Resentment is like a cancer. Resentment toward your spouse has no place in a healthy marriage — NONE! Even so, most of us have allowed little bits of this cancer-like resentment into our marriages from time to time. This article will help you understand where resentment comes from, where it will lead to if left unresolved, and how to eliminate it.
Where Does Resentment Come From?
Resentment is a result of stewing on unfulfilled expectations for too long. In practical terms, this means that you had some expectations of your spouse, whether legitimate or not, that did not turn out the way you wanted or expected. You may have expected your spouse to do a better job cleaning up their mess, but they didn't. You may have expected your spouse to get promoted and make more money, but it never happened. You may have expected your spouse to love you in a way that you need to be loved, but they never did. Each of these examples would certainly have you feeling disappointed in your spouse, in your particular circumstance, or maybe even in yourself for allowing yourself to have unrealistic expectations. Disappointment can be a healthy emotion as long as you don't allow yourself to remain stuck there, but disappointment will turn into resentment if left unresolved. And once resentment takes root, it will become one of the loudest and most unsettling voices in your head.
The truth is, there is something you knew the day that you married your spouse. You knew that your spouse had their own ideas, their own thoughts, and their own voice. It is probably one of the things about them that you fell in love with. But as time has marched on, you have found that your spouse seems more and more particular about certain things – that your spouse has become less flexible. Additionally, when it seems like there is less flexibility on your spouse's part, it becomes all too easy for that loud voice of resentment to convince you that you are being taken advantage of. Let's be honest about that voice in your head; the loudest voice in your head is rarely the wisest voice or the most trustworthy one.
Where Will Resentment Take You If You Don't Work It Out?
You may recall the analogy of the "slippery slope." Once you start sliding down that slippery, muddy slope and pick up some momentum along the way, it is very difficult to stop yourself. It is the same with resentment. Once just a small bit of resentment is allowed to take root inside of you, you will find your internal voice saying some pretty awful things about your spouse and about your relationship. You will hear that voice saying things like, "He NEVER does what I want'" or "She ALWAYS does what she wants'" or "Yep, there he/she goes again doing that thing that drives me up a wall!" These thoughts can also be referred to as self-fulfilling prophecies since once you begin looking for a certain behavior from your spouse, and expecting it, you will find it almost every time.
When you find yourself becoming very frustrated much of the time with your spouse, you have allowed your resentment to go too far. Your options at this point are to either get rid of the resentment or let the resentment take over and make both you and your spouse miserable in the process. With the first option, everybody wins. With the second option, nobody does.
How Can You Get Rid Of Resentment?
I am so glad that you want to know how to get rid of resentment. While I would love to tell you that getting rid of resentment is easier than acquiring it, this is simply not true for most of us. Nonetheless, the most logical way to get rid of resentment is the same way you acquired it – in small pieces over time until it is all gone. What follows is essentially a checklist for getting rid of resentment.
- Realize that people change. It is ok for your spouse to be different than you expected them to be. The goal should not be for them to conform to your ideal, rather the goal should be for your spouse to continue to grow and change into a better person than they were before.
- Admit to yourself that you can't always be right. And if you are not always right, that means your spouse must be right some of the time. The goal here is not to keep score of who is right more often, rather the goal is to acknowledge that you have your own shortcomings. This is one of the ways to make room for grace in your marriage.
- Check your own selfishness. I have never met another human that did not have some selfishness in their life. We all do. I do, and so do you. When you can learn to recognize your own selfish patterns, you will have the tools needed to uproot your resentment.
- Examine yourself. Focusing on the things your spouse does wrong is easy. This is because your eyes are facing forward and watching everything they do. It is much more difficult to look inward and examine yourself. But, examining yourself is the only thing you have control over and it is the best way to get results.
You may have noticed that the first letter of each word spells the word RACE. I hope you will learn to RACE toward getting rid of resentment as soon as you recognize it and before it kills your marriage.
Remember that your emotions are not all bad. On the contrary, they are often trying to tell you something and it will often be something you can learn about yourself. Learn to sit with your feelings and emotions, such as disappointment and resentment. Will it be uncomfortable to sit with them? You bet it will. Can it be both positive and productive when you sit with them? The answer here is almost always yes!
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By Brad & Tami Miller. Copyright © 2021