11 Apr Resentment has no place in happy relationships

Sometimes when couples come to marriage therapy, one or both of them brings along a big backpack.

backpack photo

I can tell it’s heavy, because they’re always drained from the effort of lugging it around. They often let out a private sigh as they put it down.

Sooner or later, they open that backpack up and start laying the contents out on the therapy room floor.

Sometimes they do this one item at a time, reaching in for the one thing they’re looking for, and selecting it for public view.

Other times they empty that backpack with one big upside-down shake out, and we all stand back as a huge pile cascades onto the floor.

It’s not a real backpack, and the contents aren’t real either.

But they may as well be, because they create very real consequences for couples. I’m talking about resentments.

Resentments don’t start off as resentments. They start off as the inevitable disappointments and hurts which are part of any close relationship or marriage.

Disappointments and hurts become resentments when whoever suffered them won’t let them go.

The #1 reason that clients tell me they don’t let resentment go is that they fear by doing so, they will somehow belittle the significance of whatever it was they suffered.

It goes something like this:

“If I forgive him/her, then what I’m saying is that it really didn’t hurt me that much after all”

Following this logic, the only way anyone can continue to do justice to how much they’ve been disappointed or hurt is to hold onto the resentment… no wonder that backpack keeps getting heavier.

Keeping resentments alive is always bad news for relationships, and learning how to let them go is essential for couples who really want a marriage or partnership that thrives.

Next time you’re tempted to store away resentments instead of letting them go, see if you can create a new logic, one that goes more like this:

“I have been disappointed/hurt by you. Only I will ever know how much I have suffered. Yet I value myself (and our relationship) too much to carry this around as resentment. I choose to let it go”

Talk it through with your partner. Express how you have experienced the disappointment/hurt, and how it has impacted on you. Be curious about how it has impacted him/her too. Seek an apology if one is deserved. Then honour yourself and your partnership by choosing to let it go.

Resentment has no place in a healthy relationship or marriage.

There’s only so much room in your backpack. Fill it with the happy and healthy stuff that helps the two of you thrive.

Needing a little help with letting resentment go? Contact Pamela, and let’s get started.