How to deal with resentment in a relationship
Resentment: a feeling of bitterness and indignation at having been treated unfairly. Have you ever felt it before? If so, you know that learning how to deal with resentment—especially resentment in a relationship—can feel practically impossible at times. Whether you’re the one who’s feeling resentful or being resented, the grass is not greener on the other side—in fact, it’s wilted everywhere you go.
While feeling resentful or being resented hurts, it’s absolutely critical that you tackle those feelings with your partner before they manifest into problems of relationship-tanking proportions. Here’s what you can do to learn how to deal with resentment in a relationship so that you and your partner can focus on repairing your frayed bonds.
How to deal with resentment in a relationship in 4 steps
When feeling resentful, assume positive intent
The most important way to tackle feelings of resentment in a relationship involves assuming positive intent in your partner. What does that look like, you ask?
Assuming positive intent means believing that your partner is acting in a benevolent way, even if you’ve previously felt resentful about their behaviors. Instead of believing their motives are cynical, mean-spirited or openly harmful, assuming positive means seeing the best in your partner.
Assume your partner is kind and wants to help you and you’ll soon find that your interactions with them begin to change. Instead of thinking they’re out to get you, the dialogue in your mind will become more positive, allowing you to understand your partner better.
Assign positive intent, too
Every relationship has its fair share of rough moments. Assigning positive intent means ascribing good intentions to your partner’s more resentful actions—while hard to do, it helps you both start from a “blank slate” and attack the issues at hand, instead of one another.
Instead of being resentful at your partner for how they don’t do enough around the house, assign positive intent by thinking of reasons why they may not be helping out. Are they busy with work lately? Are they going through a difficult emotional time? Are they afraid you may judge them for how they choose to clean up?
Remember that the problem is not necessarily the act of cleaning up—it’s how you and your partner are thinking about the situation that’s stopping the two of you from coming to a compromise. Assigning positive intent puts the focus on the problems at hand, not the people.
Believe in the “zucchini principle”
If someone calls you a zucchini, it doesn’t make you one. (We know… it’s a silly sentence, but bear with us.)
How does this help your relationship? If you’re holding onto resentment based on something your partner said, the zucchini principle allows you to let go of the past. Maybe your partner called you selfish, undisciplined, lazy or a jerk. Whatever the case, just because they said it, it doesn’t make it true—and if it’s not true, you can let go of the resentment that’s been building up inside of you because of what they said.
Make agreements, not boundaries
When you want to protect yourself against something, you make a boundary. You draw a line in the sand and say what you don’t want.
News flash: boundaries don’t work.
Creating boundaries is like slamming a door shut and holding your weight against it so that someone else can’t get in. But what happens when you hold that door shut? Are you able to enjoy sitting in the room? No—because all your time and energy are focused on standing beside the door.
Instead of dispensing with resentment by making boundaries, try making agreements instead. Agreements are “positive” boundaries that tell people what you do want, instead of what you don’t.
Let’s say you’re tired of your partner interrupting you while you watch TV. Instead of saying “don’t talk to me while I watch TV,” say “I can talk to you with my full attention during dinner and before we go to bed.”
See how it works? By focusing on what you do want, you end up finding more creative and positive solutions to problems, and in doing so, your relationship improves.
Learn how to deal with resentment in a relationship by confronting problems head-on
After reading this blog, you’re officially a resentment expert…
Or are you?
Here’s a little test. Try reading some of these prompts from online posters who are dealing with some form of resentment in their lives. Knowing what you now know, how would you deal with their challenges?
- Chewing gum around your partner
- Refusing to include a friend in a personal project
- Arguing with a partner about household chores
Answer for yourself—and then compare your answers with our podcast coaches, who read these exact same posts and answered for themselves.
WIBTA if I didn't include one of my polycule members in a book I'm writing?
In today's epic episode, the jazzy Jonathans read stories from aloof a**holes and coach them...courageously. Is my copywriting improving or what!?!
We coach the original posters of the following AITA threads:
- WIBTA if I didn't include one of my polycule members in a book I'm writing?
- AITA for "embarrassing" my husband by leaving the room whenever he chews gum?
- WIBTA if I asked my wife to stop washing her grandson's laundry?
It's gonna be great and you have to listen to today's episode now!