Moving from Resentment to Forgiveness


Are you holding on to any resentment of your husband? What do you need to do in order to let that go?

The bible tells us to forgive–but sometimes it isn’t so easy to do.

My sexual reluctance turned into full-fledged resistance around the time my husband was transferred to the state where we now live. I was in our previous location with three young kids finishing up the school year, trying to sell our house, looking for a job in our new area, and packing to move.

It was hard for me. I had the burden of dealing with the day-to-day stuff, knowing that I would have absolutely no help. I tried to include my husband through phone calls, but I was essentially a single mother for four months. (My hat’s off to those of you who are in military families. I really don’t know how you manage.)

It was a difficult burden, I had very little support in terms of practical assistance or emotional encouragement, and I felt incredibly alone.

Meanwhile, my husband didn’t seem to notice—or care—what the experience was like for me. When we were together, he was focused on reconnecting in the way that mattered to him (sex), but he had no interest in reconnecting in the ways that mattered to me.

This reinforced the negative views I already had about sex and how my husband viewed me: my only value to him was sex.

When the kids and I moved, my husband was happy for us to be together and acted like everything was just fine. Having felt so lonely and unappreciated, I wanted him to acknowledge how hard this had been for me. I wanted to be appreciated and thanked.

None of that happened, and a feeling of resentment took hold in my heart. I was waiting for something that my husband didn’t even know I expected.

It is easy for me to understand now that Big Guy had been yearning for life to feel normal again. In his view, I was just doing what needed to be done. He felt so disconnected from me that it became even harder for him to see what I needed from him.

At the time, though, I didn’t see any of that. All I could see was my own hurt.

Some of my sexual resistance was my way of punishing him for not appreciating me or for even acknowledging that I’d had a rough time.

I waited for that acknowledgement for years, resisting sex and punishing him the whole time.

I brought it up frequently, each time hoping that my husband would give me what I needed. Each time he didn’t, my resentment grew and my walls became thicker. Every time, I felt irrelevant and unappreciated all over again.


My own heart transformation required me to forgive my husband and let it go. I didn’t even recognize this until well over a year into my changes. I’d worked so hard on sexual attitude and behavior. So much in our marriage had improved, but I could see that I was still withholding my heart from my husband.

Forgiveness for me was a process.

I allowed myself to grieve. I acknowledged that my hurt was real. Even if I was overly sensitive and self-centered, my experience of feeling emotionally neglected was truly painful for me.

I developed empathy for my husband. This took a long time, and I made myself try to think about his point of view even while I was still feeling my own hurt. I thought about how awful I would have felt to be separated from the day-to-day life of my family. I thought about how lonely he must have been. I was with our kids and all our friends and got lots of hugs. He was with . . . no one. Other than handshakes, he had no physical contact at all. As I began to think about what he experienced and realized that he, too, had suffered, my own resentment began to lose its hold on me.

I made a decision to really work at letting go of my resentment. I decided that whenever thoughts of that time would enter my mind, I would remind myself that my husband, too, had been hurting. I reminded myself that he had missed me deeply, and that eased some of my hurt. When I began to pay attention to my thoughts, I became aware of how pervasive they were. Even nine years later, I still thought of that time in our lives—every single day. More than once, too. My resentment was taking up far more real estate in my mind than I had realized. Every time resentment would flood my heart and mind, I pushed it out with the empathy I was developing for Big Guy. (It was pretty much the same process I used to learn God’s truth about sex, described in this post.)

I prayed to be able to forgive my husband. I didn’t know how to change my feelings—but I knew God could do it. As I worked to replace my resentment with empathy and awareness of that resentment, I invited God to help me.


When we talk about that time in our lives now (which we rarely do, because I no longer am trying to give him multiple opportunities to prove his love for me tests by bringing it up all the time), I feel no resentment at all. None. I do feel sadness for the woman I was who let her resentment eat away at her heart and her marriage for so long.

I have truly forgiven him.

You know what? Big Guy still hasn’t given me what I was waiting for all that time. He has apologized for not doing a better job of listening to me, but he hasn’t thanked me for what I did during that difficult summer. And I don’t even care anymore.

In forgiving him, I have allowed myself to accept all the things he has given me out of his love for me—and the fact that he couldn’t see through his own hurt to mine all those years ago is just another leg in our shared journey of life.

When I stopped resenting him and learned to forgive, I was able to experience joy in our marriage again.

Are you holding on to any resentment of your husband? What do you need to do in order to let that go?

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23 Comments on “Moving from Resentment to Forgiveness”

  1. I see the Serenity Prayer at work here. You found the serenity to accept what you could not change (another’s actions), the courage to change what you could (your actions) and the wisdom to know the difference. Thanks for the fine example

  2. I have been holding so much resentment towards my husband for past mistakes that he just won’t admit to me and brushes them off like they are no big deal. The longer we are away from it the easier it gets, it still hurts deeply and I don’t think I’ll ever get the apology for the mistakes or the understanding from him of my own mistakes. Slowly I am forgiving him and myself. We are trying to move forward very slowly the set backs are not so frequent but are still here. We love each other dearly and I can feel him moving past it and also forgiving me. The important thing right know is that we are together through it all. These post truly help me in understanding my feelings and his own. Sex has never really been an issue except when our son was young. That is one place we’ve thrived through all this ordeal and probably the only that has helped us stay connect and helped us to even stay together. I am glad I didn’t use this power to turn it away from him. This experience I know will bring us closer together it is just going to take time and lots of forgiving on both our ends. Thank you for your encouragement it is helping us….

    1. I’ve noticed that sometimes it is easier for my husband to see and acknowledge his own mistakes when he knows I’ve already forgiven him. I’ve learned that since my forgiveness is about my heart (and not about whether or not he has apologized), I now try to work on forgiving him first. It’s like I’m helping create a space that feels safe enough for him to admit his failings. Of course, I’m not good at this all the time, but I’m working on it.

      1. Never thought of it that way, will have to try this. Trying to forgive is so difficult and letting them know is even harder. Sometimes I feel if he thinks he is forgiven it will happen again. I know I have to let that fear go, forgive and move forward!! Thanks for the advice.

        1. We all have our struggles with sin. No matter how good our intentions are, temptation always floats back in our direction. Another thing that helps me in the forgiveness process sometimes is to remember that it is the enemy that is my enemy, not my husband. Forgiving him makes it a little easier to be on his team. Of course, in the face of unrepentant and recurrent sin, it’s a different story. Just keep at it, and let your husband know that you’re struggling with forgiveness. Ask him to pray for that for you–not to get him off the hook but to help your heart do what it needs to do for your own sake.

  3. Wow. Brilliant post. For very very different reasons, up until the end of last year, I too was that single parent, with 2 kids with special needs too. I barely had time for anything except flopping on the bed. A major change happened, and now I find myself going through what you went through. I appreciate this list! Empathy is the one I’m stuck at now – it’s a challenge. I did grieve and I have let got a lot of resentment, not sure if there’s any left but maybe. But empathy is the real challenge for me – your words have helped!

    1. Thanks for sharing that the words here have helped you. It can be hard to develop empathy when we are still feeling the hurt. I had to work really hard at it, and I was unsuccessful more than I was successful at first. It took time, but eventually, the empathy began to emerge more than the resentment did.

  4. My question is how can you have deep connection and intimacy when there are unmet needs? I have never been a refuser/gate-keeper but for 20 years our marriage lacked intimacy and connection. We have been working for the past 6 years on increasing intimacy and connection and there have been periods where we have felt so close and connected, which has been wonderful! I know that my husband loves me and wants to meet my emotional needs and they will get met for a short while after talking to him about it, but then he falls back into the pattern of treating me like his room mate. I read the testimonies of the effect of refusal/gate keeping on men, and I’m thinking I feel that same way in my marriage! So, I’m feeling a bit frustrated at the effort to meet our husbands physical needs and how important it is to them, but when do we make our husbands accountable to meeting our emotional needs? Just like the men were saying, I have no energy left to keep talking to me husband when I usually get a roller coaster ride. He will be attentive to my needs for awhile and then they will fall to the back burner. So, yes, I need to forgive and accept my husband the way he is and to keep meeting his physical needs – which, with God’s help, I think I can do, but I don’t think that our marriage can have that intimacy and connection when my needs aren’t getting met. To me it would be similar to having a husband in a sexless marriage to feel intimate and connected to his wife. So, any advice or counsel would be appreciated! I feel so stuck.

    1. @Jana K:

      You cannot have that connection when your needs are not being met. And I mean you. Your husband might still feel he’s connected, not realizing the other end of the rope has fallen off. You need to pray for strength because what you have to do is hard. You have to stop listening with your heart, dear lady. Your head needs to take over, and I tell you, it is one of the hardest things you can do. Pay attention to how your husband expresses affection and intimacy, which is in a different language than yours. Constantly watch and, as you see the signs that he is doing so, although not in a way that reaches directly into your heart, explain to yourself that he does care. And be convincing.
      If you are having regular sex, make plenty of eye contact and use that time right after he finishes to whisper things you want, like “I love how your arms feel around me; I wish I could feel them more outside of the bedroom.” or “I had such a wonderful time, I just wish we could spend more together even when we’re not making love,” etc. Be subtle and loving. At that time, for a few moments, you have his undivided attention. Be persistent and patient, don’t waste encounters. Giving that small compliment first gets his attention and makes him listen to the follow up. Always be positive, no “You don’t do ___”
      We’ll be praying for you.

    2. Just as I sometimes think of myself as having been a sexual refuser, I sometimes think of my husband as having been an emotional refuser. There was just a lot that he didn’t understand about me.

      A couple years ago, I told my husband that I struggle to connect with him sexually when I don’t feel connected to him emotionally. I told him some things he can do that would help me, and I asked him for ideas on what to do to help him see my needs without nagging him. I gave him several suggestions, and he picked a couple of those that could work for him.

      My husband has an approach to a lot of things in life that assumes that everything is okay unless a problem is mentioned–so my part of keeping him accountable was to stop expecting him to remember that I needed my emotional needs met. I tell him every day. I thank him when he does something without prompting (“I really appreciated that you asked me about my day and then really listened”), and I tell him many days what I need (“I need fifteen minutes of time with you face to face, without electronics”). When we’ve been disconnected for a while, I will tell him that I’m feeling disconnected and what I would like to do to remedy that.

      Basically, I had to take responsibility for reminding him that I had emotional needs and that he needs to do on-going maintenance. I’ve noticed recently that he is starting to bring it up more on his own, and I am not having to mention it as much. I just had to stay on him (in ways that he chose) for a couple years first. It seemed very unfair that I had to keep on him to do something he should be doing because he loves me–but I decided that I would rather do that and get what I needed from him than sit and stew in resentment.

      So I would suggest this: ask your husband what he needs from you in order to help him make sure he is meeting your emotional needs on an on-going basis.

      1. You’re making me jealous, Chris.

        And that’s not such a bad thing. It just reinforces my conviction that changing myself and keeping strong and loving as my bride’s budding faith grows is the right thing. That’s the key, though. Take responsibility and not wait for your spouse to change. Your posts make me look forward to the day that all the walls come down. Oh, what a day, indeed!

        1. Aagh. Jealousy=not good. All we can do is work on ourselves and invite our spouses into the process. It is right to work on ourselves regardless of what our spouses deserve or how they respond because it strengthens our own walk with God.

  5. When left to fester by itself, I agree. Jealousy=not good. So, you do not let it fester. You bring it out into the light, dissect it, find the root cause, then take action with the help of God–and, of course, remember Psalm 51:10. That one has been in my prayers every day now for two years.

  6. “Basically, I had to take responsibility for reminding him that I had emotional needs and that he needs to do on-going maintenance.”

    I find discernment is needed to decide which statements I make would fall in the “don’t expect him to remember what I need” category and which would fall in the “nagging” category. Taking time to think about and pray through why I’m feeling whatever I’m feeling and who should bear responsibility for those feelings if also helpful. Another way to look at this is to not let the little things trip us up while at the same time confidently addressing the major issues that need addressing. Framing our statements in a non-offensive tone helps too.

    “I’ve noticed that sometimes it is easier for my husband to see and acknowledge his own mistakes when he knows I’ve already forgiven him.”

    This is like God’s grace. The forgiveness is already there which frees us to confess, let go, and live!

    1. It isn’t always easy to make that discernment. I have often begun a conversation with, “Do you remember when I asked you how I should let you know about specific ways I need to you connect with me emotionally, and you said to just tell you about it?” Reminding him that this was the approach that he chose for me to use headed off some of his defensiveness and prepared him to hear what I was about to say.

      There are times when I still struggle with this a lot. My expression of my needs often wants to disintegrate into a list of things he’s done wrong. That never goes well. If I try to forgive first, it helps my tone a great deal. 🙂

      1. I struggle with this too, but lately, have done better at keeping those negative thoughts to myself and waiting to speak until I can do so in a positive, encouraging way. I think quantity of statements matters too. If the large majority of my statements have to do with my unfulfilled needs, he is likely to receive them as complaints.

        But if most of my conversation contributions are encouraging and revolve around what is good in our lives, then the occasional statement about my needs feels less threatening. Instead of hearing “I never do anything right and I have made my wife unhappy” he can hear “my wife has confided in me and shared something I can do to improve our life together.”

  7. Chris, this post, as well as, “What I wish he knew”, have been life-changing for me.
    Thank you for being so real and open about your struggles – you have been a huge encouragement to me and our marriage! May the Lord continue to bless you and the work He’s placed in your hands to do.
    In Him,

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