There’s a saying that goes, ‘Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’ – and it couldn’t be truer for our intimate relationships.
When you hold a grudge against your partner, you keep the relationship stuck. It’s a silent protest that sends them a very clear message:
Holding on to this hurt is more important to me than our relationship.
Repair isn’t possible if one of you has no interest in moving forward. As the strain begins to wear on your relationship, the bond between you is slowly severed.
If one of you is feeling victimised, or powerless within the relationship, resentment quickly sets in. If left unchecked, with neither party willing to let go, forgive, or move forward, the resentment turns into self-righteous anger.
The more anger and bitterness that builds up between you, the more distance you’ll create. The distance only validates your resentment – and the cycle continues.
When we feel resentful towards our partner, our attention is focused outward and we blame them for how we’re feeling. Often there’s little or no accountability for our own behaviour or feelings.
But if we believe our partner has done something that has caused us hurt and pain, it is up to us to take responsibility for our own feelings first and foremost, and then decide how we’re going to deal with the situation.
Here are some ways you can check in with yourself, and your partner, and stop the cycle of resentment in its tracks.
Recognise the feelings
Often there are underlying (and unresolved) issues between a couple that have been slowly building up over a long. It’s important that you both acknowledge any issues you may have been avoiding, and recognise how each of you feels about the situation.
Sadness, frustration, rejection, betrayal and pain, are all feelings that often accompany resentment. Stop and think about what’s really going on. Once you’ve identified the issues in your relationship (either obvious or unspoken) talk it over with your partner. If talking about your issues has become a minefield, seek help to work through the issues with a professional.
Understand why you’re feeling this way
Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we’re feeling upset by something our partner is doing, but we don’t really understand why it’s upsetting us. A client recently told me she was annoyed with her husband because he refused to leave the outside light on for her when she came home from work late. That was the situation, but when we drilled down, we uncovered what was really going on. My client felt her husband didn’t appreciate the long hours she was putting in at work, and on top of that, she resented him for being home by 4pm. Ultimately, the situation had nothing to do with their relationship or her husband’s lack of appreciation for her, it was really about how unhappy she was in her role.
What’s the payoff for holding on so tight to resentment?
If you can’t let go of resentment towards your partner, the question needs to be asked, ‘what are you getting out of it?’ Or put another way, what’s the real reason you’re refusing to let go of pain or anger? Maybe it gives you a sense of power? Perhaps it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that you’ve been telling yourself about your life?
Whatever it is, you need to decide if holding onto that resentment is worth more to you than your relationship.
Whether you decide to stay in the relationship or leave, resentment is a heavy and toxic emotion that needs to be resolved. Holding on to the resentment can leave couples and individuals stuck and taint every aspect of their lives.
Discussing the situation with your partner, or seeking out a professional to help work through the issues, is the first step to healing the hurt.