If there is one toxic element that can completely mess up a relationship, it is resentment.
Resentment is the feeling that you’re being neglected, treated unfairly, or not getting the respect or appreciation you deserve. It’s been compared to drinking poison but waiting for the other person to die. It eats at you, sometimes for years on end, but the only one who really suffers is you. It is literally like acid.
“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Malachy McCourt
Resentment is hard to tackle as it manifests in many ways. It begins with the feeling that your partner is controlling you—either by doing something, or not doing something. As a result, frustration and anger build up within you. This turns into resentment over a period of time as the relationship stagnates. Your partner appears to be indifferent to what is happening, or is aware and simply won’t do anything about it.
Naturally, you start finding fault with your partner, avoiding talking about the real issue. You bottle it all up, thus feeding the resentment. It is likely you are no longer intimate with your partner or have the feeling that you really don’t know them well. You also feel that they don’t know you at all.
Resentment can creep into your relationship for various reasons. Some of these are:
- the need to always be right
- taking advantage of others
- feeling put down
- unrealistic expectations
- not being heard
- always being late
Can you ever overcome this, you wonder.
What to do?
Here’s the thing: when resentment builds up, you stop being yourself with each other. To remedy this, speak up when things are not okay. If something is not what you expected, express it. Thus, you create an opportunity for you and your partner to see what is happening, discuss it, acknowledge it and move on, hopefully with a mutually acceptable solution.
Basically, it boils down to acknowledging and being responsible for how you feel. If there’s something in your partner’s behavior that you don’t like, talk about it, especially if you feel uncomfortable about it. Ignoring things won’t make them vanish; instead, they will create a pathway to resentment.
And of course, in any relationship, it is absolutely okay not to agree on everything! What is important is to communicate, be aware of each other’s feelings and feel free to discuss things. It is also okay to say NO when you don’t want to do certain things. For example, if your partner expects you to accompany them to a concert and you don’t want to, and you say yes when you mean no, the feeling of being controlled creeps in. You feel resentful. Be honest, say No, and shut the door on resentment’s face.
Also, realize that it is fine to make mistakes so long as you acknowledge them, and talk about them. Feeling empathy toward each other will enable you to acknowledge that unexpected actions and behavior are not always intentional.
Remember that you care for the person and rather than allow frustrations to fester in you, talk it out.
Here are 5 tips to help you prevent resentment from ruining your life.
1. Ask, don’t assume
We’re all busy, juggling many things at once, so much so that we take what’s important for granted, especially with those who are closest to us. Sometimes life gets in the way of us feeling cared for and loved, even to the point of living with personal integrity.
We ignore what’s bothering us because it’s easier, hoping it’ll go away on its own or magically disappear into thin air. Yet ignoring issues like this doesn’t make them go away, it makes them grow until they’re too big to handle. That’s when the state of your relationship really starts to feel the weight of these problems.
And you know it’s there, but you don’t know what to do about it. Many times, we don’t bring up certain issues because we’re afraid to confront our loved ones and shy away from conflicts. But by doing this, you’re pushing away your partner without actually realizing it and this is one way that resentment builds up.
2. Be part of the solution, not the problem
Putting blame won’t get you anywhere; in fact, most times it just makes things that much worse. Instead, work at overcoming your anger and hatred so you can reach an agreement. Showing empathy is a big part of this process, especially after an argument because it tells your partner that you understand how they feel and why they did so-and-so. Empathy really goes a long way.
Also read: How to stop playing the blame game
3. Give each other some space
Early in your relationship, you can’t imagine going an hour without texting each other or hearing each other’s voices, let alone a whole day. But as you mature into the relationship, it’s wise to find something you enjoy doing on your own.
This maintains your sense of self, while giving you something to chat about, so it’s a win-win. Taking some “me” time and distancing yourself could be something you do once a week, or once a month, the point is to make yourself a priority during that time so you came back into the relationship with fresh eyes and a sense of longing.
4. Don’t let small things grow and fester
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if your partner just apologized when appropriate? Life would be so simple and lovely, like a romance movie.
But it’s not always like that. It’s normal to have arguments, big and small.
Feeling anger and hurt on occasion is also alright. But don’t sit on these feelings, waiting for that perfect moment to let it all out. You and your partner should be each other’s supporters and shoulders to lean on through troubled times. Remember, you’re on the same team.
Talking and listening require a bit of vulnerability, which can be difficult at times, especially if you harbor feelings of mistrust or resentment. But there’s no way around it, opening up is crucial in a healthy relationship.
Talk honestly with your partner and ask to be really listened to. And it’s important to listen without judgment when it’s your turn to be attentive to your partner. Practicing these confidence-boosting techniques will bring you and your loved one closer together.
It’ll also help break any barriers either one of you had put up as a defense mechanism because, let’s be honest, we have to be on our guards every time we leave the house, at work, at the mall, on the street. So why do we make it even harder on ourselves and keep our guard up even at home, with our partner?
Also read: Relationship secrets
Relationships need work and constant care. That’s where people make the mistake of forgetting about the small details of everyday life. We just say or do something without thinking it through.
But the truth is it does matter and over time, some of these things linger and fester into something ugly that brings out the bad in everything, and ultimately suffocates any good relationship.
Resolving issues before they get out of hand is the key to avoiding resentment and enjoying a happy, healthy relationship.