How To Overcome Resentment In a Relationship - How To Win a Man's Heart

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August 12, 2014

How To Overcome Resentment In a Relationship

# 1. Begin with inquiry without judgment and interest without contradiction or invalidation

Dr. Randi Gunther

Resentment is a far reaching symbolic word. Its definition can encompass anything from irritation to bitter rage. Though it can be expressed directly, it most often is not. Though it can be limited to one experience, it most often is not.

A better way to understand resentment is to pair it with entrapment. In a relationship that is authentic and open, both partners can express distress or discomfort with the other’s actions in the moment and look for ways to resolve their differences. If resolution is not an option, the partners shackled with those negative feelings will experience a growing sense of impotence. If, over time, they are not able to fix the situation or tolerate it anymore, they’re only option left is to leave the relationship. If they are too attached to their partners to disconnect, they will eventually feel a deep sense of resentment, the accumulation of unresolved grievances.

Long-term resentments beget martyrdom and bitterness. Those twin relationship destroyers triumph over love and hope. What may begin as a minor slight can mushroom into suppressed rage if repeated enough times. Like a volcano ready to erupt, those growing feelings of powerless frustration are then easily triggered by small, normally innocent challenges. What should be simply an expression of discontent becomes a rant of angry examples of past hurts, seemingly unrelated to the topic at hand.

Stacked up resentments can turn a normally generous partner into a spiteful, sarcastic, biting enemy. Once incubated, they are hard to let go of. Prevention is the key. Damage control will eventually be useless.

There are some common signs that hidden resentments are lurking. If intimate partners can be made aware of them in themselves and in their significant others early on, they are far easier to challenge and to heal.

  • Eye rolling
  • Terse, cryptic replies
  • Turning away quickly
  • Constant interrupting
  • Sarcasm
  • Nagging
  • Withdrawing into silence
  • Impatience
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Interrupting

When you or your partner begins to evidence these kinds of reactions, you can carefully and compassionately inquire as to what might be behind them. Sometimes those responses have nothing to do with the relationship but use the intimate connection as a place to express distress that doesn’t originate there. Don’t begin with taking those behaviors personally. Begin with inquiry without judgment and interest without contradiction or invalidation. Watch for interactive reactions that might set off competitive or combative resentments.

Remember that people bury feelings with negative emotions and those same negative emotions will arise as the resentments are brought to light. There has to be that clearing before resolution is possible. Once the process of identifying resentments is started, it is crucial that the partners do not give up until they have gotten to the bottom of what caused them. Resolution is the next step.

Dr. Randi Gunther –

# 2. Follow the guidelines below

Kristen Brown

Resentment in a relationship can be an intimacy killer and consequently cause massive rifts between partners. It is an absolute must that the core resentment issues are openly and clearly communicated about as soon as possible. To withhold communication is to start digging the relationship grave. Resentment can burrow deep and left untended long term can be very difficult to move past.

As with all relationships, you will only have control over your side of the equation. How you handle your side is the only power you have. Prior to a conversation, forge a plan of coming from and staying in your Highest place. When others are being “called out”, they can get defensive and angry which in turn can ignite the same fuse in us and take a healthy conversation downhill fast! Do not allow his ego/fear/pride to illicit dark behavior in you. It will serve no one.

What you can do:

a.) Have courage to share the core reason behind your resentment. Yes, it might “hurt” your partner, but until it’s out there, it cannot be healed and will only become more infected.

b.) Be OPEN to hearing his side. Listen for reasons that resonate as Truth in order to gain a new perspective while equally keep an ear out for excuses designed to deter you from his ownership.

c.) Be willing to own your piece of the equation (if there is one) and/or don’t allow yourself to be minimized or demeaned for your feelings.

d.) Through clean (no name calling, belittling or crazy emotional outbursts) communication work to find a solution or at least a compromise.

e.) Be willing to set a straight forward boundary and follow through with your actions if the behavior continues. Most often action will speak louder than words.

I believe there is no relationship issue that we cannot triumph over as long as both parties are working toward the common goal. However, relationships do take work and our only control ever is how we control ourselves. When our side is clear and clean, it clears out the fog for others to see their part.

Kristen Brown, Certified Empowerment Coach/Mentor –

# 3. Handle your resentments by being aware

Amy Sherman

All relationships have many components, which make them wonderful and fulfilling. But things don’t always go smoothly. You need to have awareness, flexibility, great communication skills and the ability to understand your partner’s perspective to make a relationship successful. Throw in the challenges of accidents, sickness, job stresses, miscommunication and differences of opinion and it’s easy to understand why so many couples wind up feeling resentful and disillusioned.

What can you do to prevent resentments from building and from sabotaging your present relationship or any new relationship opportunities that come your way?

By doing your inner work first, you become aware of your relationship baggage. Are you harboring guilt about a past mistake, or holding on to some unfinished business that needs further discussion? These are the things you want to take care of so you can pave the way for a healthier, more fulfilling relationship ahead. If you don’t handle the issues that affect you, your choices, behaviors, thoughts and actions will likely be inappropriate, creating a toxic, maybe even an abusive environment in the home.

How do you know you are harboring resentments that need to be cleared and cleaned up? You experience strong negative feelings that are expressed subtly or even aggressively towards your partner and unless you face what your feelings are, you will be living with the insecurity and anxiety of an unstable relationship.

You can’t fix what you don’t first acknowledge. So, seek help from a therapist, relationship coach, therapy-group, clergy, workshops, CDs, books and the myriad of other resources available on the interest to give you some guidance and direction on the steps you can take to improve things. With awareness you can face your fears and enhance your relationship. You’ll be glad you did!

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC –

# 4. What you really want to learn how to do is to present him with your dilemma in such a way that he does not become reactive and defensive

Ruth Gordon

So, you’re in a relationship that, maybe, is going pretty well. The problem is that there have been times, since you’ve been together, when you have found his behavior to be hurtful or anxiety provoking. You don’t want to upset the balance, but, resentment is starting to build. You’ve waited too long trying to figure out what to do, and you don’t want him to be taken aback.

Screeeeech to a halt right there! Why is it okay for you to be unhappy and keep silent? Are you caught up in the fantasy that you must please him at all turns in order to keep him by your side? Please wake up, you are standing on a rock of jello and you’re sinking fast.

What you really want to learn how to do is to present him with your dilemma in such a way that he does not become reactive and defensive. If he does become oppositional, you must immediately say something along the lines of, “Listen, I need your help with this. Please stop being upset and help me figure this out”. You want him to join you, not fight you.

Having observed couples for many years I can say, with confidence, that if your man really cares for you, he will, not only accept your little “eccentricities”, he will, in all likelihood, bend over backwards to rationalize the attitudes and behaviors that differ from his.

I hope you really don’t think that you can spend the rest of your life keeping your hurt feelings to yourself. The sooner you can identify what’s troubling you, the better. Say it (without guilt) plainly and calmly now or wait for the explosion later. If his feelings are genuine, he also has a stake in making this relationship work. If you don’t speak up with the hope that he’ll “just change”, good luck. I don’t think you’re going to find that that approach works very well.

Hold on to your own sense of what is acceptable and what is not. What you want to remember is that you want to be happy, not shackled. Never lose sight of your goal, which I hope, is a mutual, respectful and loving connection.

Ruth Gordon, M.A., MSW, LICSW –

# 5. Forgive and forge forward

Amanda Patterson

The way through resentment in a relationship is through forgiveness. I’m reminded of the serenity prayer when I think of past hurts in a relationship. “God granted me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”. Resentments in the past cannot be changed. They can be processed and forgiven, but never changed. It’s a good place to adopt the serenity prayer and realize that accepting and forgiving are the way out of resentment.

So, how do you forgive someone? Write it all down and get it off of your chest. If this is a resentment you’ve shared with your significant other and it hasn’t gotten any better and you still have it stored in you, then it needs to go down on paper. Write it all out and sit in those emotions. If sadness comes up, then go to sadness and let the tears flow. If anger comes up, find a release for your anger. Write it all out until you’ve exhausted every word, feeling and story related to the resentment.

Then it’s on to forgiving. You have to make a conscious decision to forgive and then live in that forgiveness every day. Let them know you are forgiving them. Sit your significant other down and tell them about your path of forgiveness and let them know what your commitment to forgiveness will look like in your relationship. An activity you can do is what’s called “70 times 7”. For seven days, write down 70 times that you forgive that person. It would look like this: “I, Suzy, forgive you Bob for not communicating your needs”. When you run out of things to write you simply write “I forgive you for everything”. This is a very therapeutic exercise that can bring closure to you in situations where you were previously unable to forgive.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC –

# 6. First recognize where the resentment is stemming from

Haley Gage

Yuck, resentment. That’s not a word you want to describe you or your partner in a relationship. Not to mention, those are pretty intense feelings to have towards someone you are intimately involved with. Do you feel locked into a relationship you don’t want to
be in? Or do you feel like you’re in it because that was the best option at the time and now you don’t know how to get out? And is the resentment something you can work through or not? All million dollar questions and ones you want to take a close look at and figure out where to go from here.

First, what is the resentment stemming from? Was someone unfaithful? Or one thing led to another and now you have a child together and getting married was better than raising a child alone? Is there an addiction? Is there abuse? Or, you’re just not certain, you just really resent this person right now? Pin down whatever this reason is. If it is a case of your safety, find a way out immediately. Talk to someone. If it’s not a question of safety, why is this causing you so much anger towards your partner? And remember, this is in your control, only you can change the current state of things. Holding onto resentment will not only affect your relationship with this person, but everyone else as well because resentment is that powerful.

Is the resentment something you have communicated at all or is it silent resentment? Talk about it. Nothing will be resolved as long as no one is working towards a resolution. Or maybe it is something you both acknowledge but don’t talk about it. That’s a poison and will only grow stronger.

Can you and do you want to work through this? If you do want to work through it, I suggest professional help because it will only get worse and resentment is so strong it can tear you down. If you aren’t willing to work through it, do something about it. There is no sense in living this way because it is stealing your well being. Make a change because this is your life and you control how you handle it.

Haley Gage, M.A., LAPC –

# 7. Don’t allow anyone to trespass your own boundaries

Elizabeth Baum

Ugh, resentment. I know for myself, deep resentment can seem all-encompassing and intractable, and it often looks impossible to find a way out. A teacher of mine years ago said something along the lines of: “Resentment is the degree to which we allow someone else to trespass our own boundaries.” It may not be exactly what I want to hear when I feel that I have been wronged, but it is definitely the most empowering insight I have for coming out the other end.

The degree to which we allow someone else to trespass our own boundaries. This means that somewhere along the line, I wasn’t being vigilant enough. I wasn’t being a strong steward of my own needs. I feel taken advantage of because I somehow didn’t protect my boundaries firmly enough. Yes, a line was crossed. True, it may not have been considerate, honorable or even fair. Still, there may have been something that I could have done to prevent this internal festering cesspool of awfulness. In fact, recognizing it, there is something that I can do.

What did I need that I didn’t get? What sacred ground needed more protection than I provided? In order to repair, I first need to be in a place where I am willing to forgive. As long as I hold my partner liable for all wrongdoing, my hands are tied. I leave myself with no options (except to opt out), and give all of the power to him. However, if I can articulate what it is that I didn’t get and wanted or needed, and share that with my partner, I’m two steps closer towards my own healing. Being able to have the conversation where the boundary is identified and named, how it was crossed, and what was needed in that moment automatically reduces resentment’s future holdings dramatically.

Elizabeth Baum, M.A., MFTi –

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