Resentment is a highly toxic poison that will kill your relationship if you don’t find a way to release it. When you feel unfairly treated, you’ll become angry. When anger is mixed with a sense of betrayal, you’ll feel resentment.
How Resentment Builds
It’s easy to understand how resentment can occur in a relationship after an event like infidelity. Resentment can also grow over time when your partner is unresponsive to you. Being rejected over and over, ignored over and over, or criticized over and over – these actions break the trust you thought you had. They key trust in any relationship is: you won’t hurt me on purpose. You’ll have my back.
If you’re feeling resentful, you’re also hurt, angry and don’t trust your partner. Your brain will start working to solve the problem because it doesn’t want you to be alone. Unfortunately, no choice seems to lead to happiness. A part of you may want to leave the relationship because I don’t deserve to be treated this way and I can do better. Another part probably wants to kick them out so they will feel the hurt too. There’s likely a part of you probably doesn’t want to leave because of the commitment you made. Still, yet another part of you doesn’t want to act in a way that is retaliatory because that’s not who you are. You’re hurt and you’re stuck!
The Best Way to Release Resentment
The best way through resentment is to be able to express your hurt and upset-ness with your partner. This means they must be able to listen, be empathetic, own their part, feel bad for that part and hurt they contributed to (or caused) and make a commitment to change that will put the rules of love and security back in place. If they can do this, you’ll start to believe they care about how you feel. When you feel understood, when they can own their part, you can start to believe they won’t hurt you again.
This is a tricky part because if when you express your true thoughts and feelings they become defensive, dismissive, blaming or move into their own guilt and shame, you won’t leave the conversation feeling understood and therefore better. The ability to put one’s own feelings aside to be compassionate with the other and take ownership for one’s contribution are key attributes of a strong relationship. You’ll think, if they don’t understand, they might hurt me again. You won’t be able to let the resentment go.
If Your Partner Won’t Understand, What Can You Do?
If you must deal with it alone because your partner can’t or won’t be compassionate, one way to work on resentment is by setting boundaries. You may need to make changes to the rules of your relationship or even make structural changes to your routine. You’ll need to figure out what you need to feel better and then go to your partner and let them know what you need to be okay again. Perhaps you need to take over all the finances, or perhaps you need a night out for “me” time. Whatever it is, what do you need to put trust and fairness back in place? Then with follow through comes trust, one bite at a time.
You Can Choose
Another way to work through resentment on your own is through brute force. Choose to take your power back by choosing to own your choice. When you accept a situation because you choose to in some way, you can feel better about the situation because you’re not powerless.
Make a decision by finishing the sentence, “I choose to _______________. “ “I choose to stay in this relationship because I love my partner and want to make it work.” Now you are making an empowered choice. Own that choice and don’t blame your partner for your own choices.
Resentment has the toxic potential to unwind your relationship because it blocks partners from moving toward each other to repair deep hurts. Many couples who come into counseling find they waited too long. Don’t let this be you! If you or your partner is resentful and can’t work through it together or alone, find a good counselor to help.
Working through this can be hard, and it is critical to your relationship’s long-term health, happiness and security.
Marlon Familton, MA LMHC is a relationship counselor working to help couples navigate the choppy waters of love and romance.
Author of the book, “Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less!”
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue, Washington.Learn More