How to Keep Resentment from Ruining Your Relationship (Part 1)
What does it mean to resent someone? Here are some synonyms of resent to give you a better understanding: feel bitter about, be annoyed at, take offense at, harbor a grudge about. It’s probably not hard to think of the last time you felt resentful about something.
You’re not a bad person for feeling resentful but it’s definitely not a pleasant feeling, and it’s one you want to avoid, especially when it comes to your marriage. Resentment has a way of starting out as a small crack in your composure and ending up as a full-blown crevice that separates you and your spouse. If you want to keep this resentment rift from forming, follow these tips:
1. Express Yourself
Resentment is often a result of you feeling mad about something your spouse did or didn’t do and keeping the feeling bottled up inside. As your anger and bitterness start to fester and grow, you get to that breaking point that, once you snap, always comes out explosive. To keep yourself from becoming a loose cannon, you need to communicate your feelings, in a considerate and respectful way, when you feel them—not two days later.
Learning how to express yourself in a productive, kind manner is one of the simplest and most effective ways of mitigating resentment. If it’s so simple, then why is it so hard, you may ask? Communicating, in theory, should be easy because all you’re doing is talking to someone.
The physical act of talking is the easy part. What makes expressing yourself so hard is that so many emotions are involved, like fear of hurting your spouse’s feelings, anger at being hurt yourself, or irritation at your spouse’s obliviousness. When you have so many not-so-pleasant emotions coursing through your veins, it’s difficult to talk to your spouse in a caring and compassionate way.
That’s why you should take some time to cool off first. Don’t let your temper get the better of you. Take 10, 20, or 30 minutes to just calm your heart rate down and get your mind clear. Use that time to consider what your accountability might be in the hurtful incident, and recognize that you probably don’t really understand your partner’s perspective of the situation. Once you feel more open and under control, prepare some phrases that will help you get your feelings out in patient, safe ways. You might not get it right every time, but the more you practice expressing yourself in a productive way, the better you’ll get at it and the better results you’ll see.
2. Set Boundaries
Let’s take a look at a few examples that might leave you feeling resentful:
• You’re the one who gets the baby every time he wakes up during the night and in the morning
• Your spouse hardly ever helps clean up after dinner
• You see your spouse giving more affection to your kids than you
• You end up being the one filling up the gas tank every time
• You cook and clean every day without receiving appreciation in return
The problem with each of these examples is that you’re probably not telling your spouse that there is a problem and that you’re feeling frustrated. Recognizing that your partner might have a different perspective than you is the first step. Expressing to your spouse that you’re unhappy with a situation is much healthier when they know you are open to their side of the story, so be prepared to listen to their perspective. Once you do share your feelings and viewpoints with one another you will both be better prepared to share the responsibility and determine what is going to work best for both you.
This is where setting boundaries comes in. Learning how to set a boundary is a topic that requires its own article, but here’s the short of it: Set ground rules that that will protect you and your spouse from resentment. For example, if your spouse has to get up early for work, you get the baby when he cries in the middle of the night and your spouse gets him when he wakes up in the morning.
You could also trade off nights getting the baby or have your spouse put the baby to bed each night and you get the baby each morning. You could have your spouse take more responsibility on the weekends while you take more responsibility during the week. Whatever you decide on, make sure you’re both happy with the boundary, not just one of you, and make sure you both get time to rest.
In our next post we will take you even more deeply into dealing with resentment in healthy ways.