Resentment tends to arise in marriage when one spouse is either knowingly or unknowingly taking advantage of the other–or taking the other for granted. Habitual poor behaviors or unhealthy patterns feed resentment. Some common issues that cause resentment between spouses include:
- Habitual selfish behaviors
- Being “married” to a job
- Favoring one of your children over the other(s)
- Spending too much time with one side of the family
- Not being fully present at home or with the kids
- Expecting too much out of your spouse (or vice versa)
- Not carrying your weight at home or stepping up to responsibility
- Failing to celebrate your spouse on holidays or special occasions
Today, we’re sharing a few tips for how to tackle and deal with feelings of resentment–whether it’s resentment toward your spouse, or your spouse’s resentment toward you.
IF YOU RESENT YOUR SPOUSE…
If you’re resentful of your spouse, chances are, you’ve been holding in some unpleasant feelings for a long time. The issue could be as simple as your spouse neglecting to take out the trash every day; on the other hand, it could be a more complicated issue like him or her spending all their free time with your in-laws.
First, write down everything you’re feeling. Writing can help you gain clarity in an upsetting situation, and it can help you drill down and pinpoint what’s going on inside you that’s causing you to feel such intense resentment. Most likely, you’re feeling the pile-on of many events over a long period of time–maybe even over the span of your entire marriage.
Through your writing, do some serious self-reflection to become more aware of the root of the problem. Is it something that happened in the past that you’ve been carrying around all these years? Is it a theme or pattern that has never resolved itself?
Next, explore whether there’s some positive perspective you can take from what you’re dealing with. Are you holding onto unrealistic expectations you can lower or let go of? Is there an alternative viewpoint you can take once you’ve pinpointed the source of your resentment? We know that while there are situations that don’t warrant simply taking a positive point of view, asking that question of yourself can be helpful as you move toward a solution. Remember, though, that positive perspective doesn’t give your spouse license to continue in their unhealthy patterns. You’ll still need to address the issue head-on.
The most difficult step in this process is approaching your spouse with the problem. Keep in mind that right now, your spouse isn’t feeling any pain. Whatever behaviors or patterns are creating this resentment in you, as long as they’re allowed to continue, you’ll be the one feeling all the pain. And nothing is going to change until you let your spouse know how you feel.
There are multiple ways to go about solving a resentment issue. You may be able to offer your spouse a positive solution or compromise that works for you both; for example, if your spouse wants to use vacation time to spend with his family, ask that he reserve a portion of that time for you. You might choose to set boundaries instead; for example, if your spouse is a workaholic, ask her not to answer the phone during dinner or date nights.
It’s important to note that you won’t experience a truly positive change if you make unreasonable demands. Can you meet in the middle to make things work more smoothly? Think about small adjustments your spouse can make to his or her habits that would make a big difference in your life.
IF YOUR SPOUSE RESENTS YOU…
When your spouse feels resentment toward you, you might not notice it in the beginning. But sooner or later, it’s going to become noticeable…and uncomfortable. While it’s easy to blame your spouse’s shifting attitude on them, what you may be perceiving could actually be a building resentment toward a habit or behavior you’re displaying.
If you think your spouse might resent you for some reason, try to dig deep as to why. You might not be able to pinpoint it right away–or even on your own. Sometimes it takes another perspective to be able to see your own flaws.
Approach your spouse with vulnerability and care, and ask them if there’s something you’re doing that is bothering them or if you’ve done something hurtful. It may be difficult for you to hear their answer, but be receptive to their answers. Don’t let yourself become defensive. Instead, listen to what your spouse has to say and echo it back to show your understanding.
Once you know what’s triggering your spouse’s resentment toward you, it’s time to act. Because you’re taking on an emotional burden your spouse has been carrying for a long time, it’s going to be painful. Change is difficult, but we promise you the results will be worth the effort.
This post was written by Drs Les & Leslie Parrott. You can find their site here: www.lesandleslie.com