Posts tagged resentment
It’s not about the F*%$&@ Dishes

In the last 10 years in my work as a therapist I’ve heard couples argue about some of the most serious issues. I’ve also heard an equal amount of arguments over the most ridiculous things. The most common, yet benign argument, is over housework. 

John Gottman says that 69% of marital problems are perpetual issues that will never be solved. This means that you really need to figure out a way to keep the peace and ride the waves of the perpetual problems.

When couples come to my office and I bare witness to their arguments over minute things like housework it can be incredibly telling about the state of their relationship. It’s rarely about the dishes, the dirty clothes, or your partner’s decision to move the furniture around without consulting you first. 

When people dig their heels in and fight tooth and nail over who doesn’t clean up after themselves I think to myself, 1) who cares about the dishes?? and 2) what’s this really about? And those are things that I will quickly verbalize.

99.9% of the time when I call couples out on what they’re arguing about they will admit to me that it’s really not about the dishes.

In order to get there I ask questions like, what’s really under your ager over the dishes, why is this so important to you, and what feeling or thought comes up for you when you see your partner’s dirty dish in the sink?


That’s when I hear the translation: “you’re not on my team,” or, “you don’t have my back,” or “I feel like I’m just here to clean up after you (which translates to: we aren’t spending any quality time together).”

I’ll be honest with you – for the last 8 years of my marriage one of our perpetual problems has also been housework (which is why I finally hired a housekeeper).

I call this the dirty sock test (because that’s our issue): On any given day as I am picking up around the house I can find my husband’s dirty black socks strewn around like I’m on an Easter egg hunt. I know this about him – he sits down, removes his socks, and kicks them to the side, and there they stay until he or I come around and clean up. I’ve spent 9 years living with this man, I know that’s his habit, we all have them and I know I’m far from perfect – we said for better or worse, right?

But if I happen to be picking up the house and I bend down to pick up a few dirty socks and also happen to find myself whispering expletives under my breath, I know that my love tank is empty and he hasn’t been speaking to me in my love language, and I it’s time to ask for what I need. What I might think I need is for him to pick up his damn socks, but what I truly need is much more than that (it's usually quality time). 

Nobody gets that angry over a pair of dirty socks (or dishes, or furniture, or tardiness) unless there’s something under that anger - the socks just happen to be the blister on the surface.

So when you’re ready to snarl, retreat to your corner, send a snarky text or give an obvious eye roll, it’s time to check yourself and ask, what’s this really about?

Another way to think about this is to ask yourself, “if my best friend left their socks behind, (left a dish in the sink, or was late for plans) would I blow up?” More than likely it would just roll off your back and you wouldn’t think twice about it.

We give our friends a great deal of grace. But when you aren’t nurturing your friendship with your partner its easy to fight about the little things.

So what’s it really about? Are you resentful over something that’s missing in your relationship? Those conversations might be more difficult to have, but I’m happy to help. You might not get over those perpetual problems in marriage, but when you’re free from resentment it makes it so much easier to be friends - even if they don’t get around to washing their dishes a couple times a week. You can click here to book a consultation with me and we can talk about how couples therapy might help. 

Dealing with anger in your Relationship
anger in relationships

You know that feeling-the one that comes up when you and your partner are having a disagreement, and they just cant see your point. You feel like they aren’t even listening, because really, how can they be so stuck in their point of view?? You feel your body tense, you feel hot, and then all hell breaks loose…

While your anger might not happen in that exact progression it’s normal to experience anger towards your partner from time to time. If you’re going through a rough patch, an infidelity, or something that’s threatening the status of your relationship, anger might be more of a common theme in your home for the time being.  

Anger can be described as a secondary emotion, meaning that there’s often hurt, sadness, or another emotion underneath anger. It’s not about the anger itself, but it’s about what you do with your anger that can lead to problems.

So what do you do when you start to feel like that teakettle about to blow its lid? Hopefully your anger doesn’t turn to rage, and cause even more issues. Here are some ways to deal with anger that will keep you from gong over the edge:

·      Take a time-out. This is one of the most powerful techniques for dealing with anger. Take yourself out of the situation by letting your partner know that you are feeling too upset to have a productive conversation and that you’d like to resume when you are feeling less emotional. Then take a walk, listen to music, meditate, hit the gym, or start cleaning – all of which are excellent ways to alleviate aggression.

If you are going to take a time-out it’s important to convey to your partner that the issue you or they are needing to discuss is important, and give a time frame for when you can resume your discussion. Take enough time to cool off but don’t let so much time go by that the issues is dropped completely.

·      If you find yourself getting angry with your partner more often than you’d like, relaxation techniques work wonders, and I recommend that people meditate for 10 minutes per day.  Put on some headphones, close your eyes, sit upright, and focus on your breathing. I really like Pandora’s Calm Meditation Radio station and listen to it whenever I need to take a few relaxed breaths. 

·      Think about how harmful thought patterns might be affecting the way you interact with your partner. Are you holding onto harmful thoughts and exaggerations that are keeping you stuck in your anger? If so, work to replace those with truths and more positive thoughts.

·      Problem-solve and understand where your anger is coming from. If you’re unhappy with aspects of your life, and generally grumpy or hostile due to those circumstances, fixing them directly is going to have the greatest impact on your overall happiness and lessen the chances of you getting into spats with your partner over mundane issues.

·      Identify underlying resentment and discuss the real issues rather than creating arguments over things that don’t really matter, and aren’t necessarily the true issue.

·      One of the most important things that I teach my clients is that we can’t control others, or their responses; the only thing that we can control is ourselves. When you take control over the way you respond and make a point to change, you’ll be happier.

If you feel as though you are getting angrier than you’d like and find it’s impacting your relationship, I’d love to hear from you. You can call me at (909) 226-6124, I’d be happy to talk with you about ways you can resolve your anger and make lasting improvements in your relationship. 

I was recently interviewed on the KCAA morning show about anger and the media. While this is a bit of a shift in topic, the principles can be applied to your relationship, and the media may also be playing a role in causing some anger for you. You can check out that interview here.

Recognizing Resentment and Moving Forward
recognizing resentment

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!