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Forgive and Forget

How Holding a Grudge Almost Ruined a Marriage

Three years ago I sent an e-mail to my husband, Jack, with a subject line that read: Are You Ike Turner or Am I A Crazy B**ch? This wasn't an irreverent joke e-mail (we share a strange sense of humor) or one of those personality chain quizzes either. The message inside was in response to a fight we'd had the night before — a fight so volcanic and ugly that as I sat there typing at my desk, I felt as if I was going to throw up. It was the kind of fight that kills marriages.

The clash had been about our 18-month-old son, and it lasted all of five minutes. But the next morning I felt as though we were still raging at each other, still entrenched in battle. My husband's angry words and gestures boomed in my mind. He swore at me (I believe his exact words were, "You're a crazy f*cking b**ch!"), and at one point he gave me the finger.

These were things he had never said or done before in our six-year relationship — at the time, we'd been married for three years. Seeing this side of him made me sick, uneasy and thinking: "Oh, crap, I married a monster." (Hence, my Ike Turner reference.) At the end of our screaming match, I told him that I hated him. And at that moment, I truly did.

Jack responded to my e-mail immediately. (Because we're both writers, e-mail tends to be our communication of choice.) Agreed. Don't hate me. We have a very strong marriage because it is not only built on love but also on mutual admiration (I hope). See you this evening. ...Read More

Love? Admiration? Really?

That evening Jack and I sat down in the living room to talk—me hugging my knees on the floor, he tense on a nearby chair. Through choking sobs, I explained how he had stunned and frightened me. His behavior kicked up memories of an abusive relationship that I had been in ten years earlier during my mid-20s. My ex-boyfriend, William, had been verbally and emotionally abusive, and ever since the collapse of that relationship I had been extremely sensitive to any kind of cruelness or contempt.

At the end of my crying jag, I looked at him for a response -- some magical mix of words that would be a salve for my injury, making it all better.

He shook his head apologetically. "I'm sorry," he said.

That's it? I thought. Honestly, I had expected him to get down on his knees and beg for forgiveness.

"Okay," I said in a steely voice. "But it's not like I can just forget what happened. It's going to take time for me to move past it and get in a better place."

Why Is It So Hard to Forgive?

Like I said, this happened three years ago — plenty of time to heal and move on, right? Well, here's the thing: I haven't. A part of me is still pink and raw and wounded. For me, that blistering fight opened a chasm in my marriage, and ever since then I've seen my husband differently — he doesn't feel like my best friend anymore. After all the time that's passed, I'm still harboring resentment. I'm still angry. Why can't I let it go? Why is it so hard for me to forgive him?

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  • Forgivness saved this couple's marriage.

    Kraig Scarbinsky/Thinkstock
Forgive and Forget
How Holding a Grudge Almost Ruined a Marriage
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