I was talking to a potential client for couples counseling when she asked me if I would be giving her a prescription to follow in order to get better.
I was stunned for a moment and I think in all my years of counseling I have never been asked this. But I do know there is absolutely no way to understand a couple without meeting them, and I don’t have any idea what would be helpful for them, because there is no one size fits all plan for couples.
Letting go of resentment in marriage and other relationships is a complicated process. It is not like having a new thought which magically negates the resentment. No, it takes understanding of what is going on, and it takes work to ease out of it.
And all of us have felt or used resentment at some time or another. And that’s because resentment can happen to us so easily. When we get our feelings hurt, especially by the person we love, we get really wounded.
If we are not able to let our pain out and get healed, well then we put a wall around our heart and protect it so we won’t get hurt again. This starts out to be just a slight cover over the pain, but if we continue to get hurt without healing then we build up a thick concrete wall between our heart and the one we love.
When you get into misunderstandings or disagreements with your mate, what do you do? All of us have a reaction, and that is normal. People will not always understand each other even if they love each other dearly. And when the misunderstandings occur, most of us get our feelings hurt.
Sometimes those hurt feelings cause us to either pull our hurt feelings inside ourselves and say nothing. Other times, we do the opposite and lash out at those who hurt our feelings. This combination of systems plays out often in relationships.
All of us in relationships get our feelings hurt. I know I do. It happened again last night. I worked late and then came home. My husband had prepared dinner and had been waiting.
I felt the pressure but sometimes things can’t be helped. I had some details of my work to continue as I sat down at the table, texting and completing my duties. I was involved with tasks on my phone.
And while this was happening, something was also happening with my husband. He got very, very silent and stopped being there. He was of course sitting there eating, but I could not feel him anymore. I just left.
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.
It is sometimes hard to believe that after finding the person of our dreams things can go so wrong and sometimes we can end up in the worst fights of our lives.
We know we love our person, so why do we fight-till-death about things? We should be loving each other instead of fighting, but we fight at just about every turn. Why is this?