Have you ever felt taken advantage of, or dismissed, by your partner, family member, teacher or boss? That’s resentment rearing its ugly head.
At first, you feel angry that you’re not being treated fairly or that your needs are being ignored. Over time, this snowballs into disappointment, bitterness and hard feelings.
It’s very difficult to address misunderstandings when you don’t think the other person understands or appreciates you. You get into a tug of war about who’s right and who’s wrong, and egos get in the way.
In this post, we cover six common problems that spark the fires of resentment.
1. Taking advantage of others
If you think your partner is being selfish, first try stepping into their shoes. Ask yourself why they are so intent on getting their own needs met.
Also, note that some people weren’t taught etiquette as kids. Others endured childhood trauma that made them focus on survival, and their own needs, first.
Gently tell your partner how their behaviour makes you feel using “I” statements.
If that doesn’t work, learn to tell your partner “no” confidently and with conviction
2. Always having to be right
When someone insists that they’re right all the time, it comes across as arrogant.
If you want me to empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry or manage the toothpaste in a certain way, you’re imposing your views of the world onto me. There are many paths up the mountain.
Defend your right to do things your own way. Speak up quickly; don’t let the feelings fester. The longer you wait, the more resentment is likely to build and explode in an argument over something insignificant.
3. Unrealistic expectations
Considering other people’s nature and habits with clear eyes can spare you emotional turmoil.
Let’s say you expect your significant other to buy you a romantic gift, and they don’t. If it’s not in their personality to do something like that, you’ve set yourself up for feeling resentful.
Try adjusting your expectations instead. Your partner may be showing appreciation in a different way.
4. Feeling put down
Thoughtless remarks and taunts rankle. Know your trigger buttons. Some people trigger our anger without even knowing it.
Considering the person’s intent can head off resentment before it takes root.
But if other person knows your triggers and intentionally hits them, your resentment may be a message.
Don’t ignore the messenger. If you feel repeatedly discounted by a friend, this may be a sign that they are not a good person to have in your life.
5. Not being heard
Does your significant other seem miles away when you’re chatting in the morning? Don’t take it so personally. Listening is incredibly difficult. Expect that you’ll have to repeat your message.
Send a voice mail or text message later, and recap what you wanted to say.
6. Always being late
You may feel that because someone is never on time, they don’t care about you.
It’s tempting to show up late for them, but that only adds fuel to the fire. Gently point out how their lateness makes you feel, and what you need.
Then set firm limits. Tell the other person how long you’ll wait, and have a backup plan in place in case they’re late.
A change in thinking can also help. Try to view the other person’s lateness as a reflection on them, and not you. Being late may have less to do with respecting your time and more to do with their own habits or anxiety.
Always running into the house for one more thing, or getting distracted by inconsequential things just before you have to leave may be an attempt to ease anxiety.
You can decide not to be emotionally injured or roughed up by any of that.
Should you leave the relationship, or not?
What should you do when resentment sours a relationship?
There’s no question that you should sever ties if you’re being abused emotionally or physically.
But the lines are less clear when resentment has been building for lesser concerns.
“For example, if you put a high priority on family, or if work pays your bills, then you may have to learn to tolerate others’ displays of humanness,”
Practising empathy can help. “Acceptance and forgiveness reduce resentment”
Can people ‘learn’ empathy?
It’s possible to learn to be a more empathetic partner and to let go of problem behaviours. But you have to be willing to change.
A good therapist can show you how to accept the discomfort associated with change — and offer you options you may not have considered and a perspective you may not have seen.
Most people go to therapy for a little while, then practice like crazy afterwards. And it’s in the practising like crazy that people grow.
Practice being skilled at quickly getting to the root of a relationship problem — before anger, misery or bitterness creep in.
Then, once you address an issue, don’t rehash it, consider it a learning moment to use in the future. Don’t look backwards. You aren’t going that way anymore.