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.
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.
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.
Get your FREE CONFLICT RESOLUTION PDF to help you and your spouse work through difficult problems.
How Does Shame Affect a Marriage?
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 says, “I am bad” whereas guilt says, “I did something bad.” Big difference.
Shame keeps us stuck in ourselves; it’s all about me. In fact, 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; things that are generally found morally wrong by society.
Shame makes you think you can’t change. That you are fundamentally flawed as a person.
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).
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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 in a healthier way next time you feel triggered.
1. Identify what you are feeling
It is easier to learn how to deal with shame and guilt or embarrassment if you know how they function in a person’s life. 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 in a healthy way. Jesus came so we didn’t have to permanently live in shame.
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…choose to 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.
5. Reprogram your mind
Shame is hard 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 every day 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 get you through some of your worst feelings.
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 guilt 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 both 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 not only overcome old patterns of behavior but also rekindle a marriage relationship that is rooted in God’s love.
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 own 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.
Get Creating Family Memories. This book will help you manage your family in a way that allows more time to be intentional with your kids. It includes a schedule too. You can get it at your favorite digital bookstore.
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