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How to Get Over Resentment in a Relationship.
Resentment in a relationship is like an invisible wall or a cancer that starts off small and then spreads!
If you’ve lived any length of time on this confusing and conflicted planet, you know that people hurt each other.
We all make mistakes or selfishly cause harm.
Even starry-eyed lovers or marriage partners, who have committed their lives to one another, mess up sometimes.
Sometimes, these mess ups are allowed to linger for a long time without getting settled.
The affection you once had gets replaced by resentment.
Negative reoccurring thoughts can linger for a very long time.
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Overcoming resentment in a relationship can be hard, but it is possible.
The relationship can improve and get better when hearts are willing to change.
That’s why it’s critical to pay attention to learning about overcoming resentment.
You must take time to discover ways to overcome resentment towards your partner.
What in the world is resentment?
What causes resentment in a relationship?
Yourdictionary.com defines resentment as “A feeling of anger or displeasure stemming from the belief that one has been wronged by others or betrayed; indignation.”
Resentment is a negative emotional reaction to some perceived negative behavior.
It is one of the most common challenges many couples face.
“Resentment is like drinking poison, and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Nelson Mandela
When someone we love and trust has hurt us deeply or injured us, we often hold onto those wrongs.
When those issues are not resolved, they can lead to resentment in a relationship.
Resentment often occurs in couples when one or both of them feel hurt or offended by the other, and presume their actions were deliberate.
Acknowledging that what the person did was not appropriate, we feel we must vindicate ourselves and provide justice and resolution.
Unmet expectations often cause resentment.
Resentment can also be triggered when a partner perceives their voices are not being heard, or when one party wants to be right all the time, or when one feels unappreciated.
Repeated instances of the same negative behavior often compound the feeling of resentment in a relationship.
She hoped he would give her flowers, but he just gave her a card.
He hoped she would help hand him tools while he worked on the car, but she stayed inside.
She wished he would listen with deep understanding and kindness, but instead he said, “What’s the big deal?”
When our expectations and real life clash, resentment often forms.
Resentment often feels deeply justified.
Resentment is a choice. While you cannot control what others say or do, you can control how you react to it.
While we admit we should avoid lashing out in harmful anger, hurtful words, and hateful explosions, we feel that there is nothing wrong with resentment.
We may feel very justified about our lingering disappointment in the way someone treated us.
This results in reoccurring negative feelings. The relationship slowly becomes distant and stale.
Couples begin to talk less and avoid each other. Any brief encounter turns into an argument.
In this article, we are going to tell you some ways to overcome resentment and past hurts, so you can be free to love again.
We wouldn’t say we are “angry,” rather we simply say “upset,” “irritated,” “dissatisfied,” or “discontent.”
However, while these subtle forms of anger may be less harmful to others, they are every bit as harmful to ourselves.
David Powlison, in his book, Good and Angry, puts it this way: “Quiet brooding, defensive withdrawal, judgmental thoughts, low-grade irritability, a critical attitude, avoiding outright conflict, indifference to reparable wrongs—these are just my less dramatic brands of an anger problem.”
When you resent someone, you hold onto that person’s hurtful actions and refuse to let go.
In your mind, you carry that person around with you everywhere you go.
You never really forget what they did to you.
It’s always in the back of your mind.
It’s like they’re with you constantly.
This negative presence haunts you, follows you around, hinders your creativity and sucks the life out of you.
Because of the associated negative emotions, it’s critically important to find out how to release resentment.
So how do you go about addressing the issue?
How do you save your relationship?
Is your relationship worth fighting for?
The following steps will help you dig a little deeper and find the causes of your resentment.
It will also suggest some steps you can utilize to initiate the healing process in your relationship with your partner.
#1 step on how to overcome resentment in a relationship is to Vulnerably Express What Matters to You
Being honest, transparent and open with your partner about the core or root of your anger and resentment are the first steps.
We can never overemphasize the importance of communication in any relationship.
David Powlison explains, “Whether the tremor [of anger and resentment] is mild or fierce on the emotional Richter scale, the common denominator operates inside.
The degree to which something matters to you, and the degree to which it cuts you to the quick, will intensify or diminish your emotional fire.”
In other words, the more something matters to us, the angrier we will be when something is not right in that area.
For example, people who care a lot about a certain team or a certain political party become angry when their team does not win.
A mother who cares a lot about her child’s success may become angry when the child does not work hard on homework.
Or when a teacher does not recognize his or her potential.
If a relationship matters to you deeply, you will be more likely to become angry and resentful when the other person hurts you or does not appreciate you.
In fact, anger and resentment are good clues as to how important that person is to you.
Like a temperature gauge, your anger shows you what matters to you.
If you didn’t care, you probably wouldn’t be angry!
Express to your partner, “You matter to me so much. That’s why I feel angry and resentful that we couldn’t spend special time together last week.”
Say, “I care about hearing your feelings. I resent the fact that you don’t talk to me more.”
Your relationship is worth fighting for.
The Bible says in Ephesians 4:31 that we should “Put away from yourselves every kind of malicious bitterness.”
#2. Face Shame and Contempt Head On
An important key to releasing resentment in a relationship is dealing with shame.
Shame is the fear of disconnection and abandonment that stems from our belief about who we are as a person.
This painful feeling of abandonment and disconnection is terrifying to partners.
Shame causes us to feel hurt by the actions that were truly not intended to hurt us.
Because we feel shame about our neediness and our vulnerability, we avoid bringing up these painful situations to our partners.
We don’t feel like we can voice our own needs, wants, and desires.
It feels too scary to voice our hurt.
Instead, a deep resentment begins to build.
Talking honestly to your partner and other safe people, and reading books on shame, like ‘Soul of Shame’ by Curt Thompson, can be important keys to eliminating and releasing resentment in marriage.
Also, talk to your doctor if you feel your resentment is getting out of hand. They may refer you to a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, or a relationship counselor.
#3. Understand Gridlocked Conflicts
The Gottman Institute has come to a startling conclusion that some conflicts are impossible to resolve.
They don’t mean we should pessimistically despair when we have conflicts.
Rather, they urge couples to recognize the difference between solvable conflicts and perpetual problems.
Solvable problems are simple logistical challenges or differences of opinion that can be fixed by discussing them.
Unsolvable problems, however, are clashes between personalities or values that will come up over and over again and will never truly go away.
Some couples work endlessly to try to solve these problems, running themselves into corners, becoming defensive, being angry, or shutting down completely.
These perpetual problems are a common source of building resentment.
After attempting for a time to solve problems, couples become resentful and lose hope.
Instead, Gottman suggests approaching these issues and topics with continuing dialogue.
He recommends “humor, affection, and even amusement, to actively cope with the unresolvable problem, rather than allowing it to fall into the condition of gridlock.”
Being honest about unsolvable problems can help you not to waste time and energy worrying about things that cannot be changed.
Gottman urges you not to waste mental energy with resentment, stress, and anger.
Let these things go, stop mulling over them, have a curious and humorous approach, and continue talking.
At the same time, recognizing that you don’t need to continue fighting about these personality differences that will probably never go away completely.
Recognize and accept that these differences are a part of who your partner is.
Understanding your spouse’s love language could be the first step towards making things better.
#4. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
As you learn how to release resentment in marriage, don’t keep your insights to yourself.
You have discovered how to overcome shame in your own life.
You also know how to release hurt and confusion.
Similarly, you know how to laugh affectionately over perpetual problems.
Don’t forget to bring your partner into the discussion.
Share what you have learned.
Be vulnerable in terms of your own shame, your own feelings, your weaknesses and your personality differences.
If you have been hurt by your partner, express that hurt to him or her as openly and simply as you can–with words.
David Powlison asks of partners, “Why can’t they talk over the miscommunication and disappointment in a constructive way?
Why don’t they communicate their desires and hurt without adding large doses of hostility and self-righteousness?”
The reason is that we are afraid.
We don’t know how our partner will receive our honest admission of our shame and the true hurt our partner’s actions have caused us.
Despite the fear that vulnerability engenders, it is worth the risk.
Vulnerability tends to breed vulnerability.
As you share with your partner, you may find that he or she gains a softer heart, more open to your needs and is more willing to share his or her own needs.
Talk to your partner. Also listen to your partner.
Empathetic listening promotes positive communication.
As you do so, you may discover that the things that you perceived to be so hurtful, the very things that you harbor so much resentment, were not intended to cause harm.
You may begin to see your partner in a different light, understanding the vulnerabilities of your spouse that caused him or her to act the way they did.
As you grasp the fact that your partner did not mean to hurt you, your heart will soften and the resentment will start to melt away.
#5. Perform a Ceremony of Letting Go of Resentment
Sometimes we simply can’t work through every single hurt.
No matter how much we talk, discuss, understand, or contemplate, those conflicts may never be completely solved.
It becomes humanly impossible, but God possible. He promises never to leave or forsake us.
When we turn to our Lord genuinely and seek for help, He hears us, and He responds in a supernatural way.
You may never completely understand what happened within a certain conflict.
Your partner also may not completely understand your view, no matter how hard he or she tries.
During those times, it’s important to forgive, let go, and move on.
Try to practice deep empathy and forgiveness without reservations.
An important step of releasing resentment in a relationship is finding tangible ways to express your forgiveness.
Colossians 3:13 says, “make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Instead of demanding perfection in our relationships, we need to be more patient in accommodating each other’s oddities and quirks.
We are reminded many times in the Bible that God had forgiven us.
Our sins are gone when we confess them and receive The Lord as our savior.
In the same way, we are instructed to forgive others.
People could let go of their fear, shame, and guilt, because their sins had been carried far away.
In the same way, we can perform ceremonies to represent letting go of resentment, hurt, self-deprecation, pain, and anger.
Harriet Hill suggests writing pains, hurts, and bad memories on slips of paper and taking them to the foot of a wooden cross, representing Jesus’ death for our sins.
After you write the source of your anger and resentment on slips of paper, and leave them at the foot of the cross, burn the papers.
Or, nail it to the cross and leave it there!
Jesus not only died for our sins, but He also carried our pain and shame.
We can take our pain, resentment, anger, shame, and hurt to Him.
Even though it takes a while to stop hurting, we can release our resentment and forgive those who have hurt us.
Between yourself and God, share a time of letting go of the hurt.
Releasing resentment in a relationship is a gradual process.
As you work patiently over time to learn how to release resentment in your marriage or relationship, you will discover you experience more freedom daily.
Pray for God’s wisdom and intervention as you practice these steps, understanding that He has the power to change anyone and any situation.
You can respond to anger and resentment with patience and peace that comes from the Prince of Peace.
Which of these ways to overcoming resentment resonated with you the most deeply?
Will you take time today to journal about one or more of these points?