Forgiving Doesn’t Mean You Need to Be a Doormat

BY: - 8 Feb '13 | Marriage

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by  Amy Morin

Most experts and articles always recommended forgiveness. They advise not to hold onto a grudge but instead, to forgive and forget. They say, “Don’t hold a grudge, it’s not good for you.” However, believe it or not, there’s actually some research out there that suggests holding a grudge isn’t so bad after all.

Arguments that You Should Let Go of Grudges

Many mental and physical health experts say that holding onto a grudge can be bad for you. The argument is that grudges keep a feud going and can cause anger to linger. As a result, people who hold grudges spend (and waste) a lot of time dwelling on something that happened in the past. And for some, this can take a toll on their physical health.

Also, there’s a concern that holding onto a grudge gives the offender more power and control in your life. If you’re still angry at something someone said five years ago, you’re giving that person’s words a lot of power. So, in an effort to take back that power, let go of the grudge.

For some, letting go of a grudge will allow them to move on with their lives. From a spiritual stand point, many people recommend forgiveness as well as a core principal to their beliefs. And it sure can feel good sometimes to finally let go of something that has offended you in the past.

Arguments that You Should Hold Onto a Grudge

There are some arguments however that indicate holding onto that grudge might not be so bad. A 2008 study by the University of Tennessee, “Forgiveness in Marriage: Putting the Bene?ts Into Context,” says it is important to weigh the risks of letting go of a grudge. One thing the study concluded was that letting go of a grudge can somehow signal to the offender that their behavior is acceptable. As a result, their offending behavior may continue.

This can cause people to run the risk of being a doormat. For example, if a husband yells and calls his wife names and she immediately forgives him, what’s stopping him from doing this again tomorrow?  Forgiving too quickly and too often can cause someone to grow resentful over time if they continue to be treated poorly.

Also, there’s no guarantee that offering forgiveness or letting go of the past will make things any better. And it doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily repair the relationship just because you let go of a grudge.

Striking a Healthy Balance

When it comes to forgiveness, it isn’t always as easy or simple as it sounds. And this is especially in true in marriage. The person that you love the most has the most potential to hurt you so when you’ve been deeply hurt by your spouse, forgiveness takes a lot of time and energy.

You don’t need to offer immediate forgiveness. In fact, it can be much more meaningful when you work through issues together. For example, if your spouse cheats on you, it’s going to take a lot of work to repair the relationship and saying, “I forgive you,” right away may not be helpful.

And forgiving doesn’t mean you need to be a doormat. If your spouse keeps committing the same offense, it’s clearly a problem that needs to be addressed.

It’s important to set limits as well. You don’t need to send the message that says, “I forgive you for this and all your future transgressions as well.” Instead, tell your partner, “I can understand that this happened once but if it happens again I don’t know that I can work through it.”

Working Through Hurt and Anger

Time does not heal all wounds. Instead, it takes hard work and commitment to work through sadness, fear and anger.  So simply waiting a week, month or even a year isn’t going to mean that you’ll feel better. In fact, if these feelings aren’t dealt with, you might feel worse over time.

If you are holding onto a grudge, spend some time considering the pros and cons of letting go of the grudge. Look at how holding onto it is impacting your marriage and the costs and benefits of continuing to hold onto it versus forgiving your spouse.

Sometimes professional help can assist you in working through hurt and anger. Marriage counseling can be a good way to assist couples who can’t get past an event or incident. This is especially true if the subject keeps causing fights or is often brought up in the heat of an argument about a completely different subject.


BMWK – Is holding a grudge ever appropriate? Do you continue to forgive, even if your spouse continues to do the same things over and over again?  We would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Find out more about  Amy Morin and her article To Hold a Grudge or Not?  on The Marriage Counseling Blog (


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  • Briana Myricks

    I feel like my husband and I forgive each other a lot, and it’s true, sometimes when you forgive someone quickly, you leave the door open for it to happen again. Sometimes someone needs time to marinate over what they have done and how it made someone else feel. You should always forgive in the end, but also go through the necessary healing process.

    • Diane

      I agree Briana. You took the words right out of my mouth. Forgiving too quickly sometimes doesn’t leave room for true remorse and regret and could lead to the indiscretion happening again. As woman we are so quick to forgive and receive our men back too soon after we have been hurt. Atleast I have been known to do this. Healing has to take place before you both can begin move on with your lives.

  • betty cole

    Forgiving is not always easy,but I have found in forty five years of marriage, that the more you forgive, the easlier its gets.As a young girl I use to never want to be the one to say I am sorry or be first forgive.But when one is like that, you push your love one away. My mom says you catch more flies with sugar, than vingar.And was she right. And its not just the big things,but the little things too, sometimes even more so.

  • arther

    we must learn how to forgive, but we also must learn how to pray about forgiveness, because the thoughts sometimes (maybe often) come into our minds and often overwhelm us (depending on the situation) I can only speak on my experience, that, when those thoughts come into my mind, I pray for not only my wife, but, her “co-conspiritors” as well, (the bible speaks on how you can “heap burning coals” upon the heads of your offenders, by showing grace and forgiveness) this helps me get through it…and yes I did express my firmness on not letting this happen ever again to me in our marriage (counseling/mutual prayer) JMO

  • Nolani

    I was that wife that constantly forgave my husband. Every time he got caught cheating I forgave believing that if I did something different, or if I would change, things would be better. We went to counseling with our pastor, our bishop even outside counselors. Nothing changed other than he found new ways to cheat. After 15 years of marriage and 13 years of unfaithfulness, and an outside child, I have finally found the strength to say I am tired of being treated this way and I deserve more. But this comes with an anger towards him that I have never felt, along with an absence of willingness to forgive. I know not forgiving blocks my blessings and my peace but I feel like if I open the door to forgive him again I will only be hurt again. We do not speak to each other now. We share a house but I make sure I’m not there when he is there. His presence alone makes my blood boil. We are in the process of divorce. I need to let go and forgive, I just don’t think I can so soon.