None of us like resentment, yet we’re all familiar with it. It is a feeling that has this way of creeping up on us, sometimes when we least expect it!
Any couple who has been together for a significant period of time has surely come face to face with resentment at some point. It is normal for people who spend a lot of time together to become resentful about SOMETHING. Resentment arises out of long-term issues, everyday conflicts, and sometimes just situations that are unavoidable.
In a common (though admittedly extreme) example, it is not unusual for feelings of resentment to come up after the birth of a baby for a heterosexual couple. In this situation, the mother obviously is the only one who can nurse the baby, leaving her with a burden that cannot really be shared by the father. She may become resentful of this burden, which can come out as irritability and criticism (especially when exhaustion plays a role) toward her partner. This in turn can lead the father to become resentful, not only because he is being criticized for something he CAN’T do, but also because he may be envious of this unique experience she has with the baby. If the couple is not able to communicate openly about these circumstances and this resentment, these feelings can lead to relationship damage: hurt feelings, increased conflict, lack of communication, and decreased trust. But it of course doesn’t take the birth of a child to bring out resentment: sex, money, in-laws, friends, or even the DISHES can bring up these damaging feelings!
So if we all experience resentment – and sometimes it comes up even when we can’t help it – what are we supposed to do about it? Especially if it leads to so many relationship problems and, if not dealt with, can eventually doom a relationship????????
There are 4 main steps involved in handling resentment effectively, especially in a close relationship:
- Acknowledge your own feelings of resentment, even if they don’t logically make sense
- Accept that feeling resentment is normal
Resentment is a feeling and therefore is not necessarily bad – it’s only how you deal with it that can make it damaging.
- Communicate your feelings without judgment or criticism
This step is especially tricky as you need to communicate in such a way that your partner can listen to you without becoming defensive – in essence, this involves you giving your partner the benefit of the doubt for whatever you believe he/she has done wrong.
- Let your resentment go!
This step again can be a difficult one, especially if your communication about your feelings did not go well. If this was the case, return to step 3 and try again.
Resentment is a common issue that people focus on in therapy and couples counseling. For further support working through resentment or other relationship issues please schedule an appointment with a Salt Lake Relationship Center counselor today. You can also contact us with any other questions. We look forward to speaking with you!