02 May How to have a resentment free relationship
People in relationships sometimes stuff up. It’s part of the ride.
So long as the disappointments, hurts, and stuff-ups in your relationship are relatively minor and infrequent, this is totally OK. Even healthy relationships don’t work very well sometimes.
If you’ve hurt or disappointed your partner, he or she might feel resentful unless things get sorted. But who is responsible for doing this sorting?
If you’ve stuffed up and your partner is feeling resentful, is it solely up to him or her to let that resentment go?
The answer is “yes”… and “No”.
It’s true that when we’ve been hurt, we each have to make the ultimate decision to let resentment go. No one can make this decision for us.
But it’s also true that partners can work together to make the process of letting resentment go, easier.
If you’ve stuffed up and your partner is hurting, here’s what you can do that might help:
Stop what you’re doing. Make eye contact. Nod your head. Breathe. Just listen. The more attentive you are, the more he or she will feel heard. And they need to feel heard before they can ever let resentment go.
Feed back what you’ve heard, and find the part that you can understand: “So what I’m hearing is you felt (X) when I did (Y). When I see it from your point of view, I guess that does make sense – I can understand how you got to that position.”
Find a word that describes how you might have felt if it were you in the same situation, then check it out with your partner to see if it fits how he or she felt: “I imagine you might have felt angry/sad/frightened… is that true?”
This bit is easy. You just say “Sorry”. And mean it.
So, you might be asking, when do you get to defend yourself? When do you get to justify whatever it was that you did or didn’t do? When do you get to point out to your partner his or her completely illogical thinking that has caused such an over-the-top and misguided reaction in the first place?
If you have hurt your partner, you have a choice.
You can meet him or her where he or she is at.
Or you can launch into justifying, explaining, and defending. But most couples find it hard to successfully move past resentments if they go about it this way.
If your efforts at resolving resentments usually fail, what you are doing isn’t working.
Next time one of you hurts or disappoints the other, start with the above steps first. Ensure that your partner feels heard, validated, understood, and loved enough to receive an apology when they’re hurting.
Together you’ll create safety and trust and all the good stuff that will allow you both to debrief in greater depth later should you need to.
Pamela helps couples solve relationship problems. She sees every day how couples stuff up. And how what they do about it can create even bigger problems… or love that lasts.