Has resentment crept into a relationship you have? It’s important to deal with resentment when you first recognize it since it has the power to destroy a relationship. Getting rid of resentment in relationships can be difficult on your own, but a Christian counselor can help you do this.
Resentment is like a common cold that progresses into life-threatening pneumonia. It can start as a one-time offense that blows up out of control. When you deal with the root of resentment, you can finally fix the problem and move into a healthier path forward.
How Resentment Begins
There are several ways resentment can build in a relationship, particularly a close relationship like a marriage or family relationship. Understanding how resentment begins can help you unpack the original problems.
Most of us have not learned how to handle anger well from our families of origin. We have learned to either let anger explode, stuff it inside, or let it leak out slowly through passive aggression. All these methods cause anger to build up. Over time, it can corrode relationships and become deeply seated. This form of anger is known as resentment.
Resentment can also stem from unprocessed disappointment. Perhaps you never voiced your feelings of loss after the other person let you down. Instead, you stuffed those feelings and thought they didn’t matter. But now, they could be causing major relationship problems for you.
Perhaps the other person in the relationship did something that deeply offended you. But at the time of the incident, you didn’t feel ready or powerful enough to voice your complaint about what disgusted you about their words or actions. Disgust is a powerful negative emotion, and if you stuff it inside, it could cause great damage to your relationship.
Fear is another emotion most of us have not learned to process well. It heightens our senses to protect us from harm. However, if we take no action on our fears by seeing if they are legitimate, we may start to blame someone else for our fears. The lack of understanding and blame can combine to cause fear-based resentment.
Do you have an imbalance of power in your relationship? Are you always carrying the heavy end of the emotional, financial, or physical responsibilities, while the other person doesn’t do their fair share? Unfairness has ruined many relationships. If you feel like your situation is unfair, you may have resentment built up inside you.
Have you experienced the heartache and shattered trust of betrayal in your marriage, family, friendships, or business relationships? Betrayal is not only between lovers. It can erode the quality of all kinds of relationships. Unless both parties work to rebuild trust, resentment can easily tempt both sides.
Is the other person consistently unavailable in your relationship? You may be feeling neglected, especially if you must carry the load of the relationship in their absence. Whether the unavailability is intentional or not, you may feel tempted to resent the other person’s actions.
Signs of Resentment in Relationships
Several signs indicate resentment has set into a relationship. If you are experiencing any of these signs in your relationship, you may need to get help from a Christian counselor for the resentment problem.
People who feel resentful often have an all-or-nothing mindset. Since they have been hurt in some way, they can only see the badness in the other person. This dynamic is common for most of us when we are hurt. But if it turns into constant criticism, it can be a sign that resentment has taken hold in the relationship. When one person cannot find anything but a fault in the other, this indicates a serious breach of trust.
When someone is hurt over and over, they may withdraw in self-protection. This is especially true if the normal interaction involves a steady stream of criticism. Withdrawal may put a stop to negative communication. However, it also creates an icy feeling in the relationship when both people may wonder why they are hanging on at all. Relationships need warmth to thrive, yet withdrawal removes this warmth.
Often, when resentment has set in, one or both parties could be tempted to unfairly compare their offenders with someone who seems problem-free. For example, a wife may unfairly compare her husband with one of her friend’s husbands, or a business partner may see another colleague as a better match. Most of these comparisons lead only to further criticism and withdrawal, which creates even more resentment. Unfair comparisons only drive people apart.
It’s common for people with resentments to rehearse their grievances over and over. They can get stuck in the past because that’s where the unprocessed pain lives. The other partner may feel very frustrated about the offended partner’s tendency to bring up the past. They both may repeat the same arguments due to a feeling that things will never really change.
Forgiveness is a key to keeping all relationships healthy. We all make mistakes, whether intentionally or not, and we need to keep clean slates with each other. However, unforgiveness can easily turn into resentment. The grudges we hold do more damage to us than to the ones against whom we hold them. But many of us hang on to unforgiveness as our perceived right to punish the one who hurt us most.
Desire to take flight
Long-held resentment can lead to hopelessness that the relationship can ever change. After several seasons of seeing no progress in a relationship, one person may decide that leaving is best. But if resentment has clouded their vision, they may not see the possibilities of improvement and even reconciliation that are within their grasp.
How to Remove Resentment from Relationships
Since resentment has built up over a long period, it is very difficult to remove on your own. It’s wise to seek counsel when dealing with resentment because a neutral third party can offer insight you can’t see yourself. But you can get the process of removing resentment started with these tips.
Examine feelings and motives
The first step in removing resentment is to be honest about your feelings. How long have you felt resentful toward the other person? What incident led to the original feelings? Exploring these questions in a journal can help you sort them out and acknowledge them, perhaps for the first time.
Once your feelings are out on paper, you can examine your motives for hanging onto resentment. Were you disappointed, disgusted, fearful, or angry? Did something feel unfair to you, or were you betrayed? Understanding your feelings can help you learn why you decided to handle them in a way that led to resentment. Only after you’ve looked at this original problem can you start to deal with it now.
Open lines of communication
Often in these situations, people have stopped talking to one another. They have also stopped listening to each other. But you can open the lines of communication by agreeing to meet and simply listen while taking notes. When the other party feels like you are listening without getting defensive, they may return the favor to you.
As part of your listening exercise, try to understand the other person’s point of view. Can you empathize with any of their feelings, even if you don’t agree with their viewpoint? Empathy can be the first brick on a new path in your relationship.
Christian Counseling for Resentment in Relationships
Resentment in relationships is very complex. It often blinds people to the truth about themselves and others. That’s why it’s wise to seek the compassionate help a Christian counselor can offer. When you gain perspective through a counselor’s eyes, you may discover ways to heal your relationship that you never saw before. Contact us today to learn how we can help you overcome resentment.
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