How Your Past Affects Your Marriage

The formula for a happy marriage? It's the same as the one for living in California: when you find a fault, don't dwell on it!


You might have heard about the husband who complained that his wife gets historical."You mean hysterical," his friend corrected him.

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

"No," he said "historical – every time we have an argument she brings up things that have happened in the last 30 years!"

I've come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.
-Tony Robbins

What is post-traumatic stress disorder? It’s being shell-shocked. According to the National Mental Health Association, 30 percent of people who have been directly involved in wars experience PTSD. Approximately 8 percent of people in the United States will experience post-traumatic stress disorder in their lifetimes.

More than 5 million people experience PTSD each year. Yet we fail to realize that we as Christians can often display similar spiritual and emotional symptoms directly related to our own past wounds and scars.

Psalm 103: 10-13 (NASB) says: "He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His loving kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him."

PTSD occurs as a result of an experience in which the person felt intense fear, horror and/or helplessness and believed that death or serious harm to the self was a likely result of the experience. It is defined as a normal response to an abnormal circumstance.

Some characterized symptoms of those who are struggling overcoming past hurts, issues and abuses are:

• Avoiding people, places, or things that remind the person of the traumatic experience.

• Numbness and apathy – the dulling of emotions in general.

• Difficulty sleeping or concentrating and/or a heightened vigilance.

• Re-experiencing the trauma in conscious reflection or during nightmares; this may trigger strong emotional reactions.

• Repeated "reliving" of the event, which disturbs day-to-day activity

• Flashback episodes, where the event seems to be happening again and again

• Recurrent distressing memories of the event

• Repeated dreams of the event

Conflict-related situations in your current marriage can often bring up those very emotions and hurts of the traumatic event from the past in your present marriage.

So, in essence the past can and often does affect the present and potentially your future. The past can:

• Bring heavy guilt

• Breed unforgiveness & resentment/bitterness.

Bitterness can twist our perspective of our spouse. It’s like wearing dark glasses in which we see everything through our past, or the specific occurrences or events that affected our past in the first place. Since it happened back then, it will always be that way. Eventually, anger turns to deep resentment and bitterness, which usually ends in hatred and apathy towards any sort of love and care.

“It is hard to feel loving and tender towards someone that you resent. This in turn means that bitterness will then influence our choices. How can you work on restoring your relationship when you are feeling bitter and resentful? Perhaps most importantly, our bitterness affects our relationship with God.”


Events in the past that can affect present marriages include things such as growing up without a father in the home. According to statistics:

90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes

63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes

85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes

80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes

71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes

85 percent of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home


1. Take inventory of what you know are addictions or destructive behaviors.

2. Stop listening to the past in your mind and heart. Learn about "overcoming"

3.Take new action "BEAUTY FOR ASHES, THE OIL OF JOY FOR MORNING, GARMENT OF PRAISE FOR SPIRIT OF HEAVINESS." Start doing things that will replace your past ashes and thoughts with new, fun, loving, exciting things and love.

4. Understand that it is a "process." Don't always expect an "instant miracle."

Mike and Trisha Fox are Christian marriage coaches and authors of Marriage For Today: A Practical Guide for Couples. To find out more visit:

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles