Unringing the Bell

Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”  This piece of advice is important in any relationship but especially in marriage.

Many times in my work with couples, some unkind or hurtful remark made years ago by a partner comes up as a long-held resentment.  Sometimes the remark is a surprise to the husband or wife who doesn’t even remember making it, but it has caused pain for the other and damaged the relationship.  Often the remark occurred in the heat of an argument.

Sometimes going back and discussing the situation or context helps to lessen the impact, but the bell was once rung.   It takes many positive affirmations to neutralize just one careless and devastating remark.  A sincere apology can be the first affirmation, and an openness to forgiveness can be the beginning of healing.

Trying to think before we speak takes restraint.   If we nurture unkind and even hateful thoughts about the other, it is much more likely that these thoughts will find their way into words that wound.  The goal is to guard our thoughts and seek more understanding instead of assuming that we understand the other’s motivations and actions. Staying current in a relationship takes time and energy but goes a long way in preventing resentment from bells we would have been better not to ring.

Couples” therapy can be helpful in dissecting even long-held resentments.  Few things are more beautiful than a once strong and loving relationship that has been restored after seeming to be lost.