Resentment in relationships is all too familiar to us. It’s when our anger towards someone gets so hard it turns into a wall of everything we don’t like about that person. That’s what we normally refer to as “resentment.”
We treat resentment like it is the most important thing we can feel. We hold on to it so tightly that we hope the one we are using it against can feel it too. Resentment is like a cold brick wall. It’s so strong and solid, the person it’s directed towards would have to be dead not to feel it.
That’s what resentment feels like. We notice it. We feel it. But what underlies it is even more interesting to me. I read this recently: resentment in relationships stems from self-pity.
All of us in relationships have thought about breaking up with our partner at some time or another. In fact maybe many of us have done it at least once. It is very common for couples to feel so hurt and misunderstood that they have to end things in order to feel better.
This is really human nature. When we are upset, most of us close up and can’t really communicate about what happened to us. And in some cases people are in such pain that the only way they can see their way through to feeling better is to cut off the offender so that can have some relief.
We all do some sort of this. Some of us yell because we are upset when we are hurt. Some just hold their feelings inside and wait for everything to calm down before trying to communicate again.
And there are those who are in such distress that their only recourse is to end things in the moment with finality. “I can’t do this anymore. I am done.” There were some words like this and maybe some curse words too.
Most of us if we are in a relationship often feel that our partner does things that hurt us. I know I have been in this position too many times to count. But I know in my heart of hearts that my partner loves me. I mean he really loves me.
And I bet that in your tender moments, if you look at your partner, you will tell yourself the same thing: “My partner loves me too.”
But when we get our feelings hurt, we forget that we are loved and instead feel unwanted. When we get upset, we put a protective layer around our heart and maybe lash out or pull our feelings inside ourselves and feel terrible. We try to defend ourselves when we get hurt. It’s only natural.
Sometimes in relationships we find ourselves in certain patterns. Let’s say you are very aware of what is not working well in the relationship and you let your partner know when something isn’t right. Now add to this how your partner doesn’t even respond or just seems to not be listening no matter how hard and forceful you are telling them.
This is unfortunately common, and it often happens with men and women. Women are sometimes better at describing what is making them uncomfortable. Maybe we learned this from our verbal mothers. Men on the other hand are not as skilled, maybe because they learned from dads who didn’t say much.
Whatever contributed to how we grew up, we still carry patterns from our youth. When those patterns conflict with our partner’s, we have problems. Let’s look at a couple I know.
All couples have disagreements. This I know to be true. Some couples argue about their disagreements. Here is a recent story about me and my partner.
He was driving with me in my car. I usually drive with him in his. He likes to drive, and is more aggressive than me. When he is a passenger in my car, I can feel his tension. He is probably mentally driving while I am behind the wheel and wishing that I could go faster or something.
I always feel awkward. Well, recently, we were in this position. The more we drove, the more uncomfortable I became. Now, he didn’t say anything, but I could feel the tension. Maybe this was in my head, but I definitely felt like an inadequate driver and I also thought he was judging me.
Constant fighting in a relationship can be exhausting. It can also be frustrating and disappointing. And there are many, many other emotions that might be felt too.
Constantly fighting in a relationship is just hard. And it makes the tender parts so few and far between that couples might be asking themselves if the relationship is even worth it. So why do couples do this?
When we consider our partner when we feel upset, we are staying in the relationship. When we sit in our own feelings because we have been hurt and stay mad or sad, we stay alone, even if we are in a relationship, we will feel alone.
This is one of the hardest things for couple to understand. Here’s what I often see when counseling a couple: both have been hurt and are distanced from their mate. Both feel that their partners should do something different to make them feel better.
Even though all of us are different, if we blame someone or something for our discomfort, then we have one thing in common: we’re internally wired the same. There are many of us in the world. And it’s my guess that if you blame or criticize when you are unhappy, you have heard about your behavior from others all your life.
I know I have. When I was little my older sister called me “the angry child,” because of my loud, blaming ways. I didn’t intentionally come into the world this way. I didn’t have a conversation with myself when I was learning how to express myself that said, “Start blaming. It’s a good system.”
No, that’s not what happened. I imagine it was my circumstances that encouraged me to use my voice to let my caregivers know I needed something. I just used my vocal cords to be heard. This habit just morphed over the years and I got better at leveling the criticism or blame when I got upset.
Every time we blame our partner for something that has gone wrong in our life, we hold them responsible for our discomfort. We are placing them in what I like to call a “cause and effect” system. You get hurt: they caused it. You blame them: that is the effect.
The reason I know this system so well is because I grew up in it. In my house when I was young, if something happened, you looked for who was to blame, and then you let them have it. It seemed to work, or not in my family, but it did not work when I partnered with my mate.
He did not grow up the same and was not used to being held accountable when I became unhappy. He always looked like a deer in the headlights, wondering why I was having a meltdown aimed at him.