The Poison of Resentment in Relationships

Posted by Margo Dye, co-owner of LIFE Marriage Retreats

We all know that Humility is one of the indispensable principles of happy relationships, and I think I am beginning to finally learn it, but not without a price. I am discovering that true humility goes far beyond simple tolerance and has nothing to do with self-righteousness.

My dear daughter-in-law is so much like me in many ways, but with many improvements that I admire and am still striving for. Recently we had an unspoken struggle of a direction we were both going, but wanting it to be on our own terms.

I love her and wanted things to be right and OK between us again, but found that pride and issues that I was slow to admit were getting in the way. The selfishness and immaturity I chose into made the decision of going to her to talk about things a slow and arduous process.

This time of pride and its accompanying misery was grueling; I wanted the pain to end but was unwilling to let it go and admit I was wrong in wanting things my way.

At a recent Marriage Retreat we worked with a couple that had been separated by war. In those difficult circumstances they became distracted from what is really important in a relationship and each pursued some selfish interests, trying to fill their emptiness. As the husband awoke to the awareness of how far apart they had drifted, not only in real distance, but emotionally as well, he realized what he was losing and desperately sought to repair the breaches in their relationship. He was frightened and hurt and wanted the damage he had helped bring into the relationship fixed immediately.

Watching him striving to align his actions with his desires was, for a time, like watching someone trying to get two powerful magnets with the same polarity together, and failing in the attempt. In this quick-fix-I-want-it-now world we want to go to the store, pick it out, bag it, and use it immediately. In our search for the quick fix in our relationships we especially do not want to admit that we are a very real part of the problem. This man at first felt his resentment was justified and he wanted to make it all about his wife and her need to change and recommit to the relationship. But it was not until he found his own space of humility and took accountability for his part in damaging the relationship, that they were able to move forward and connect once again.

The time I spent in my selfish frame of mind was so draining. I was finally able to take my accountability in the misunderstanding with my daughter-in-law and am grateful that she was willing to accept my apology.

I’ve heard that resentment and carrying a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I can verify from experience that it is true.

A few words from a popular song by John Mayer stand out to me: “Waiting on the World to Change.”

I feel I could wait forever, and maybe I would die waiting for others to change to suit me. I am finding that it’s me that continues to need the changing and refining.

And that is a liberating discovery!