How to Recognize and Rework Resentment in Relationships

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There is a lot of mystery surrounding people in approaching romantic love. We never truly know how or how much love we are capable of giving or receiving without getting burnt a couple of times. Many things come from our homes, or what we have learned from mom and dad, while others are mere reactions to fear, of all sorts, really. 

Without this knowledge, we unintentionally place ourselves in situations with people bound to stir our solid grounds, which tend to grow in anger, more fear, abandonment, and resentment. For many of us, holding a grudge becomes an extreme sport, a “hobby” we care not to give up. We feel as if there was no closure, or we feel hurt, so in addition, we validate this resentment, as we have “deserved to feel bitter”, completely unaware that we are only harming our own selves and our own heart. 

But what does resentful mean? How does a person become a serious competitor in this rather dangerous sport? It’s a slow process, as the emotions we are dealing with here are rather heavy, and take a while to build up before manifesting in our minds and bodies.

This, of course, is not to say we aren’t “allowed” to feel betrayed, or left behind. These feelings should always be respected and permitted to stay in our homes for a while, before slowly fading, or moving away.

The problem lies not in feeling rotten, but only being able to feel rotten. If these feelings have outdated their welcome, they begin to poison the rest of your mind and heart, leaving nothing but rot. Now that’s how we define resentment.

What Does Resent Mean?

In a similar sinister fashion to jealousy, resentment is a mixture of anger, disappointment, fear, and disgust. It’s not a primary emotion, but a secondary one, meaning it takes a while to build up and create triggers. To resent someone is not to look at them with anger and disgust, but to look at ourselves, as we have “enabled” that person to make us resent them.

“Resentment is often caused when someone feels slighted or harmed by another person in their life, and they do not feel that the person has apologized or made amends in a manner that is satisfactory to them,” said psychologist Charmain Jackman Ph.D. “As a result, the person may hold a grudge towards the perceived offender and may find it hard to forgive or let go of the harm that was caused.” This is that true resentment meaning we have been looking for. 

However, resentment in relationships is not always that heavy or sinister. Resentment can sometimes come from the very mundane moments that end up building a raging storm. We end up wondering how to not hold a grudge, which is a game on hard mode for most. 

Resentment can partly come from being overly annoyed with your partner, the things they do or how they behave just doesn’t sit right with you. And the more you sweep under the carpet, the more hell you raise beneath the relationship’s feet, causing an underlying issue you won’t even be able to trace back over time. 

“But why is this? Where have we gone wrong? Why do I look at him and feel angry or annoyed?”

Empty Conversations and Zero Compromise

One of the biggest issues here is communication or lack thereof more specifically. 

While resentment is bottling up, so to say, we tend to fight that battle alone, and internally, rather than just telling our partners right away. Now, these conversations are nowhere near comfortable, nor are they supposed to be, however, they are much healthier when they are on time. 

And I know how it is, it’s hard to tell the person you love that you are fed up with some things they do or who they are, but it’s even harder for them to hear it. Look at it this way, if the both of you are mature enough to have conversations in regards to moving in together or even marriage, you are mature enough to have conversations that just might lead you closer to your actual, happy ending goal. 

But here’s the catch: it takes two to tango. Compromise, baby, compromise. 

Just because you’re the one in resentment doesn’t mean you are the one who is 100% in the right. If you expect your partner to change or do things differently, you have to be ready to make that same change by acting or more so reacting differently. Maybe reevaluate if what they are doing is the real root problem, or if there is something else, mostly internal.

When it comes to lashing out at our significant other. The more comfortable we are with them, the bigger the “privilege” we have to be mean, as we feel like they wouldn’t leave…until they actually do. All in all, make sure to give just as much as you are asking for. That’s the only way to ask, and not fight for peace.  

You Feel Like They Are Just Not Listening

A big portion of resentment comes from the feeling like we haven’t received a “proper” apology or no apology at all. Your partner just might not understand where you’re coming from, or maybe they don’t even see that what they’ve done has caused any harm. This is what causes resentment in relationships, step by step, no matter how small. 

In more serious cases, they may be fully aware, but want to gaslight you into thinking that YOU are the one overreacting, making you feel bad for, well, feeling bad. You have two options here, and both require you to be fully honest with yourself. Did they hurt you? Yes? No argument of theirs can, nor should, change your mind.

Option 1: You are 100% honest with them until they fully understand how much hurt they have caused you. You can conversate and work out your differences and issues, and hopefully move on with no skeletons in closets.

Option 2: Only for when option 1 fails, you have to know when it’s your time to pack your bags and leave the skeletons behind.  Sometimes, the smartest and strongest thing to do isn’t to stay and fight but to know when to wave the white flag and simply leave. 

It all, of course, depends on the relationship and situation you’re in! Dr. Peter Ladd wrote that resentment is a state of “civilized anger”, which means danger hiding in plain sight, bad for both people in the relationship.

How To Avoid This Imposter

Dealing with resentment in relationships is in no way easy. If you really think about it, it’s very easy to get annoyed or angry with someone, especially if they have a pattern of behavior you are not too thrilled about. It’s much easier to have a bad day, instead of a good one and God knows it’s much easier to be a pessimist instead of taking the latter to a leap of faith. 

It’s easy to argue and hate, but it takes a lot of energy and works to almost always pick love.  What I’m saying is, this is a process. To learn how to cool off, or even isolate these feelings by changing the way you react. Now, if someone hurts you quite a bit, not avoiding confrontation or requesting the change is the right thing to do, no doubt about it. 

But if you know half the cookie crumbled on you, it is you who has to initiate the change you seek to see. Maybe their clumsiness isn’t worth the anger, maybe it’s cute. Maybe a disastrous dinner can be turned into a sweet restaurant date instead of an argument. 

We choose how to react to life throwing rocks at our feet, so why not work on choosing peace and love? This is how to let go of resentment, by letting go of the need to argue.

Do We Know How To Forgive?

Forgiveness is blissful, truly. Grudge leads to more problems, no matter how much some actions hurt us. But many people preach what they can’t do themselves: to genuinely let go and forgive. 

Forgiveness means stopping negative thought patterns from leading to more anger. Have you truly forgiven someone if these little devils still dance around your head every now and then? 

Is forgiveness even an option? You have to answer that before you can act on it. You even have to face and accept the aftermath of forgiveness before acting on it too.

So, how do we do this?

We embrace the more positive feelings, such as empathy. “I know what they did hurt, but I understand that they too were hurt when they have done it”. Understanding where someone is coming from, or what collision of thoughts, feelings, and events caused them to do it is key. It’s what awakens empathy. 

Now, this is not to say that everyone deserves it. As said before, know when it’s your time to go, by all means. But some folks are worth fighting for. They are worth empathy and forgiveness. Plus, do you really need all of that negativity in your life? You’re not just punishing your partner for their wrongs, but yourself too. 

So allow me to close this piece the same way I have opened it, “I deserve to feel bitter” should be left in the trash can, where it belongs. Instead, try going for: “I deserve to feel peace and love”.

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