Resentment is a form of anger that may not show up easily as raging anger. It often lays beneath the surface of a relationship, ready to strike. It is not the elephant in the room as much as the snake in the room.
Resentment often just sits there looking innocent as it smiles at you, but underneath it is boiling and stewing. It spends much time plotting revenge or getting even. Eventually it blocks or destroys love. In some intimate relationships, it often kills sexual desire.
What is resentment exactly? It is best defined as bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.
It starts with a grievance which turns into an injustice in our minds. And then if we can’t forgive the injustice it continues to live as a resentment.
Examples of resentments between partners
- Working wife comes home and feels it is unfair that she still has all the home responsibilities including childcare.
- Sex-starved husband feels he earns 90% of income and is a good husband but resents that he gets no sex.
- Young woman had fantasy expectations about financial capability of fiancé; he bought her a smaller than expected engagement ring which she resented for years thereafter.
- You and your partner are living together and now it is time to buy a house. They make much more money that you do and want a pre-nuptial to protect themselves in case things don’t work out. You are highly resentful that they don’t have more commitment to making it work.
- One partner starts texting an old flame and other finds out about it. Feels violated and betrayed even though nothing sexual occurred.
- One partner actually had an affair but both of you desperately want to save the marriage. Inability to forgive is a major hurdle.
How resentment affects your relationship
- Makes you feel like getting revenge on your partner to retaliate.
- Creates an emotional barrier between you. Even if it is never discussed, it is felt.
- Activates overt anger when old hurts are triggered.
- Prevents emotional trust from occurring which is necessary for closeness and intimacy.
- May prevent you from wanting to do loving things for your partner because of what you perceive they did to you.
The 3 Anger Fighter Skills needed to let go of both old and new resentments are:
- Honest, assertive communication with the person toward whom you have a resentment
- Forgiveness in your heart resulting in letting go of the resentment, even though the offending person may do nothing to make things right
- Acceptance that this happened to you, it was unjust, and you didn’t deserve it, but you are going to move on rather than being a perpetual victim of the injustice