Resentment damages marriages.
It can take time for resentment to build in a relationship. Often, you don’t know it’s happening until it has already taken root. By then, those resentful feelings have invaded many areas of your marriage.
Resentment comes from longstanding anger and feelings of disappointment in aspects of your relationship. When you feel upset at your spouse on a regular basis but feel that you can’t do anything to alleviate the problem, you begin to internalize that anger. Eventually, it morphs into resentment. Later, it could transform into contempt toward your partner.
There are many reasons why you might begin to feel resentful toward your spouse. First, let’s explore what those are. Then, we’ll share some tips on how to combat both the resentment and the root cause.
Reasons Why You Might Feel Resentful Your Spouse
Although there are many reasons why spouses might feel resentful toward one another, we’re going to focus on two major possibilities: unmet expectations and unkindness.
Every married couple experiences the sting of unmet expectations at some point in their relationship. However, some couples feel it more profoundly than others. When unmet expectations compound over time, they spark anger. Anger then fuels resentment.
Over time, the realization that some of your expectations might never be met can create deep feelings of resentment. You might even feel that your spouse has victimized you. If your expectations and reality of marriage are out of alignment, that can feel incredibly painful.
Unmet expectations are usually not intentional. Life takes over sometimes, pulling us away from the good intentions we had for our marriages. On the other hand, sometimes we have good intentions but can’t follow through. Maybe your spouse made promises early on, not realizing they wouldn’t be able to keep them. Understanding the context of your situation will make all the difference as you decipher it.
If you married someone who has turned out to be unkind, unaccommodating, and generally unpleasant, that can definitely create resentment. Maybe your spouse is critical and controlling. Criticism can be harsh, and can lead to feelings of anger and resentment long-term.
Few things shut down marital intimacy like being controlled or criticized. Harsh and negative words can quickly turn a seemingly happy relationship into a toxic one. If your spouse has gone from your dream man or woman to an unkind and bitter individual, that’s going to affect how you feel about them.
How to Alleviate Resentment in Your Marriage
The good news is, it’s possible to overcome the resentment you’re feeling toward your spouse. When it comes to unmet expectations, for example, you’ll need to reframe how you see those perceived disappointments. Focus on the positives in your relationship instead, and work on cultivating a sense of gratitude for everything that has gone right in your marriage–instead of wrong.
If you and your spouse are both giving good-faith efforts to creating a happy marriage, then it’s time to leave those resentments behind. Consider the future you’re building together instead, and choose to set your thoughts on positive things.
On the other hand, if you’ve begun to resent your spouse because of their controlling or critical behavior, you’ll need new skills for handling the issue. For example, you’ll need to learn how to deflect their criticism. It’s possible to defuse critical remarks through humor. Alternatively, you can create ways to quietly remind yourself that this issue is more about your spouse than it is about you.
Our book, High-Maintenance Relationships, offers insights into some of the most common–and challenging–relationship dynamics. If your spouse is a critic, you’re likely in a high-maintenance relationship. Learning new ways to deflect their judgment can help to bring you more peace.
If your spouse is open to becoming more positive, you might be able to come up with a statement like, “You just entered the Negative Zone!” This signals your spouse to pause and reset their conversation to a healthier place. It helps them see that they’re falling into this pattern that is damaging to your spirit, and gives them a chance to self-correct.
What do you think? Do you believe it’s possible to overcome resentment in your marriage? Have you and your spouse done so successfully, and if so, how? Leave us a comment and let us know.