This is the fourth blog post (and the third step) in a series on how to declutter your relationship. If you haven't already read it, start with the introduction to provide some context on the rest of the steps.
Are you feeling resentful? Do you get upset about small things because they trigger memories of past hurts? This is a common occurrence in relationships, and can build to an unhealthy level if not addressed.
Maybe you have been feeling this way for so long you don’t recall how it began, but it starts out the same way every time. Resentment is created by experiencing sadness, anger, fear, and disappointment linked to someone we care about saying or doing something upsetting. Most times, the activating event is also something that threatens our self-image or makes us feel inferior. It could be anything that triggers this storm of emotion, so we can’t predict what will cause resentment. However, we can learn how to identify and release it when it does occur.
Releasing resentment is a lot like forgiveness. You don’t do it because the other person deserves to be let off the hook. You do it because the only person you are hurting by remaining full of anger, hurt, and resentment is yourself, and you absolutely deserve to not feel that way anymore.
So let’s break it down. When you identify feelings of resentment towards your partner, you can follow these steps:
1. Express What You Are Feeling
When you begin to feel angry, sad, or disappointed, identify what you are feeling and why. If you are too overwhelmed with emotion to have a productive conversation, you can start by writing it down. Simply state: “I am feeling _(fill in the emotion)_ because _(fill in the reason)_.”
When you do feel like you can express yourself calmly, then explain why you are feeling the way that you are. It helps to use “I” statements. I am feeling disappointed because I feel like I am not a priority to you.
Keep it present focused. It does not help to bring up examples of all of the times in the past you have felt this way.
2. Identify a Solution
Once you have expressed how you are feeling, it’s time to problem solve. It is not up to your partner to make it better for you, because chances are, they don’t know what would work best. Only you know what will make you feel like the problem is resolved.
If you are not sure what the solution is, then it’s time to experiment. Allow time and space for you and your partner to try different remedies until you come up with one that works. If you are feeling as if you and the relationship are not a priority, then what would make you feel like you are at the top of the list? Be specific. If you are feeling unappreciated, what expression of gratitude would be most meaningful?
You have to be the driving force in this process or the resentment will continue to build. It goes both ways though. When your partner is feeling this way, it is on them to express themselves and start the problem solving.
3. Release and Forgive
Depending upon the situation, this process can be done in many ways. If you catch it early enough, you may be able to do steps 1 and 2 and not even have to put in effort on step 3. For other people, who have been feeling resentful for years, or were wronged in severe ways, this step will be much more complicated. You may need to work with a counselor to get to a point of forgiveness. You may be able to use your faith or mindfulness techniques to work through it. You may just need to create a mantra or release ritual for yourself to repeat until you feel the resentment release.
You have to forgive your partner for the past if you want to have a future. You have to forgive yourself for not speaking up sooner, or for your part in contributing to the problem. Most importantly, you need to forgive, because holding on to resentment is harmful to yourself.
These steps can be used over again and again until things have been worked through. It may seem daunting to begin, but you have to start somewhere if you want things to change. You don’t gain anything from letting resentment continue to clutter up your relationship and keep you from the happiness you deserve.