Even when couples want to improve their relationship, if resentment has built up between them it will stand in the way. Both know it’s there, no one knows what to do about it. So what can you do? One way is to seek counseling learn how to
get rid of it.
Unfortunately the resentment is not a thing to be destroyed; it has become a part of the person who is holding on to it. It’s with them when they wake in the morning and think of their mate. It’s there when they talk to their friends. It’s present in a conversation with their partner. It’s always there, like a thick fog that surrounds everything.
So when couples ask me what they can do to get rid of it I know the next thing I have to do is start explaining. Explaining how resentment forms and what it takes to soften and fade. Couples don’t want to hear me talk about this. What they really want is for me to just give them tools to help them get rid of it, like buying a shovel when you have to dig up something. Some couples implore me to give them the secret. But I know there isn’t one.
Most people who hold on to resentment believe that the other person has to do something to make the relationship better. I know this isn’t the magic bullet either. Releasing resentment in a relationship takes both people: the person who acted in a way that caused the hurt, and the person who is hurting. Both have to be involved and willing to work through the resentment.
The first phase is all about becoming aware of one’s part. It’s not about blaming the other. Each person must begin an internal dialogue with him or herself to understand what part of the action or event belongs to them. It there are two people each has a role. One may feel that the action was done to them and that may be true, but where was the silent partner? Was he or she unavailable and distant? Getting in touch with your part is crucial, and it’s the first step in your healing and the relationship’s health.
It can be a pivotal moment in the relationship when each person understands themselves as an individual with unique needs and desires, different then their partners. The more you notice yourself, and that you are different than your mate, the better equipped you will be to resolve difficult issues between the two of you. Understanding what you are feeling, and not confusing it with what he or she did to you will go a long way toward repair.
Once you know about your part and can identify your feelings you can ask your partner to hear you. Not fix or change your feelings, but just listen to what is going on inside you. If someone is holding back some pain from an incident that happened a year or more ago there is still a wound that needs attention. One way of attending to that pain is to ask the offender to listen to what it feels like to carry around the hurt.
If the goal of the couple is to move through and past the pain, each will have to be involved. The one who does the listening will have to find a way to just hear the partner’s words. The listener tries to understand the speaker. The listener offers a safe place for the speaker to unfold and be heard.
The listener does not try and change the speaker’s words or defend an action. The listener has the chance to understand why the speaker is holding on to the pain. The listener has the opportunity to feel what the partner has been feeling. Sometimes when couples reach this state it’s possible for true repair. Through empathy, feeling another’s pain, awareness can grow.
Perhaps the listener hears something new and wants to make amends. This also leads to healing.
Because the pain is usually so deep, the process for moving through and beyond resentment must also been deep. It’s hard to reveal one’s painful truth to another, but if a couple is ready to go this route, the benefits can be amazing.
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