Happy New Year! It’s easy to use the New Year as a mark for starting over, making resolutions, and trying to be a better version of yourself. I personally love the feeling of a fresh start and set some great intentions for this coming year, but as I was doing so it got me thinking about how sometimes there are things that we just hold on to that keep us from moving forward.
In relationships we call this resentment. As a therapist, I can tell you, working through resentments with couples sucks. It’s not because I don’t love what I do, but it’s because it’s so tricky sometimes and I see resentments as the cause for so much destruction in relationships.
If you’re struggling to get past an infidelity or big hurdle in your relationship, there is likely some resentment that’s holding you back and keeping you stuck in an uncomfortable position. But how do you know if what you’re experiencing is the result of resentment? Keep reading and I’ll give you some hints in how to identify it, and what to do in order to move forward.
Resentments can be big or small, but an obvious indication is that something has happened between you and your partner, and you replay that event a few times over in your mind. You have some negative feelings about it and you use those negative feelings to justify your actions in some way. Resentments can be tricky though because they aren’t always so obvious, and many people react unconsciously as they hold onto resentments.
Maybe your partner didn’t help you clean up after dinner or prepare for a party in the way you had hoped. You feel negatively about the interaction, and maybe choose not to say anything, but hold onto the negative feelings for a while. After thinking about it more, you come to understand that they were just tired after work, and let it go. In this example, the resentment is short-lived, and not threatening to your relationship because it didn’t have time to fester and create larger problems.
The worst type of resentment is the kind that threatens the security of your relationship. The issue between you and your partner still feels painful after time and is often attributed to a fundamental flaw in them. You can find yourself using words like always and never – “she never takes my feelings into consideration,” or “he’s always so selfish.”
Bigger resentments like these lead to constant bickering, or the opposite- disengagement (which is just as destructive). The bigger resentments represent something important at the core of your relationship or your own core beliefs like trust, communication, or life goals that aren’t being agreed upon and met.
To combat bigger resentments it’s important to talk about them. Being honest with your partner about something you’re holding onto is going to bring them to light and help you create a better understanding for bickering and other negative patterns that may have been taking place. Resentments that go way back and that you feel you can’t resolve on your own are best dealt with in couples counseling, and if you are trying the following steps to no avail, it is best to consult a professional:
1. Talk about the resentment, and identify what you would have liked your partner’s response to have been instead.
2. Check in with yourself and see if what you’re holding onto represents something rooted in your history. If being talked down to makes you feel like a child, and is something you’re overly sensitive about due to a parent who talked to you in a similar fashion, acknowledge that and let your partner know how it relates and makes you feel.
3. Express how you’d like to move forward, asking for what you need, and communicating the importance of this in terms of your relationship. For example: “It’s really important for me to feel like I’m respected in our relationship and that my opinion matters. I want to feel as though we are a team.”
These requests may take some practice and feel strange at first but the more you ask for what you need in your relationship the better it will feel. If these steps just don’t seem to come out right it may be time to request a consultation to see how you can start out 2016 with less baggage and more happiness in your relationship, give me a call at (909) 226-6124 and I’d be happy to help.
No matter where you are in your relationship, I’d like to offer you a free gift to start the year out right. I’m giving away my “Rules for Fair Fighting” to all of my readers. This guide is something I use with 99% of the couples that I work with, it’s just that important, so click to download, post it on your fridge, and get 2016 going in the right direction! Even the happiest of couples fight, it’s pretty much inevitable, but these rules will help you get through fights like a pro couple and allow you to get back to enjoying one another so don’t miss out on this awesome free guide!