What can you do if resentment is ruining your relationship?
Resentment is a difficult thing to tackle because it shows itself in many guises. There is a sense of being controlled by your partner by their action or inaction. It can lead to feelings of anger and frustration. Resentment builds over time as nothing seems to change in the relationship and your partner seems to ignore, or refuse to acknowledge, the difficulty. You may find yourself being more critical of your partner and less able to communicate about the real problems, bottling them up and further feeding the resentment. Slowly you realise that you are finding flaws. Perhaps you have lost intimacy, or you may even feel you don’t know them well, or they you. You may wonder if you can recover from this state of affairs.
What action can you take?
A big part of what is lost in resentment is being able to be vulnerable with each other so there is a certain leap of faith in the solution. Speaking up when something is not right, saying when something is not what you expect and saying it as near to the time that it happens prevents resentment building. It introduces a space for you and your partner to recognise the difference, talk about it and acknowledge the differences and move forward with a shared solution.
There is an element of being responsible for our own feelings of acknowledging our feelings. Perhaps we don’t like some aspect of what is going on in our partner’s life or their behaviour. Be clear what it is that you don’t like is it something you think they are doing wrong, is it something that makes you feel uncomfortable, is it something that makes you question one of your own prejudices. Just ignoring the feelings won’t make them any less or go away; they are more likely to form the foundations of resentment.
It’s worth noticing that people don’t always get it right and perhaps your partner isn’t aware of that annoying habit, so need you to help them out. Yet even with that in a relationship it’s unrealistic to expect behaviours that please you both all the time so focus on the important things.
One of the tools that defuse resentment in relationships better than any other is when the partners allow themselves to say no. Where in the past they have had to be dragged along to events or days out where they have said “Yes” but meant “No” (in the hope their partner will pick it up telepathically) they feel controlled and bitter. They are martyred and often feel resentful. Saying no prevents the whole performance, offers one partner the opportunity to fly solo and resentment is prevented.
The key to tackling resentment in any relationship is to be honest in communicating with you partner about how you feel. For both of you to recognise that it is okay to make mistakes in the relationship as long as there is an opportunity if needed to talk about them. Having empathy for your partner will often help you to acknowledge that the actions and behaviour did not come from an evil or Machiavellian personality, but rather someone you care for. So talk out your frustrations don’t ferment resentment.
If you need extra support opening up to your partner, seeing a counsellor can be beneficial.
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.