There are many issues that can lead to the demise of a relationship: lack of trust, money problems, infidelity, the list goes on. But one of the most common relationship killers is resentment — and this is often something we can control.
Resentment is the bitter emotion that forms when we feel wronged, or treated unfairly. This feeling often arises after a friend, loved one, or even a co-worker has failed to anticipate our needs. They know us so well, we think; how could they NOT know what we need? Did they not pay attention last time? Do they not love, respect, or appreciate us enough?
It is important to recognize that resentment can be fueled by our own insecurities and habits. More often than not, the person we resent has no idea how strongly we feel about their actions. By letting our resentment grow, we not only create more stress, we make it harder to have a healthy relationship.
4 Steps to Avoid Resentment
The next time you find yourself resenting someone, check that you’ve done the following:
1. Clearly Set Expectations
For example, if you feel resentment toward your spouse because they don’t contribute around the house, ask them to please contribute around the house. Make it clear exactly what you’d like them to do and why it’s important to you. If you’re tired of repeating yourself, move to step two.
2. Find Out Why
If your spouse (or the object of your resentment) does not meet your expectations, calmly ask them why. Perhaps they were busy or distracted by another issue. Really try to put yourself in their shoes. You may discover that they don’t see things the same way you do.
3. Communicate How You Feel
Communication is key. Tell them how you feel. Try not to accuse them of “making you feel” that way. (Accusing puts people on the defensive, which can break down communication.) This helps them understand that what they might see as trivial actually has deeper meaning for you.
4. Make a Plan Together
Talk it out. Discuss how you’d both like to handle the issue next time. Make it clear who does what, when, and stick to the plan. This way, you both feel empowered to do your part.
Resentment doesn’t just show up out of the blue. It creeps into a relationship slowly, intensifying over time until the relationship is frayed beyond repair. By taking the time to communicate our expectations and feelings up front, we can help stop resentment in its tracks and start building stronger, more rewarding relationships.