How “grudge-dumping” can poison our relationships without us even realising

How “grudge-dumping” can poison our relationships without us even realising

Unresolved anger and the silent treatment can be more toxic than we might realise.

An ex that wronged you, a former friendship that turned sour or a sworn work enemy. If you’ve ever experienced a grudge, you’ll know how powerful they can be.

In fact, the typical UK adult is currently harbouring six grudges, according to a poll published in early 2022.

However, we also know deep down that it’s far from healthy to harbour anger, bitterness and resentment. The truth of it is: grudges rarely solve the actual problem and are highly unlikely to make us feel any better.

While we may experience some satisfaction for silently holding out against another individual, the suppressed emotions often just lead to frustrated outbursts, known as “grudge dumping.”

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The term was coined by psychotherapist and author Sean Grover in a recent Psychology Today article. In it, Grover explained that while frustration is a natural part of any intimate relationship; grudge-dumping isn’t.

“Frustration is unavoidable in every relationship, particularly with close friendships or romantic partners,” he wrote, “but the space between people will always be fertile ground for miscommunications and misunderstandings.”

Grudge-dumping and miscommunication
Grudge-dumping and miscommunication

What is a grudge-dumping?

As Grover explains, grudge-dumpers are usually at the end of their rope; their patience has run out. “Because the unrelieved pressure is so sizeable, they feel justified in dumping their grudges in the forms of temper tantrums, explosive arguments, and words designed to produce maximum hurt,” he says.

While grudge-dumping can feel like it offers some relief, the discharge is often so toxic it risks damaging relationships beyond repair.

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Why do we grudge-dump?

Frustration is a complex emotion to deal with, and the way we respond isn’t always in kind. Grover suggests that two of the most common responses – ghosting and blame-shifting – could be even more toxic than we realise.

“If a relationship becomes frustrating or anxiety-producing, the ghoster will flee without explanation. Ghosters claim they didn’t want to hurt the person. Ultimately, the ghoster is only protecting themselves—not the person they ghosted,” he says.

The same goes for blame-shifting, which may intend to let a person down gently, but Grover says is most often permission to be cruel without consequence. 

Grudge-dumping and miscommunication

But unrelieved anger can just as easily morph into grudges and resentments, which when stored away, gather in strength and toxicity.

On the surface, grudge-collectors appear to be people-pleasers; quick to smile, always willing to accommodate, and the last to provoke a confrontation. Their silence may create a convincing sense of security and contentment but beware. “Behind their tense grin is a loaded gun; each bullet, a stored away grudge, aimed directly at you,” Grover warns.

“Whether they ghost you or shift blame, the outcome is the same: The relationship will end badly.”

How to avoid grudge-dumping

Put simply, there’s no way to avoid frustration, just healthier ways to channel it. Grover suggests simple tasks like writing a letter that can alleviate the build up of anger and allow you to sort out your feelings while being mindful of how you express yourself.

In more severe cases, finding a mediator, professional, or good friend who can guide you through a mutual conflict will bring greater clarity and direction.

To avoid this, Grover suggests speaking up early and addressing your frustrations outright. The key is accepting responsibility.

“If you wronged someone, don’t be stubborn. Apologise and set the tone for healthy reconciliation,” Grover adds. “Take the initiative. Mistakes are natural; processing them thoughtfully together will ultimately bring you closer.”

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