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Do you struggle with how to overcome shame and guilt in your marriage?

When you are married, it’s hard to hide your flaws. Your spouse knows who you really are and that can feel exposing, especially if you are constantly trying to self-protect.

Most of us may not even realize we are in self-protection mode until conflict happens and we overreact.

Many times, shame, guilt, or embarrassment are the root cause of our bad behavior. While guilt and embarrassment are more easily resolved, shame is not. It can stick around for a long time.

In fact, shame can destroy a marriage.

In this post, you will learn how shame affects marriage as well as how to overcome shame and guilt in your marriage. Additionally, learn why you get triggered in the first place.

How to Stop Feeling Bad About Something You Did

Are you feeling bad about a certain situation? Sometimes it’s hard to release the feelings even though it happened a long time ago. I understand.

A few weeks ago I destroyed broke our television set. Who even does that? 

It was purely by accident, but I still felt an enormous amount of shame, guilt, and embarrassment over the whole incident.

Here’s what happened…Our TV didn’t work so I tried to “fix it.” A cable wasn’t connecting in the back of the unit so I tugged on it. Instead of making a better connection, a piece broke off.

Sadly, the TV went dark. It quietly stayed silent and mocked me as I stood in horror.

After another 30 minutes of trying to “fix it,” I gave up. I could no longer stand to look at my mess. There was no hiding this from my husband (and kids).

In a fit of despair, I hauled the TV to the trash cans and hid it.

Shame. (It likes to hide.)

Later that night my husband asked about the TV. It was kinda obvious it was missing. When I told him what happened, he went back to the trash can. He insisted we fix it. Well…he fixes it.

What he really meant was we are not getting a new TV.

Rats. Now I have to look at the broken TV.

More shame.

In my mind, we now had a TV that didn’t work and the kids were going to be complaining until their dad had time to look at it. I could already hear the comments in my head.

“Mom, what did you do? Ugh!”

At this point, I was wondering how to overcome shame and guilt.

How to Overcome Shame and Guilt (or Embarrassment)

If you often overreact, you may need to know how to overcome shame and guilt, or embarrassment. Many times one of these things is operating in your responses.

This was the case in my situation.

Everything inside of me wanted to react in an unhealthy way. I wanted to explode and give the silent treatment all at once. My flesh wanted to be uncooperative, justify, throw it away (hide), and blame my husband for wanting to fix it.

But I couldn’t because my husband didn’t do anything wrong.

He just wanted to work through the problem. Go figure!

Why did I feel this way? He was acting like an adult, I was not.

After a couple of days, I realized it triggered shame from the past.

What I was actually feeling was embarrassment, but it morphed into shame and guilt.

Working through it, I realized life happens. I didn’t do anything wrong either when I broke the TV.

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TVs break, cars get dented, windows get broken, we forget to pick up the dry cleaning, etc. All of that is normal.

However, it’s what comes next that matters the most. It’s how we choose to react to these difficult situations when they happen. Many times, that’s where the sin takes place.

When we don’t show up as an adult, things can get out of hand very quickly when resolving conflict.

And shame is a major trigger when we feel exposed.

RELATED: The #1 Secret to a Happy Marriage Is Not What You Think

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Get your FREE CONFLICT RESOLUTION PDF to help you and your spouse work through difficult problems.

How Does Shame Affect a Marriage?

Shame can have a profound impact on a marriage, as it is a complex and powerful emotion that can affect individuals and their relationships in various ways. Here are some of the ways shame can affect a marriage:

1. Communication breakdown

Shame can lead individuals to withdraw and become emotionally distant from their partners. They may struggle to express their feelings and thoughts openly, fearing judgment or rejection. This lack of open communication can hinder the emotional connection and intimacy in the marriage.

2. Blame and defensiveness

When one or both partners feel shame, they may resort to blaming each other for their problems or defensive behavior to protect themselves from further feelings of shame. This blame-shifting can create a cycle of negativity and escalate conflicts within the relationship.

3. Low self-esteem and self-worth

Experiencing shame can lead to a decrease in self-esteem and self-worth. Individuals may feel unworthy of love or believe they don’t deserve happiness in their marriage, leading to feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness.

4. Avoidance of intimacy

Shame can lead individuals to avoid intimacy, both emotional and physical, with their partners. They may fear vulnerability and rejection, making it challenging to establish and maintain a deep emotional connection.

5. Emotional disconnection

Couples experiencing shame may become emotionally disconnected from each other. They might avoid discussing sensitive topics or bury their emotions to protect themselves, leading to a growing emotional distance between them.

6. Repetitive patterns and conflicts

Shame can contribute to unhealthy and repetitive patterns of behavior within the marriage. Individuals may engage in self-sabotaging behaviors or push their partners away, resulting in ongoing conflicts and challenges in the relationship.

7. Lack of trust

Shame can erode trust within the marriage. If one or both partners are experiencing shame, they may hide aspects of themselves or their actions, which can lead to a breakdown of trust between them.

8. Impact on intimacy and sex life

Shame can affect the couple’s intimacy and sex life. Feelings of shame can make it difficult to feel comfortable and secure in intimate situations, leading to a decline in physical intimacy within the marriage.

9. Mental health issues

Prolonged experiences of shame in a marriage can contribute to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or even trauma. These issues can further strain the relationship.

10. Isolation and loneliness

Shame can lead individuals to isolate themselves from their partners and support networks, leading to feelings of loneliness within the marriage.

Addressing shame in a marriage requires open communication, empathy, and a willingness to work through emotions together.

Many times we carry shame into our marriages and don’t even know it. It isn’t until we address our feelings and work through them that we no longer feel threatened or feel the need to overreact.

See also  Has God Abandoned Me? (5 Truths In the Silence)

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 Dealing with marriage or family issues? Purchase your ebook or paperback on Amazon or buy Marriage Interrupted or Estranged at your favorite digital store.

What’s the Difference Between Shame and Guilt Biblically?

There is a big difference between shame and guilt. Guilt is a godly reaction, whereas shame is not. It’s self-defeating.

Shame

Shame says, “I am bad,” whereas guilt says, “I did something bad.” There is a big difference.

Shame keeps us stuck in ourselves; it’s all about me. It hides, blames, and pouts.

The truth about shame is that it carries the fear of being exposed, rejected, or humiliated for behaviors such as addictions, aggression, or abuse. These things are generally found morally wrong by society.

Shame makes you think you can’t change that you are fundamentally flawed as a person.

Powerless.

Guilt

Guilt or regret is a sign of emotional health. Conversely, shame is not.

The Bible says guilt or “godly sorrow” exists to help us change our ways.  It leads us to repentance and growth. This kind of guilt is healthy because it is motivated by love.

There is a motivation to restore what has been broken. There is a sense of power to make things right.

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (ESV).

RELATED: Why Does God Allow Suffering? 5 Good Reasons He Allows Pain In Our Lives

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10 ways shame affects your marriage

How to Overcome Shame and Guilt in Your Marriage

If you are dealing with shame and guilt in your marriage (or embarrassment), there are a few ways to start the healing process. As much as you may want to change your spouse’s behavior, you can only change your own.

So, here’s what you can do to help you react more healthily next time you feel triggered.

1. Identify what you are feeling

Knowing how shame, guilt, and embarrassment function in a person’s life makes it easier to learn how to deal with them. If you are feeling upset about a situation, ask yourself if it is shame or guilt.

Or perhaps just embarrassment.

2.  If it’s shame, change your mindset

Since we all have shame (sinned) at one time or another, it is good to learn how to deal with it healthily. Jesus came so we didn’t have to live in shame permanently.

Ask Him for the power to change your mindset. To move out of our shame and into repentance.

People who stay stuck in shame choose not to take ownership of their mistakes and, therefore, wallow in self-pity.

Isaiah 61:7 says, “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours”(NIV).

3. If it’s guilt, repent

If you feel guilt, it is time to explore what sin you may have committed. Perhaps you have offended your spouse. If so, ask for forgiveness. And change.

Go a step further and make amends. What do you need to do to make it right?

Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

4. If it’s embarrassment, let it go

If you feel embarrassed because of a mistake, forgive yourself, learn from it, and let go.

And maybe even laugh about it! Life happens.

You have learned something. Be grateful for new knowledge.

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5. Reprogram your mind

Shame is challenging to release, especially if you have been in a shame cycle most of your life.

If you are telling yourself lies, reprogram your mind to the truth. I suggest getting notecards and putting Bible verses on them. Read them daily to reinforce the truth about who you are in Christ.

Or get these free scriptures below.

If you continue to overreact, you may need professional help to overcome some of your worst feelings.

RELATED: How to Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself: 5 Ways to Move On

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Get your FREE PRINTABLE SCRIPTURE CARDS PDF and tell yourself the truth every day!

How Do You Overcome Guilt in a Marriage?

Now that you know how to deal with shame and guilt versus embarrassment, you can overcome guilt in your own life and your marriage.

You have a choice every day on how you think and what to do when you offend others or feel offended. Furthermore, once you start taking responsibility for your actions, you will no longer need to feel guilty if you ask for forgiveness and change.

You are not condemned as a believer in Christ. You were freed from shame at the cross.

By the way, if you are wondering about our TV. We eventually got a new one! I killed it for good.

Did you learn how to deal with shame and guilt in your marriage? Comment below.  

Are You Struggling to Have a Healthy Marriage? Do You Want to Change Your Spouse?

Get Marriage Interrupted: How to Deal with Unexpected Conflict as a Couple and Stay in Love on Amazon or any digital platform. This book is filled with humorous and impactful insights for anyone experiencing marriage conflict.

Included is biblical advice to help couples develop new behaviors and strengthen their marriage with healthy boundaries. With over 30 years of marriage experience, there are practical tips to overcome old patterns of behavior and rekindle a marriage relationship rooted in God’s love.

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Got Family Problems? There is Help and Hope!

Are you struggling with family issues that have resulted in a family rift or a family estrangement? Are you feeling a sense of shame, anger, or rejection?  Check out my book Estranged: Finding Hope When Your Family Falls Apart on Amazon or at your favorite digital store.

In it, I share my own experience of a seven-year estrangement from my Christian family and how we eventually reconciled. Furthermore, I provide practical advice to help you navigate your family issues. Don’t let the pain of estrangement hold you back.

Allow God to assist you in healing, no matter what has happened within your family. Remember, there is always hope to be found, even when things seem to be falling apart.

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Get Creating Family Memories. This book will help you manage your family so that you have more time to be intentional with your kids. It includes a schedule, too. You can get it at your favorite digital bookstore.

Join the group Christian Family Living on Facebook

Continue the conversation on Facebook and join the Christian Family Living group. This is a place for Christian women to freely talk about parenting, marriage, faith, family, and culture. Being a Christian is hard! Let’s do it together. Most of all, a sense of humor is required. Got memes? Bring it on!

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Author

Julie is a wife, mom, teacher, author, and blogger. She writes about Christian family living, marriage, parenting with a touch of humor.

3 Comments

  1. “What he really meant was we are going to keep the stupid-looking tree for the next ten years no matter what” I found this line hilarious ???? I like how you have been able to use a practical life example to explain the differences between these words. Thanks for this explicit explanation, I have learnt alot.

  2. And we can’t let these things fester and pollute our minds! Thanks for sharing. Many blessings to you!

  3. What a great post! For me usually if it’s a silly situation, I feel embarrassed at first, and then a couple of days, weeks, months later, I laugh about it. After a while, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal as it did when it happened!

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