If you were under the impression that bad fights of the past don’t manage to work their way into your relationship’s present, we hate to say it, but you’ve gotten some misinformation. Just like having ongoing bad blood with your BFF can cause lasting tension long after you remember what you fought about, holding a grudge against your S.O. can have a seriously negative effect on the future of your romance. Yep, worse than that time you tried to build an IKEA wardrobe with your bae.
According to a recent study conducted by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, you don’t even need to mention a previous argument with your S.O. out loud in order to bring its wrath into the present day. Participants who did nothing more than think about an old conflict when in a new disagreement with a partner were more prone to dramatic negative reactions than those who weren’t harboring those bad thoughts.
Therapist Kasey Lafferty has seen the effects of grudge-holding all too often in her own practice. She credits grudges with a wide range of less-than-dreamy relationship behaviors: partners being more easily triggered, more frequent or intense fighting, a sense of entitlement from the offended partner, a lack of empathy and an increased tendency for S.O.s to shut down mid-conflict.
“A grudge has the potential to affect all aspects of a relationship — your communication, your connection, your sex life, your parenting and more,” Kasey says. “I also find that grudges have a powerful ability to stunt the growth of a relationship or to cause people to regress in their relationships.”
Since we’re only looking for growth and improvement in our relationships, we’re lucky to have some expert tips from Kasey on how best to overcome and manage our hard feelings.
7 STEPS TO MOVING PAST YOUR GRUDGE
1. Admit it (to yourself and your partner). In order to move past the tension, it’s important that you first own the fact that you’re struggling to let go of your resentment over a past grievance. Stop trying to brush it under the proverbial carpet. The more honest you are, the easier it’ll be for you and your S.O. to communicate about what’s really going on and find a way to move forward.
2. Find the root of the problem. Whether you engage in some personal soul searching, confide in a trusted friend or talk through the situation with your bae directly, it’s important that you understand how this grudge started and why you’ve been holding on to it so tightly. Sure, you must have felt wronged right after the original issue, but if it’s months or years later, look for a different reason to get to the heart of the problem.
3. Get talking — more. Your partner can’t read your mind, so if you don’t take the time to tell them about your feelings, they won’t be able to help you. Kasey has some tips for conversational fair play to help ensure your dialogue moves things in a good direction. “Things like negative tone, mean words, being critical, blaming, being loud and being dismissive all decrease the likelihood that your partner will respond in a positive way,” she says. “It’s more likely to fuel a negative conflict or shut down the conversation.”
4. Take a minute. Finally opening up about a topic that has hurt you on an ongoing basis can be emotionally draining. Don’t be afraid to ask for some space or take a step back before continuing the conversation.
5. Be clear about boundaries. “Often, grudges come from an intentional or unintentional betrayal,” Kasey says. “It’s okay to establish boundaries to protect yourself from it happening again. There’s a difference between being forgiving and being a doormat.” Amen, sista.
6. Find a confidante. As you work through the process of getting rid of your grudge, it can be helpful to get some outside perspective. Seek out a friend who can look at your situation without judgment and help you identify if the bad blood in your relationship is rooted in a simple misunderstanding. Alternatively, if you and your partner need a little extra support once you’ve gotten the ball rolling with conversation, talking to a therapist together might be a good option.
7. Ask yourself an important question. Are you holding a grudge against your S.O. because of a one-time issue (perhaps an accident on their part) or is it bound to be a more regular occurrence? “If you’ve talked about it with them before but it keeps reoccurring, it may be time to look at ending the relationship or getting professional help,” Kasey says.
How have grudges affected your relationships? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)