6 ways to overcome resentment in relationships
Resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die. Filling ourselves with that poison leaves us slowly eroding away when a lot of the time the other does not even know that the erosion is occurring. The poison is made up of unforgiveness, distance and dissatisfaction, it does not go down well at all.
Resentment comes up a lot in relationships as there are natural conflicts, differences and pain points based on all of our previous history, experiences and beliefs we bring into the dynamic. Love and connection form the foundation of all healthy relationships, resentment, however, can erode that love and connection between partners which leads to intimacy issues and emotional distance. Love and connection in practice is soft, caring, gentle and compassionate, whereas resentment is rigid, blunt, shut off and passive. If a partner can verbalise that what is actually happening is that they are starting to feel hopeless when they can not get through to their significant other and what this feels like is very lonely and painful and that they are not there for them or understand them then this will be heard from a much softer emotional way.
This manifests itself through resentment which is a lingering feeling of anger, disappointment or bitterness that starts to arise from having those unmet, misunderstood and at times neglected needs. The issue is those underlying statements of not being heard or seen is not communicated as it comes out in other behaviours that are not loving or connected as that has been diminished over time. When we are unappreciated or taken for granted, it is not always going to be communicated with what that feels like, it’s likely going to come with defensiveness and protection methods that do not actually get the point across that I am lacking emotional presence with you. Taking the alternative path is vulnerable but as Brene Brown says “being vulnerability is the risk we have to take if we want to experience connection”
Resentment can look like:
- Unresolved conflicts: When conflicts are not properly addressed or when disagreements keep resurfacing without resolution, resentment can build up. Unexpressed frustrations and unmet needs can fester, leading to feelings of resentment.
- Communication breakdown: Poor communication is one of the major culprits behind resentment in relationships. Ineffective communication, such as constant criticism, defensiveness, or stonewalling, can create a toxic cycle that breeds resentment and distance.
- Imbalance in responsibilities: When there is an unfair distribution of responsibilities, whether it’s related to household chores, finances, or emotional support, one partner may start feeling resentful. This can lead to feelings of being taken for granted or undervalued.
- Unmet expectations: Unrealistic or uncommunicated expectations can become a breeding ground for resentment. If one partner feels that their needs and desires are not being met, resentment can take root.
How do we overcome the resentment and start to repair?
Underneath all the build-up of resentment is the reality that we want to know if our partner can begin to emotionally be there for us. Can they tune into what it is I have been feeling? Can they help me? This is what we need to drop into, which again means reconnecting to the love and want for love. To do this we need a few things.
- Acknowledgement: It is important not to diminish the resentful feelings as there are important feelings there, but rather than keeping score of the issues or stories that hold that resentment and airing them all out constantly, it’s figuring out, where we go from here to create a different path, where we can reignite the love and connection.
- Open and honest communication: Foster a safe and non-judgmental environment where both partners can express their feelings and concerns. Active listening and empathetic communication can help understand each other’s perspectives and address the underlying issues causing resentment. “I want you to see me”
- Cultivate empathy and understanding: Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and understand their experiences, needs, and limitations. Empathy fosters understanding and creates a supportive environment for resolving conflicts and overcoming resentment. “I can see where you are coming from that must feel…”
- Set realistic expectations and boundaries: Communicate your needs, expectations and boundaries clearly, and be open to compromise. Recognise that your partner is not solely responsible for fulfilling all your needs, and work together to establish realistic expectations that are fair to both parties. “When we get in these cycles, we both are unable to meet each other’s needs, can we agree that when x happens we pause and reflect to see what the emotion underneath our conflict is”
- Practice forgiveness: Holding onto grudges only deepens resentment. Practice forgiveness by letting go of past hurts and focusing on the present. This doesn’t mean forgetting or condoning the behaviour that caused the resentment but rather choosing to release the negative emotions associated with it. “I feel angry about some of these scenarios but they all come back to needing you to understand what happens to me when x happens”
- Seek professional help if needed: In some cases, resolving deep-seated resentment may require the guidance of a professional therapist. They can provide a neutral space for both partners to explore their feelings, improve communication skills, and develop strategies to rebuild trust and intimacy.
Resentment can slowly poison even the most loving relationships if left unattended. However, with patience, empathy, and open communication, couples can navigate through resentment and strengthen their bond. It is essential to address and resolve issues that give rise to resentment, as it paves the way for a healthier, more fulfilling relationship. Remember, nurturing love requires continuous effort, and overcoming resentment is a significant step towards building a strong and resilient partnership. “I’m helping myself when I choose to forgive. I’m happier and feel better physically when I’m not filled with the poison of unforgiveness.”
If you want to let go of resentment and gain greater insight into yourself and your relationships please reach out.