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“How can I be free of the resentment I feel for my partner?”

"How can I be free of the resentment I feel for my partner?"

Resentment is anger that got stuck.

The purpose of anger is to make something change, to protect a boundary, or to bring something into alignment quickly.

Long-term resentment in relationships happens when anger didn’t get expressed or, for one reason or another, did not bring the desired result.

Moving through resentment means revisiting the anger that got stuck. Is it current? Does it want or need something now? Is there a change that still needs to happen? Is there a boundary that still needs protecting?

If there is change that still needs to happen, attend to it. If there is a boundary being breached, protect it.

If your resentment is old news, if it has no current needs, then it might be time to grieve whatever was lost. That’s an important part of moving past resentment; grieving. This is the part that so often gets missed, and one of the reasons that resentment persists.

If your old anger was ineffective at protecting your boundaries or making a needed change, you probably ended up losing something. Maybe it was a feeling of safety that was lost. Maybe it was dignity. Or feeling understood. Or maybe you lost a relationship, or an aspect of a relationship. Maybe you lost a part of yourself. Maybe you don’t even know exactly what was lost.

To recap, resentment lingers for two main reasons –

  1. The change or protection functions of anger did not accomplish their desired result.
  2. Consciously or unconsciously, we would rather remain angry at what remains undone than grieve what was lost.

This presents us with two possible paths –

  1. Attend to whatever your anger asked and is continuing to ask of you. Deal with what is current.
  2. Grieve.

Grieving is hard for many people, for so many reasons. It can also be completely unknown, a mystery. You might need to learn how to grieve. Consider this possibility, and in the meantime I’ll work on putting together a basic grief “practice” that you can try.

[Update – You can read the follow-up here.]

All my best,

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Do you have something to say about this topic? Leave a comment below.

Struggling to reconcile resentment in your relationship? Check out my book The Re-Connection Handbook for Couples (download a free sample chapter here).

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2 replies on ““How can I be free of the resentment I feel for my partner?””

This is very pertinent to me right now. I had a bit of an epiphany not too long ago while writing. I was writing something I’d written many, many times before: That I was still holding out hope for change in our dynamic. Then it hit me, hoping was keeping me stuck! As long as I was holding onto hope, I wasn’t accepting my reality as it is & dealing with it appropriately by accepting it, grieving my losses & then putting my big girl panties on and moving on! I could see that it was also maintaining an illusion that I was doing something by keeping hope alive. Hoping for something is the least amount of effort you can put into a situation, & it’s appealing because if nothing gets better you have plausible deniability in your own mind that you didn’t fail.

I’ve been studying a lot of psychology & even stoicism in the past few years in hopes of helping my marriage by changing the only thing I can: me. It helps me feel like I’m somewhat on the right track when I come to these various realizations on my own & then see them validated by professionals, like with this posting.
I had never come across info about stoicism looking negatively at hope before it came to me as an epiphany. When I Googled if hope is a bad thing, I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot results directing me to stoicism. I felt like I must be making progress in shifting my mindset if I came up with a known stoic outlook all from my own realization.

Thank you! I’ll be reading the grieving exercise next. I’m also finding that your book feels like it was written for me. I can directly use everything I’ve read so far, which is almost all of it. I knew from that first 10 page sample that I absolutely needed to read it, & it is not disappointing! It’s very accessible, I appreciate that you take it beyond solid concepts & give actionable steps to take.

Evita – Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m glad that my writing and my book have been valuable to you. Hope is an interesting topic. Certainly I would not turn against hope as a general rule, but I certainly do see how hope, as you say, can keep a person stuck. When hope gives way to grief something might shift, a decision might get made, an action taken, or something might just deepen inside in some important way; interesting how giving up on an attachment to hope can sometimes be a catalyst!

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