized that each of those options was connected to one of my long-standing issues that I haven’t worked through yet. This one thing helped me realize that the core issue wasn’t my husband’s actions but the fears within me that those actions reminded me of.
      …I spent several hours journaling and praying about this issue, asking for guidance in working through it.

      There are times with a small hurt when I can work through much of this rather quickly–but it depends on whether I am able to recognize what is going on. I these cases, I find that just closing my eyes (sort of like mentally going into another room) and taking slow deep breaths provides the reset that is needed.

      The hurt I feel often is more a reflection of me and my unresolved issues than a reflection of my husband and his actions. I guess I’m still working on some of those childhood wounds.

      1. I have two questions. First, when you have a (big) hurt, is this something you bring up to your husband directly or work through yourself? Like, “hey, remember this thing that happened last year? I want to talk about that….”?

        And second, you say that you encourage yourself by saying “my husband loves me, my husband desires me…” But what if that’s not true, or not 100% true? I have issues with my husband refusing sex, and I honestly don’t think he desires me, and I think he loves me, but isn’t “in love” with me. What can I do to encourage myself when the thing I’m afraid of / upset about is most likely true? Should I just shorten the list of truths or is there a different way to build my spirit up?

        1. Those are good questions.

          One thing I have learned is that my really big hurts are much more about my issues than about my husband’s actions. Whether my husband has done something big or small, my reactions reveal much to me about areas where I need to work on growing. Recently we had an evening where he pretty much neglected me on what normally would have been our date night. I found that my head was starting to fill with things like “he doesn’t really love me,” “he doesn’t care about me,” and “maybe I’m not very lovable.” That last one kept sticking in my head. I’ve learned to ask myself what I’m truly upset about. When I feel hurt, what is the thing deep inside me that needs healing? In this instance, I was up for hours crying, praying, and journaling, and I finally figured it out: I have a need to feel cherished that stems from some things in my life from long ago. The real issue wasn’t that my husband was neglecting me. It was that I need to work on healing that part of me. So I’ve been in prayer about that need in my heart and have been working through forgiving someone and being more intentional about remembering that God cherishes me.

          This doesn’t mean that the hurt entirely goes away. My husband was neglecting me that evening, and it was not okay for him to do that. With really big hurts like betrayal of any kind, I would expect that hurt to take a while to tend. Even so, it can serve a purpose of pointing us to deeper ways that we need to heal and can, ultimately, point us more clearly to God and his love for us. A big hurt would leave a scar, but it would be a different kind of scar than one that is left to fester.

          What I find is that the really big stuff is something I generally need to work through myself first. I need to figure out the piece of me that is really hurting because it helps me know how to talk to Big Guy. It helps me see what part of my reaction is really mine to own (due to childhood issues and baggage) and what is on him to change. Once I figure out what is really going on with me, even if I’m not healed I am able to go to my husband and say, “I find that I keep thinking about such-and-such from last year. I’ve prayed about it, and I know that I need to work on xyz. I also need to know that you understand that your actions led to hurt for me.”

          As for as what I say to encourage myself, I speak truths. If it is not true to say that my husband loves me, I would be focusing on God and his love for me. Or I would remind myself that my husband is a child of God just as I am. I encourage myself with truth that leads me to the cross.

          Regarding your husband refusing sex, male refusal tends to be one of two thing: one is medical (such as low testosterone, ED, or depression), and the other is pornography. Medical conditions are a problem because they interfere with a man’s ability to think clearly and his motivation to pursue treatment. A man who has noticed erection problems may prefer to avoid sex altogether so he doesn’t have to face the loss of his manliness. Porn (or even masturbation without porn) can rewire a man’s sexual response. The first place to start with your husband is to insist on a medical appointment that you attend. You are making assumptions about what your husband thinks and feels, but it may be that there is more going on than you are able to see. It might be worth seeking counseling as well. An appointment with your pastor for both of you (or just for you) would be a good place to start. Meanwhile, shorten your list of truths and elevate them to focus on God’s love for you and your husband.

          Meanwhile, shorten your list of truths and elevate it to God truths.

  4. Powerful analogy! My experience is that some hurts need more than one “dose of medicine” to complete the healing process. Actually, I’m not sure we experience complete healing in this earthly life, but we certainly make progress and catch glimpses of it.

    When an old hurt resurfaces, I must discern why: do I need to revisit and do more work or is the enemy trying to reopen the wound for the purpose of putting me at odds with my husband. I must discern what action, if any, should be taken and how I should go about it.

    Some of the most healing times in my marriage are when my husband listens and “gets” me. I feel connected and loved and powerfully drawn to him. Even when my hurt reflects my unresolved issues rather than my husband’s actions, I need him with me in the healing process.

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