Why Letting Go of Resentment in Relationships is So Hard


Why is letting go of resentment so hard in relationships?

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, and 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.

Resentment Takes Work to Heal

Couples counseling can be instrumental in overcoming resentment.

Unfortunately the resentment can’t just be destroyed; it’s 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. They need to know 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 tools to get rid of it, like a shovel for digging something up. Some couples implore me to give them the secret. But I know there isn’t one.

Resentful people often believe their partner must change to improve the relationship. I know this isn’t the magic bullet either. Releasing resentment in a relationship takes both people: the person who caused the hurt and the one who was hurt. Both have to be involved and willing to work through the resentment.

Overcoming Resentment Takes Two

Compassion helps you work through and move past 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 to understand what part of the action or event belongs to them. It there are two people each has a role.

One may feel wronged and that may be true, but what led to that injury? Were they 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.

Understand and accept that each person is different and has unique needs and desires. Noticing your differences, equips you to resolve difficult issues. Mastering this can be a pivotal moment in your relationship.

Repair is much easier when you can separate your feelings from what happened to you. 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.

Listening Helps You Heal

Listening and providing a safe space for your partner is important.

Even pain that’s someone’s been holding for over a year needs attention. One way of attending to that pain is asking the person who caused the pain to listen to what it was like to carry that hurt.

Moving through and past the pain takes both of you. The listener will have to find a way to hear the speaker. The goal is to understand what your partner says while providing a safe space to unfold and be heard.

When listening, don’t change the speaker’s words or defend past actions. Understand why the speaker is holding onto pain. Take the opportunity to feel what they felt. Reaching this state can enable true repair. Through empathy, feeling your partner’s pain helps you grow aware.

Perhaps the listener hears something new and wants to make amends. This also leads to healing.

Deep pain needs deep processes to heal; that’s what moving through and beyond resentment takes. 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.


Get Help with Letting Go of Resentment in Your Marriage or Relationship

Read a Book About Relationships

'Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.' A book by Linda Nusbaum.

Learn how you and your partner can reduce existing resentment in your relationship and help prevent new resentments from forming, by reading Linda’s book Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It might just help you communicate about your feelings, helping the two of you feel less blamed, more connected, and happier. Give it a read.

Get Couples Counseling

Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you and your loved one get the most out of your relationship. It'll equip you with coping strategies and tools for communication that can help you argue less and love more.

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