Don’t Let Bitterness Poison Your Marriage

Adobe Stock A young man that has an intense headache.The Bible says in Hebrews 12, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men (which would include your spouse) and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

But what do you do when your spouse hurts you so deeply that a bitter root is growing within? Despite your every effort, this bitterness is taking over, and it is poisoning your marriage.

Someone once said, “Bitterness is an acid that hurts more the object in which it’s stored than the object on which it is poured.” You may not want to take it in, but you find yourself taking it in anyway.

The following are a few thoughts for you to consider:

“When others (including our spouse) hurts us in ways we don’t deserve, at some point we will come to the crossroads of decision. We will have to look our pain square in the face and ask, ‘Am I going to hang on to my anger and do violence to myself, or am I going to forgive those who have wounded me? Am I going to allow bitterness to poison and putrefy my soul, or am I going to invite God to empower me to let the anger go?'” (Pam Vredevelt, from the book, The Wounded Woman)

“The choices we make form the rudder that directs our marriage journey. Good choices keep us sailing smoothly in the right direction. Bad choices steer us toward the rocks. And every day in marriage, choices are made that keep couples headed where they want to go or lead them to places that they dread.” (Dr’s. Les and Leslie Parrott, from the book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages: How to Stay Together When Life Pulls You Apart)

“Listen to these words: ‘We stand at the crossroads, each minute, each hour, each day, making choices. We choose the thoughts we allow ourselves to think, the passions we allow ourselves to feel, and the actions we allow ourselves to perform. Each choice is made in the context of whatever value system we’ve selected to govern our lives. In selecting that value system, we are, in a very real way, making the most important choice we will ever make.’ Benjamin Franklin said this, and his words have more wisdom for married couples than he probably ever knew.”

Keep in mind that:

“In order to thrive, bitterness averts its gaze from God’s grace and mercy, focusing instead on the multitude of ways He and people we’ve counted on have let us down.” (Roberta Rand Caponey from, “Overcoming Bitterness”)

There probably isn’t any of us would want to choose to hold onto bitterness. But how do you make a different “choice?”

To help you with this, we would like to recommend several articles for you to read. There is also a prayer that you might look over to see if it expresses the prayer of your heart. There are a few scriptures you could also through, as well.

Hopefully, these things, along with what you can read in the Bible, and other articles you can read on our web site can minister to your heart. Most importantly, work through all of this with our Wonderful Counselor, the Holy Spirit. He can help you to release whatever bitterness you are struggling with.

Keep in mind that the enemy of our faith does not want you to break free “so you can more on with your life.” As you embrace the grace and power of God to let go of your bitterness, the enemy loses.

As author Tim Kimmel wrote:

“There’s nothing gracious about letting the forces of evil hold you hostage to crimes done against you. God wants to release you from their hold so you can enjoy a full and free life with your spouse.”

Right now, you are a prisoner to the memories and feelings that keep haunting you concerning past hurts. You may think that you will never be free, because it is so pervasive. But I can tell you from personal experience that this is a lie from the pit of Hell. I had some horrible things done to me earlier in my life that tortured my mind for a number of years. I truly thought I would never get past it. But with God’s help, I have. I am free. Thank God, I am free. The journey was long, and painful, but it was worth leaning into the Lord to get to this point of freedom.

Also, my mom (and several other close family members and friends I know) suffered from the horrors of having a spouse who betrayed her. She also never thought she would be able to release the bitterness that grew within her heart. But she did. It was a long, painful journey of leaning upon the Lord. But God is faithful.

Dr Kimmel gives this insight in his book, Grace Filled Marriage.

He writes:

“Perhaps even the thought of never being able to get beyond these things is just the dark side continuing to lie to you. I don’t know about you, but the last person I want having any say in how I’m supposed to respond in these kinds of situations is the evil one who got me there in the first place.”

Do what it takes to fight these lies. Lean into the healing God can give you as you look to Him to help you break free from bitterness.

To help you in this journey of healing, you can read the linked articles we have provided for you below. And then arrow back to read, and pray through the prayer and the scriptures afterward. If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below. We pray God will minister to your heart and to your situation.

Here are the links:



The following is a prayer, written by Stormie Omartian, that you may want to pray:

“Help me not to hold myself apart from [my spouse] emotionally, mentally, or physically because of unforgiveness. Where either of us needs to ask forgiveness of the other, help us to do so. If there is something I’m not seeing that is adding to this problem, reveal it to me and help me to understand it. Remove any wedge of confusion that has created misunderstanding or miscommunication.

Where there is behavior that needs to change in either of us, I pray You would enable that change to happen. As much as I want to hang on to my anger toward [my spouse] because I feel it is justified, I want to do what You want. I release all those feelings to You. Give me a renewed sense of love for him and words to heal this situation.”

Here are some scriptures to earnestly pray:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”

(Psalm 139:23-24)

“Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.”

(Psalm 25:4-5)

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

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Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness

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5 responses to “Don’t Let Bitterness Poison Your Marriage

  1. (USA) I’m dealing with a wife who is full of bitterness, anger, hatred and vengence. She told me I was forgiven for the affair and I moved back home after an 8 month separation. Ever since, she’s tried to catch me doing something wrong and hasn’t. She wants a divorce now over a broken email string! It doesn’t even sound like it was headed towards anything nasty!

    God put it on my heart that there will be no divorce and that He has this in His control. Praise God for that!! However, the situation never looks like He’s winning until the end. I have to remember that. I just don’t like the place I’m in because it’s uncomfortable. I have to remember JOB. He’d done nothing wrong and Satan was allowed by God to test him. Remember the words I told my sons tonight, Jonah thought he had a better idea, too! We all know how that turned out… Be Blessed

  2. (SOUTH AFRICA) Hi, I need advice on how to deal with a bitter partner that is always looking for faults even when they are not there, just to cause conflicts.

    1. Lerato, You don’t say if this “partner” is a spouse or someone you are living with, acting as if you are married. But the “advice” I would give is that if this is someone you are living with, it doesn’t sound like this person is really partnering with you. What is being done is toxic to your relationship and who you are and will become. If, after talking to this person during a non-conflict time, you can’t convince them to stop picking at you (and instead work through each situation together in respectful ways), let them know that you are prepared to release the relationship and go separate ways. That type of behavior isn’t sustainable to “partner” with.

      A line needs to be drawn in the sand. You are either “partners” together, on your way to becoming husband and wife (although not now because you need to make sure these actions can be changed), or it would be better to part ways now before bitterness goes deep into your soul, poisoning everything that could be good. If you want God to help, then you need to stop living together, pure and simple… otherwise, what you do is on your own.

      If this is your spouse, then this is a sit-down, lets-be-serious type of situation. You cannot allow your spouse to little-by-little pick apart your marriage relationship. It’s not about each little issue, it’s about the approach to the issues. One of the problems that often happens in marriage is that we become almost too familiar with each other, giving ourselves permission NOT to extend common courtesies to each other and instead slipping into negative behaviors that can cause an erosion of everything good that you once saw in each other. When we find ourselves going there (and most of us do at some point or the other), changes need to be made. Whoever notices the erosive behavior that’s happening, needs to go to the other (at a non-HALT time –when one or both of you is Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, because those times make us more vulnerable to being contentious and little that is good can be accomplished), and try to sit down together to find out what is truly at the root of the problem and how it can be resolved in an adult way.

      Marriage is for adults, not children who are in grown-up bodies but don’t want to act like adults, handling problems in mature ways. If you’re married, GROW UP… you made the choice to do so by marrying and taking your vows together before God. And if you have children together, you need to grow up all the more. Children don’t need to have childish parents. I know those words seem simplistic, “grow up” but that’s the reality of what needs to be done. Children pick at each other. But adults need a good dose of reality to stop acting like children and do what it takes to approach matters in mature ways. When you take the vow to marry, you take the vow to partner with each other and with God to grow up TOGETHER. The following is a link to a humorous video that looks at “stopping what needs to be stopped.” The advice is simplistic, and humorous, but true. Stop it, if you are the one causing the problems!

      If your spouse is the resistant one, and after you’ve made repeated attempts but the behavior isn’t changing, then all you can do is the best you can do. Bitterness can change the color of everyone’s day that has it thrown upon them. Just keep looking to God, asking Him for guidance on each situation, to change what you can change, and do the best with what you have when you can’t change something.

      Sometimes this type of behavior, if you don’t grab onto bitterness when it’s thrown on you, can sometimes inspire others to change too (if you don’t act “holier than thou” –which just adds more problems). Sometimes not, but all you can do is what YOU can do. We’re told in the Bible, “as far as it depends upon you be at peace with all men” (women too). Ask God to help you with this mission. It’s a difficult one, but it’s sure better than going the other route of contributing to the bitterness and strife. Also, sometimes by adding a bit of humor to a situation, it can off-set tension. Ask God to help you know what approach to take. A few choices you can make when your marriage partner is “looking for faults”: Find a time to talk together… don’t join in on the “fight”… quietly remove yourself from the bitter picking for a short time to defuse the situation… find a way to pray together… use humor when it’s appropriate… ask God for the appropriate response and then follow His leading –these are a few things you can do. Ultimately, you can’t change your “bitter partner” –they have to do that. But you can change how you react to the fault-finding. I hope this helps in some way.

  3. (South Africa) I met the man I stayed with 7 yrs ago and we immediately hit it off. He was all i ever needed. I loved him and he loved me, we still love each other. He proposed marriage in 2010 and last year we had our traditional wedding; it was beautiful.

    This year as I was checking our ID numbers at home affairs I found out that he’s legaly married to the mother of her baby. I was devastated and didn’t know what to do, I still don’t how to deal with it. I’m still with him but the thought that I stay with another man’s wife is traumatic yet I’m traditionaly married to him. I don’t know how to deal with this and don’t know how to pray about it because in the back of my mind I still think I am staying with a husband that is not mine.

  4. How do I live with a sister-in-law who is my senior and my husband supports her in this claim? In the morning, if I didn’t greet her she will not greet me or talk to me for that day. One day I purposely didn’t greet her; my husband scolded me. Indeed she is older than me and does not help in household chores. I have lived with her for 5 years and do not see any marriage partner coming her way. I am afraid how long I’m going to live with her. Please help me.