How to Overcome Resentment in your Relationship

Ryan Ginn Relationships

And develop a mature relationship with pain so it doesn’t affect your relationships. 

In life, we are always challenged. Pain and suffering at one point or another is unavoidable—including in our intimate partnerships. So how do we ensure we develop an effective, mature relationship with pain that doesn’t affect our relationships over the long run? 

Resentment develops in relationships because one person is not getting a need met, or has felt hurt by the words, actions, or lack of actions of the other, and there’s been no effective repair. When feeling resentment, a partner does things like:

  • Imbue the others actions with intentions (“HE was late just to spite me”)
  • Seeing the other as deficient (“She doesn’t have the ability to understand me”)
  • Replay hurtful events with them as the victim. They let their mind play out cartoonish scenes of the other lording over them or snickering at them with a devilish grin.  

“It’s worse to feel chronically unsafe, hurt and resentful in a relationship than it is to be in no relationship at all.” 

The Impact of Resentment on Partnerships

When there’s been hurt without repair, resentment follows. Your partner can inevitably feel your restment, and it’s threatening to them. You’re either pulling away or you’re shutting down, or you’re going at them with anger—whatever it is, it’s experienced as a threat. Resentment undermines a sense of safety and intimacy in the relationship and if left to brew indefinitely, the relationship becomes void of intimacy, safety, goodwill and generosity—in essence, it becomes the anti-relationship, and at that point, it will be healthier for you to not be in it. To avoid that from happening, here’s three steps to overcome resentment in your relationship. 

Step 1—The Reality Check. 

The first step is to check if you’re making up a story unnecessarily. We all have parts in our psyche that make up shit about the other person. In fact, our brain makes up stories automatically to make sense of our reality. If we’re frustrated and overwhelmed to begin with, we’re going to automatically project that frustration and blame onto them for not attenuating that stress and overwhelm. That doesn’t make you a bad person, that’s just human. The trick is to check the story! Tease out where you’re making inaccurate assumptions or projecting false intentionality. People are usually just being themselves and doing their best, and more often or not, they don’t mean to do anything to harm or hurt you. If you realize there is some projecting happening, ask yourself if you can deal with it on your own.  See if you can’t shift the lens of your perception so that you can see the other as well intentioned bumbling human just like yourself.

Step 2—Name It. 

If it seems like they are doing something that you feel it would be helpful to address, bring it up with them constructively. Say, “do you have a moment, I’d like to bring up something that happened.” Then use the right language, “when you did x, I felt x.” For example, when you put sugar in the dish, I felt hurt and left out and made up a story that you don’t care about me or my health.  Or when you don’t help get the kids out the door in the morning, and instead focus on your phone and texting, I feel angry because I want more support.*

*If it’s a big issue, make sure you take the time to really dive into it. Create the space to be heard in your dominant feelings and have your partner reflect back what’s going on for you. The end goal of this is to feel seen and validated and connected to your partner. 

Step 3—Make a Specific Request.

Once you’ve named it, ask your partner for suggestions on what you both can do about it. Ask them if there is something they can offer in the moment to help, while also acknowledging the things they already are doing. Be prepared for your partner’s defensiveness, and ensure you tell them you see how much they are doing. When you make the request, make sure it’s specific.  

Step 4—Hold them Compassionately Accountable. 

Behavior change does not happen overnight. Stop expecting your needs to be met without holding your partner compassionately accountable. It doesn’t work to scoff, nag or blame when they don’t get it right, because even if the thing seems simple, sometimes your partner needs help diving into why it’s not working for them. but if the behavior change never happens, then say something along the lines of, “I’m at a loss and I don’t quite know how to support you to do x.” If still nothing changes, there’s a problem.

Making The Implicit Explicit 

The best way to avoid resentment in the first place is by making your needs explicit. Most partnerships come with the assumption that each person has the same needs as the other and it can upset us when they don’t. Take the time to speak about your expectations and needs in the relationship openly and honestly with your partner. Understanding the priorities and values from each person will only strengthen the relationship and help prevent potential future miscommunications and disagreements.

Got questions or want support in implementing this in your relationship? Book a free call here.