Have you been wondering how to deal with resentment towards your partner? If so, you’re not alone.
Resentment is a huge issue in relationships, especially after we have kids. When I asked on Instagram, 96% of you said you struggle with feeling resentful.
Bringing up kids together without our relationships with our partners falling apart can be a challenge! And we’re all better off when we all talk more openly about this.
Lots of you got in touch to say how helpful you found my previous post: Is It Normal To Resent Your Partner After Having A Baby?
So here are a few more thoughts on what exactly resentment is, what causes it, and how to deal with it.
Is Resentment A Poison?
You’ve probably heard the famous line (attributed variously) that “resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”.
I get why people think this. 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.
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 which 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: what do I need?
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?
Don’t get stuck thinking “it’s alright for you”, focusing on what your 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.
You need to feel the emotion and acknowledge what it’s telling you.
Then work out what you need to relieve it. (My free 7-step action plan out of resentment can help with that.)
Do Differences Cause 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 ok, or even try to mould yourself to fit what you think your partner wants from you.
The trouble is that disagreements are good for us! As long as we air them in ways which respect each other’s opinions, desires, and responsibilities, they keep a relationship alive, and both partners growing.
Strong feelings of either – or both – guilt and resentment can be a sign that partners are struggling with their differences internally, instead of getting them out in the open.
Resentment creeps in when we are 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.
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.
Does Being Agreeable Cause Resentment?
“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?
Honestly I doubt you take much pleasure in feeling hard-done-by.
I see you, not always knowing what exactly the problems are.
I know you’re trying to work out how to explain them to your partner.
You’re trying your best to resolve them.
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 are hurt or humiliated or frustrated?
If you want to know how to deal with resentment towards your partner, maybe the answer is on the other side of those questions.
How To Deal With Resentment Towards Your Partner
If you found this article about how to deal with resentment towards your partner helpful, you might like to check these out too:
- How Resentment Builds In A Relationship
- Is It Normal To Resent Your Partner After Having A Baby?
- My Free 7-Step Action Plan Out Of Resentment
- The Contented Relationship Challenge, my short course all about how to go from resentment to contentment