Resentment is a natural response to perceived unfairness, which can strain relationships if not addressed. To deal with resentment towards your partner: understand its root causes, focus on your needs, practice gratitude, and communicate openly about differences. Acknowledge the emotion and consider seeking professional help if needed. Taking action to create a more balanced and harmonious relationship is key to overcoming resentment.
How To Deal With Resentment Towards Your Partner
Dealing with resentment towards your partner is a common challenge that many couples face, particularly after becoming parents. Although resentment can be detrimental to a relationship, it’s important to recognise that it’s a natural response when we perceive unfairness.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the various aspects of resentment, and provide strategies on how to address and overcome it. By understanding the root causes of resentment and employing effective communication techniques, you can create a healthier, happier relationship with your partner.
The Poison of Resentment: Recognising and Understanding the Emotion
You’ve probably heard the famous line (attributed variously) that “resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”.
I understand why this idea has taken hold. Because if you wallow in resentment, only seethe or rant, without doing anything about it, it is going to taste like poison, and do nothing but harm.
Resentment is a feeling like any other, and feelings are messengers about needs.
Resentment is the feeling of bitter indignation that we experience when things feel unfair.
It’s natural to feel angry or annoyed when things don’t feel fair.
In fact, the physical sensations in our bodies that we recognise as resentment are how we know that something isn’t right.
They’re how we know that something needs to change.
So next time you feel resentful, don’t judge the emotion.
As yourself this: what do I need?
Addressing Your Needs: Shifting Focus and Practicing Gratitude
When we’re feeling resentful, we feel like someone else is getting a better deal than us.
So what do you need, to redress the balance?
Often one or both partners get stuck, thinking “it’s alright for you”, focusing on what their partner is or isn’t doing or getting.
When you shift the focus to what YOU want and need – and practice gratitude for what you have – everything looks different.
Think about this: if you were getting what you needed and wanted, would you feel resentful of your partner getting what they need and want?
Every one of us is responsible for our own happiness.
Of course, there are limits on time, money etc. so we can’t always all get what we want, at least not at the same time.
The causes of resentment can’t always be fixed overnight.
But thinking of resentment as poison won’t help you; feeling the emotion and acknowledging what it’s telling you will.
Then you can work out what you need to relieve it. (My free 7-step action plan out of resentment can help with that.)
Differences and Disagreements: Do They Fuel Resentment?
“If I were to air how I feel… the worst thing that could happen would be to bring my ‘war’ out into the open where it could be waged more intelligently. And we might even come to a better understanding…” – Perls, Hefferline & Goodman
Sometimes resentment builds up in relationships when we don’t know how to deal with mismatches in our opinions or attitudes.
Ideally, both partners would feel free to say what they think and feel. But when you’re not confident that you’ll be able to either reach a place of genuine agreement or agree to disagree, this can feel hard.
Do you or your partner ever sulk, withdraw, get offended, pretend to agree just to keep the peace, or brush issues under the carpet?
Being two different people in one relationship can be hard sometimes!
You might worry about the differences between you, ask for lots of reassurance that you’re okay, or even try to mould yourself to fit what you think your partner wants from you.
Learning To Face Our Differences For A Healthier Relationship
The trouble with avoiding disagreements is that they’re actually good for us! As long as we air them in ways which respect each other’s opinions, desires, and responsibilities, differences in our points of view keep a relationship alive, and both partners growing.
Strong feelings of either – or both – guilt and resentment can be a sign that you’re struggling with differences bewteen you and your partner internally, instead of getting them out in the open.
Resentment creeps in when we’re not being fully open with each other about our wants and needs.
It happens when we’re afraid to let each other see our whole selves, with our whole range of desires (including ones which are inconvenient to our partners).
You’re two different people, so of course you have differences, and they’re going to present challenges.
Do you want to know how to deal with resentment towards your partner? Tell them how you feel, and what you want and need.
Ask them how they feel and what they want and need, with the same openness to hearing about it and taking it seriously that you want from them.
To be truly close, we have to be authentic and open, including to our differences.
If you struggle with this, talking with a counsellor can help.
The Dangers Of Being Agreeable
“Resentment. It’s the consequence of our own agreeableness, anger stuck in a loop. It’s the hatred we suppress when we are forbidden to give voice to the ways we are hurt or humiliated or frustrated.” – Tiffany Watt Smith
Tiffany Watt Smith goes on to describe resentment as “an emotion which ‘seethes’ and is ‘buried’. And is harboured by lurkers and keyhole-listeners, who aren’t brave enough to show their true feelings, but take a perverse sort of pleasure in feeling hard-done-by, by not wanting to tell others what the problem is lest it be resolved.”
Oof. That hits hard, doesn’t it?
It feels at risk of blaming or shaming to me, but worth taking on board and thinking through.
Are you brave enough to show your true feelings in your relationship?
What might hold you back?
The parents I work with don’t seem to take much pleasure in feeling hard-done-by.
I see them struggling to understand what exactly the problems are.
Battling to explain them to each other.
Making efforts to resolve them, then getting frustrated when things slip back.
Suppressing Resentment & Staying Stuck
Tiffany Watt Smith goes on to tell us how Nietzsche described resentment as “an emotion obsessed with compensation rather than action”.
That reminded me of Perls, Hefferline and Goodman saying that;
“Guilt is the self-punitive, vindictive attitude toward oneself when one assumes responsibility… resentment is the demand that the other person feel guilty.”
How does that sit with you?
Do you want your partner to feel guilty?
Or do you want action?
The question is: what keeps you agreeable?
What stops you from giving voice to the ways in which you feel hurt or humiliated or frustrated?
If you want to know how to deal with resentment towards your partner, the answer might be on the other side of those questions.
How To Deal With Resentment Towards Your Partner: Strategies For A Healthier Relationship
In conclusion, resentment is a complex emotion that can strain a relationship if not addressed properly. By understanding its causes and recognising the importance of open communication, you can work towards overcoming resentment and fostering a healthier, more fulfilling partnership.
Remember it’s crucial to focus on your own needs, and practice gratitude for what you have, while also being open to the differences between you and your partner. Don’t be afraid to express your true feelings, and consider seeking professional help if needed.
Ultimately, the key to dealing with resentment towards your partner lies in acknowledging the emotion, understanding its root causes, and taking action to create a more balanced and harmonious relationship.
If you found this article about how to deal with resentment towards your partner helpful, you might like to check out these further resources:
- How How To Resolve Resentment In Relationships: Tackling Shared Responsibilities
- Is It Normal To Resent Your Partner After Having A Baby?
- The Contented Relationship Guide, my short course all about how to go from resentment to contentment