The saying “don’t cut off your nose to spite your face” refers to seeking revenge in a way that is self-destructive. Doing so often causes more problems for the person seeking revenge rather than the intended victim. Many people tend to get into these patterns of self-destruction where they mistakenly make their own situation worse.
Do you ever try to teach your spouse a lesson? Do you work to try and make change only to then say “never mind?” For example, if you tell your spouse, “I need you to hear that you love me more often,” but then when your spouse tells you, your response is, “It doesn’t count if I have to tell you to say it?” These sorts of behaviors can quickly wear down a marriage.
Janet’s Example of Self-destructive Behaviors
Janet was angry that her husband, Paul, came home late many evenings. Paul often stopped by to visit with his friend on the way home. Paul enjoyed helping his friend fix up an old car that he had been restoring. Janet was upset that Paul wasn’t home as often as she liked. She felt like he didn’t spend enough time with her. She often called him when he was late and yelled at him. Then when he did return him, she either yelled at him or gave him the silent treatment.
Instead of enjoying the time she had with him, she ruined what little time they had together. Janet allowed her anger toward Paul interfere with their ability to spend quality time together, although she put all the blame on Paul. Her behaviors tended to drive Paul away as well, making him less likely to want to spend time with her. Janet made the situation worse and her actions prevented her from getting her needs met.
Tina’s Example of Self-destructive Behaviors
Tina and Mark had been married for 25 years. Now that the children had left the house, Tina was hoping to make some changes to their home. She enjoyed doing crafts and wanted to turn the guest room into a craft room. She approached Mark to ask him what he thought. Mark seemed to be indifferent to Tina’s suggestions. Tina then blew up at Mark and said he wasn’t involved enough in the decisions. When he told Tina to go ahead and change the room into a craft room, she got mad and said she wasn’t going to do it if he wasn’t on board.
Tina punished herself. Her husband didn’t mind if she turned the spare room into a craft room but because he didn’t seem interested enough, Tina refused to do it. She didn’t hurt Mark at all but hurt herself. She grew resentful toward Mark and blamed him for not wanting to make the same changes she did. Mark was left feeling confused by her refusal to make the change after he agreed with her to go ahead and make a craft room. Tina didn’t get her needs met because of her own actions.
Consequences of Your Behaviors
If you are guilty of cutting off your nose to spite your face, pay attention to the consequences. This can damage your marriage. It is likely to cause you to grow angry and resentful toward your spouse. Your spouse may also be growing resentful toward you. Your spouse may feel punished and manipulated.
It also prevents problems from getting solved in healthy ways. It’s likely that your needs are not getting met. It’s likely to breakdown the relationship over time.
Don’t Sabotage Your Own Efforts
When you have a goal in mind, don’t sabotage your own efforts! If your spouse isn’t reacting in a way that you want, don’t try to seek revenge. Also, be aware of when you are punishing yourself!
Find new skills to deal with your distress. If you find yourself focused on punishing your spouse or trying to get even, think about what is at stake. You may be punishing yourself and hurting your marriage in the long run.
Learn healthy ways to manage your anger. Anger management skills can help you learn how to deal with hurt, sadness, frustration, anger, and disappointment.
It is important to learn how to resolve conflicts with your spouse in healthy ways. If you cut off your nose to spite your face, it makes it impossible to work together on solving problems.
Learn new ways to communicate your feelings. Focus on improving your relationship rather than trying to prove a point to your spouse. Accept that your spouse may make mistakes without focusing on strategies to teach your spouse a lesson.