So you snapped.
You’re in a conversation with your significant other and they do something that kind of irks your nerves but truly wasn’t that big of a deal…except you’re already in a state of resentment.
It’s an action just close enough to that raw nerve to send you spiraling out of control, speaking out of anger and frustration.
And if you’re anything like the old me, there’s no way that situation was salvageable. The day or evening is ruined and chances are it led to a screaming match or a painful and lengthy timeout.
Resentment in relationships is one of the most common causes of arguments. So why do we do it so damn much?
Why There’s Resentment in Relationships
I want to share a personal story with you.
If you’ve been around for a while or read my bio you know that Garrett and I have been married for almost 15 years. And we have polar opposite emotional personalities.
Garrett is very laid back and non-confrontational. He’s spent the bulk of our years together giving in to my outlandish, emotional roller coaster of emotions. And he internalizes all of his frustrations.
He prefers to bend to my (almost) every will and say yes to (almost) anything that I want to keep me happy and keep the peace.
Happy wife, happy life right?
And while we still make that joke in the Thompson household, it is just a joke. It’s not reality and it shouldn’t be for you either.
There came a point in our relationship where we were engaged in a deep conversation and he expressed something to me that made my world stop.
You see, I am a very difficult person. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I hate to be wrong and we’ve talked about my struggles with perfectionism.
Being a perfectionist is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, you’re driven by a lot of insecurity and fear of failure but you’re also inclined to be unable to see your own flaws and apply them to a situation.
It’s called needing to be right. To be perfect. You can’t possibly be wrong! So it ends up always being the other person at fault. Whether you mean to convey that or not, that’s how it comes across to them.
And on this day, it all caught up to me.
“I’m not happy.” He said.
Of course, my instinct was to probe deeper. I needed assurance that it wasn’t ME he was unhappy with…because that was something I just couldn’t bear.
There were a lot of things surrounding his feelings and it wasn’t just me…but at the end of the day, his chief complaint was that he felt that I didn’t support him in his endeavors.
Like when he got into building drones. I didn’t care for it much so I never expressed much of an interest in it and probably displayed a bit of a laissez-faire attitude towards it. But it meant something to him.
He’s super into video games (something we have done together since high school) but with my business and school, it didn’t allow much time for it anymore. But he continued to play as a hobby and even got into streaming so he makes a little cash. And he really enjoys it.
I experienced quite a bit of jealousy about that and got ruffled up a few too many times, causing some tension. But he took it as me not being supportive of something that was important to him. Still, he kept it to himself.
But in this moment, he finally felt compelled to share, and man am I glad he did.
All of that resentment had been building, and building over years!
And although no doubt he still loved me, I had accidentally driven a wedge between us I didn’t even know was there.
A Bit of Self-Reflection
Now, of course, I never meant to make him feel that way. I love him and I want him to be happy and I do support him.
But for some reason, I wasn’t conveying it effectively. So I had to look within myself to figure out what that disconnect was.
And what I found for this particular scenario was that I am just not a “jump up and down in excitement kinda girl”.
In fact, when I thought back on some other scenarios where others may have had similar feelings I suddenly recalled a certain Christmas morning with my mom.
I remember opening a present (no I can’t remember what it was) but it was something she was really proud of and excited for me to open.
But I calmly opened the present, did my smiles, and my “awww, thanks!” routine and moved on to the next one.
My mother, obviously disappointed, said: “Wow, I thought you’d be more excited than that.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. I knew on the inside I loved the present, but I hadn’t really conveyed that to her.
It dawned on me that I am not necessarily an outwardly excited person. And that had led to me not seeming excited when he clearly was.
What to Do with Resentment in Relationships
The first priority is to clear up any confusion. If your SO has expressed that they feel a certain way because of something you have done, even unknowingly, it’s your responsibility to explain it to them.
And let me be clear here…this is not the time to get defensive. You’re not trying to convince them why your actions weren’t wrong because you didn’t mean to do it.
If you genuinely didn’t mean to make them feel that way, now is the time to tell them.
Don’t Do it When You’re Feeling Emotional
The absolute worst time to have this conversation is when your emotions are heightened about the situation.
Remember, the goal here is to help put their mind at ease, not to have to worry about you having an epic meltdown.
You need to find a way to do your self-reflection, identify the underlying cause, and come up with a heartfelt and thoughtful way to explain your side.
If you’re still in a state of shock or raw emotions, you still won’t convey your message effectively and in fact, you’re likely to lead right into another argument.
So come to terms with it and put your game face on, sister.
Believe me, I know how hard this one is.
Admitting you did something wrong is something I have struggled with and still struggle with to this day. And sometimes it takes a very big slap for you to face reality and buck up.
But once you get that real gut check, you’ll know. You’ll feel it all the way down in your toes. That feeling that gives you a shiver like a naked, anorexic polar bear.
What!? It was the first thing that popped in my head!!!
But sorry goes a long way. Your partner has to feel that you legitimately care about their feelings and are dedicated to making it right.
And if you can’t muster up an apology, there goes your street cred honey!
If you are one of those people that struggles with apologizing, just keep in mind, you’re not admitting that you did something wrong on purpose.
It just means that you recognize and understand that something you did caused them pain or to feel a certain way. It doesn’t mean you were wrong, it means you didn’t realize you were doing something that negatively affected the other person.
Own Your Truth
When you do decide to talk to them about it, you need to approach it with a clear goal. What do you want to accomplish?
Continuing on with my story, it took me a couple of days to formulate the right words to say. I had to take the time to reflect on what happened, why it happened, and then how to communicate that to him.
My goal was to let him know that I absolutely do support his extracurricular activities.
So how was I going to communicate that?
Again, the first step was for me to identify the root cause, which I had done. I am not an outwardly excited person, and I needed to explain this to him.
We met at home for lunch a couple of days later and I broached the subject once again.
I took my time, apologized and made sure he knew that I never meant to make him feel unsupported, and even presented him with my self-reflection and the story of that Christmas day with my mom.
He was extremely grateful and said that the explanation made sense, him knowing me as well as he does and admitted that it helped tremendously with his concerns.
Ask for Help
Of course, we all know that it’s not that easy to just change overnight…no matter how much you want to.
And part of what got you into this mess was not recognizing there was a problem. So it makes sense that until you develop new habits, you may need a little help recognizing the signs.
So now it’s time to ask your SO for help. Let them know that this is something that is important to you and recognize that change isn’t easy. But you’re committed to working on it, but you would really appreciate their help in letting you know when those situations come up.
In our case, it was doubly difficult because Garrett is notorious for bottling things up because he doesn’t like to rock the boat. So we both had things we needed to work on to meet in the middle.
I flat out asked him to let me know when I was being a bitch or making him feel like what he is doing isn’t important.
What if You’re the One Feeling Resentment?
Resentment in relationships can go both ways. So it’s very likely that at some point you will find yourself feeling a little down about something your SO is doing.
Guess who I’m gonna use as an example this time!?
You guessed it! I told ya no relationship is perfect…even me and my boo have our issues!
So you know we’re living in Japan right now…which is totes awesome. But going from living in a 5 bedroom, modern home in San Antonio with a massive bathroom and double sinks left us feeling a little underwhelmed with our tiny, big enough for one person at a time countertop.
And you know a girls gotta have her space!
I finally found some hanging baskets locally that would be perfect for getting the counter space cleared up.
Now I love my husband dearly. But he is literally the world’s WORST procrastinator if it’s something that he’s not interested in. When he’s into something, on the other hand, he’ll get lost in it.
In his defense, if our stupid drill wasn’t for some reason on the fritz he would have hung them that weekend. Instead, they sat on the floor of my closet, lonely and empty, for several months.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I noticed Jasper the turtle’s tank (yes we have a turtle!) water was getting dirty and the levels were pretty low. So I asked Garrett to give the tank a little love on one of his days at home.
We’re not fully on a telework schedule, but have been spending a little more time at home due to #socialdistancing, so I figured it was a perfect opportunity.
Nope! A couple of weeks went by and he was squeezing in some extra games…but poor Jasper the turtle just continued to get lower on water.
The final straw came a while later, when I got an email saying my Uber account had been hacked. I freaked because I couldn’t get logged in to change my password and asked him to help me.
He did, but I could just get the feeling that he was just trying to rush through everything to get back to his game.
After holding in my resentment for those couple of months I finally snapped.
“I know you’re just trying to get back to your game but I am just trying to get some help!” I immediately felt bad about accusing him and he got a little defensive.
After a minute or so of bickering, I surrendered and he went back to his game and I was left to try and continue concentrating on my work while simultaneously feeling this heavy resentment for the game in the pit of my stomach as well as guilt for biting his head off.
I gave up and went upstairs to watch TV or read. He had about an hour left before it was his scheduled time to get off the game to hang out with me for the evening.
The Old Me
Now would be a good time to tell you that this isn’t how I would have handled this situation in the past. I have had to work long and hard to get myself to this point.
My gut instinct would have been to bring up all my resentment in that unsuspecting moment, probably with something along the lines of: “You find all the time in the world to play that damn game but you can’t find the time to hang my freaking baskets!”
At which point he would have been thoroughly shocked and confused, and would no doubt have immediately gotten defensive. With good reason.
And as much as I was burning to have that conversation with him right then and there, I knew that wasn’t the answer.
What do You Really Want?
So what should you do?
The first thing you need to do is take the time to stop and think about what you want to say. And this goes all the way back to my earlier point of not speaking from your emotions.
Think about what you ultimately want out of this situation.
For me, I knew that my goal was for him to hear me. I wanted him to understand that his actions, although unintentional, were causing me to build up a resentment towards him playing the game.
I needed him to understand that I was feeling that what was important to me wasn’t important enough for him to make time to do them.
And if I attacked him, he would have never gotten to that point. You can’t just throw’em a curveball with your hair on fire and your claws out and expect them not to react.
So I walked through all the steps and everything I wanted to say based on my end goal…
By the time he came upstairs and asked why I packed up work early I calmly explained it to him.
The first thing I did was apologize.
Regardless of how I was feeling I spoke out of frustration and anger and accused him of doing something rather than telling him how his actions were making me feel.
This is so powerful when it comes to communication.
Then I calmly and with a cool tone explained to him how I was feeling that some things I had been asking him to do weren’t getting done and it was starting to build up resentment for him playing the game.
I let him know that I felt like what was important to me wasn’t important to him and it was festering.
He apologized and admitted he could see how his actions could have been interpreted as rushed to get back to his game.
And he apologized for not having hung the baskets or cleaned the turtle tank yet.
No excuses. No bullsh*t.
And three days later, everything was done.
Just remember the big picture. Ask yourself: What do I really want?
Chances are, what you want is not to fight, am I right?
So think about #1 your SO’s triggers and #2 how you would want them to approach the situation if it were in reverse.
The bottom line is, to get what you really want, you have to talk TO them…not AT them.
And that, my friends, is the magic sauce to dealing with resentment in relationships.
Over to You
Ever experienced resentment in your relationships? Is it something you or your partner struggle to communicate effectively?
Drop me a note or a comment with your thoughts!
Much love and till next time,