How to Keep Resentment from Ruining Your Relationship
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:
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. Once you feel like you’re not going to explode, prepare some phrases that will help you get your feelings out. 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.
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 everyday 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. Expressing to your spouse that you’re unhappy with a situation is the first step. Once you do tell your spouse that you’re feeling aggravated about the current setup and that you would like to share the responsibility, talk about what’s going to work for the 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.
When all you see is your side of things, it’s much easier to get riled up and angry every time you think of an issue that’s bothering you. To keep this from happening, try putting yourself in his shoes. See things from his perspective and be understanding. Getting up early to go to work isn’t always easy and maybe that’s why he has a hard time getting the baby in the middle of the night.
The more compassion and empathy you have for your spouse, the easier it will be to let the resentment subside and to talk things out in a loving and understanding manner. You’ll be surprised at how much your heart and attitude can soften if you truly put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. The next time you’re having a moment of irritation and anger, pause for a second and try to see things from his perspective. It might alleviate all the tension you’re feeling, but it will definitely help to bring your frustration down a few notches.
Realize that You’re Not Perfect Either
Take a good, long look at yourself and acknowledge that you have weaknesses too. Is it possible that you may be doing something that your spouse doesn’t like or is resentful about?
You need to take responsibility for your imperfections and for the role you might play in certain marital issues. Knowing that you wouldn’t want your spouse to rub your mistakes in your face will make you think twice about lashing out at your spouse for something he did or didn’t do.
Practice Being Vulnerable
One of the reasons it’s so hard to communicate your feelings of anger and bitterness in a moment when your spouse is doing something that’s really bugging you is that expressing means being vulnerable. Communicating your feelings means admitting you’re not perfect and that you need something from your spouse.
It can sometimes make you feel weak and helpless to admit unpleasant emotions, but the irony is that strength comes from being vulnerable. How? You’re admitting you need your spouse’s help, companionship, and teamwork. Once you ask for help, you’ll more than likely receive it, and when you have your spouse’s hands and heart alongside yours, you’re that much stronger.
It’s also important to note that regularly scheduling a meeting between you and your spouse is a key tool for preventing resentment from growing. Making time each day or week to sit down and talk will help you to consistently address the important issues currently happening in your relationship. Schedule this meeting on the same day and at the same time every week so that it becomes a permanent part of your life. It should become so second nature that if you didn’t do it, it would feel like not eating breakfast that day. Regularly communicating with your spouse about important issues is an integral part of thriving relationships.