Bitterness Leaves a Lasting Bite

Photo of a couple being torn apartWe all know someone who is bitter about a relationship. Maybe your friend can’t stop disparaging her ex-husband, or your new love interest continuously trash talks his ex-girlfriend. You may even be this person. Bitterness is an ugly emotion and one that is more tangible than ever thanks to online dating sites and social networking. Now, when someone is resentful, they don’t have to fester in frustrating silence anymore. They can vent on a virtual platform for the whole world to see. This public ranting generally still doesn’t bring resolutions, however. Even if you can eventually get over the bitterness from that one experience, it is bound to rear its ugly head again in the disguise of another dilemma or hurt.

In a recent article, R. Duncan Wallace, author and psychiatrist, explains why bitterness is merely the manifestation of hurts that cannot be covered up with a bandage. People who have been scorned in love will not feel better when they fall in love again. In fact, they will probably already be predisposed to disaster because unless they get to the root of their bitterness, they will never be truly cured. “I call it subterranean anger,” says Wallace. “It means someone is holding an expectation about how something or somebody should be or should have been.” And most of these unmet expectations come from relationships that happened long before the one that bears the brunt of the bitterness. This could mean that these resentments are from childhood, friendships, or prior love relationships. Because they are never worked through, are brought into current relationships. And even though these new relationships may be full of love and lust, they are most likely doomed to fail because that bitterness looms just beneath the emotional surface.

Wallace suggests that people who feel bitter heed the warning signs. Being critical is one clear sign that someone is bitter about something. Anger and hostility are also indicators. When you feel this way, get some help from a therapist or professional. Many people react with bitterness toward others because they see their own flaws in those people. But bitterness is curable. Wallace insists that if you are willing to dig deep and look at your past, you can overcome this state of mind and free yourself and your future partner from resentments that haven’t even developed yet.

Donahue, Wendy. Bitter, not better. (n.d.): n. pag. Chicago Tribune. 5 Mar. 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.

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  • wells


    March 15th, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    I had a really bad breakup a few years ago and I can’t get past still feeling angry and bitter about the way it all ended. I know that feeling this way has kept me from opening up to someone else and being able to move on. But just because logically, I know this, the emotions are still there and are still so raw that I am afraid that if I don’t find a way to work through them then I will never be able to open up enough to fall in love and have someone love me again. This was like the first girl I ever really loved and she totally broke my heart in two, and acted like it didn’t bother her at all. It makes me so mad to think about all the time and energy I put into our relationship and this is the kind of thanks that I got. I still have a hard time because I thought that this could be the one and obviously she did not feel anywhere close to the same.

  • Travis


    March 16th, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    I know that you say that those who are bitter should heed the warning signs. . . but are most of them really in a position to do that? I mean, if they are that bitter and feeling such anger over this they are generally the last people who will see what is going on with them.
    I think that the better thing is for friends to stage some kind of intervention so that you can really highlight the behavior that you see in them and give them some positive outlets, show them how letting some of this go could be such an improvement in their lives. Maybe if they see that they are not alone in this, that they have someone to help them get through it, then they can swallow that bitterness and let it out of their lives.

  • mel g

    mel g

    March 18th, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    I see this all the time in so many of my friends.

    They are so busy looking for a man that they never take the time to resolve what happened to end the last relationship before they are jumping headfirst into something just as bad for them all over again! It’s like they are afraid to look at what role they could have played in it all, they are just concerned with trying to get someone else to affirm to them that they are not the cause. But all of that unresolved crap within them keeps showing up time and time again and they don’t see at all what they are doing or not doing to contribute to this.

  • Bennett


    March 18th, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    Just like anger bitterness tends to come back and bite the origin. No doubt about that. I have experienced this first hand and bitterness can be hit as damaging as anger and rage. It actually stops your ability to live life to the fullest and jut pushes you from one disaster to another. All preventable disasters of course.

  • Verna


    March 20th, 2013 at 4:01 AM

    often i think that most of us don’t consider how much holding on to that bitterness will hold us back in our lives

    we see what we wnat to see and when we refuse to take off those blinders then we will continue to have our own little tunnel vision about our own lack of culpability and just feel more comfortable hanging on to the blame of others

  • Rain


    March 20th, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Talk about a timely article. There is a girl on a social media site that is always trying to “rub things in my face” by posting things on my page to intentionally make me jealous. Trying not to be bitter is so hard! I just checked my page and darned if she hasn’t done it again!

  • terrel


    March 20th, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    all the more reason to get therapy when you go thru a break up.

    my last boyfriend and i broke up and i decided to try therapy before going out with anyone else again.

    So,, i was in therapy for nine months which seemed like FOREVER at the time but i stayed true to my promise to myself i did not date anyone not even once the whole time

    after i finished with thearpy i started dating someone about two months later people that was TEN years ago and we are still together.

    Advice: go to therapy after a break up so you dont take resentment into a new relationship you never know who you might be passing up because you didn’t heal urself before you started seeing them

  • Shana


    March 20th, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    I was the child of a bitter parent. and she just about ruined my own marriage because she was always saying such bad things about my dad. and so i thought all men were going to do all of those negative things she talked about. yes bitterness is like a communicable disease-it can get passed around.

  • Windy


    March 20th, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    Being bitter ain’t no way to be! Don’t worry, be happy!

  • Jamison


    March 20th, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    It is very hard to overcome being bitter, but I am living proof that it is possible! My mom cheated on my dad and they ended up getting divorced when I was 10. Talk about being bitter!! Shew!!! I was an awful teenager to both of my parents because I was so bitter about their break up. Then, countless boyfriends had to suffer my bitterness. One of them was even wacky enough to marry me. Obviously, that didn’t last long. So, my mom finally talked me into going to get some help for my bitterness issues. I did, and it took a looooooooong time to get better. But, better (rather than bitter) I am now!!!

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