What’s one of the biggest causes of resentment in a relationship? 

Jan 2, 2017

How many of you have ended up in a relationship where you find yourself just furious at your partner, that resentment just bubbling up and boiling over? You can raise your hand. I’m going to raise my hand. Sometimes when we give a "yes" in the short term it ends up breeding resentment in the long term. So how do you handle this?

We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all gotten to that space where we feel like our partner has overstepped our bounds in some way or our partner is somehow not fulfilling their end of an agreement. What I found in my work with couples is that a lot of people, the resentment is from a yes that they gave initially, that they intended to be a contained short term yes. But that somehow became a long term yes.

When your "yes" becomes a silent "no"

In other words, there was a boundary that they didn’t set that now they’re feeling over and over and over again. So for instance, let’s say my partner comes to me and they say, “Hey, I’m really busy at work this week. Can you make sure that you cook dinner for both of us all week?”

If I’m under the impression that it’s one week that they’re going to be really busy and after that we’re going to go back to more equitable division of labor, then I might say, “Yeah, sure. I can do one week,” even if it feels a little bit off-putting, even if it feels like a bit of a sacrifice. I might say yes to it under the assumption that it’s a short term thing.

What happens then when they keep having busy week after busy week after busy week? I’ve kind of set up this situation where I agreed to cook when they’re busy and then I feel really shitty because I don’t feel like I can tell them that I want out of it, but I also don’t feel happy continuing to do it.

How many of you have been in a situation like that?

Negotiation begins with honesty

When you’re agreeing to things in relationships, when you’re negotiating out how things are going to look, make sure that you’re being super honest with yourself and with your partner about what the parameters are for your answer.

  • If you’re saying yes to something, are you saying yes to it forever and always?
  • Are you saying yes to it only under very specific circumstances?
  • What are those circumstances?

Make sure you negotiate it out. If you notice yourself starting to feel resentment, that resentment is your cue that it’s time to talk about something.

The thing about feelings is that I think a lot of people are under this misconception that there are good feelings and bad feelings. I don’t think that there are any bad feelings necessarily. There are feelings that are uncomfortable. There are feelings that don’t feel good. But all of our feelings give us really useful information and resentment tells us that we are past our boundaries, that we need to figure out what it is that’s happening that’s not working for us and renegotiate.

Look for that resentment and renegotiate.

Figure out what that cue is for you to renegotiate and make sure that you get back on even terms. It doesn’t do either of you any good if one of your partners is holding on to resentment. While you may think that talking about it is going to be really hard and make your partner upset, trust me, they’re upset already. Everyone can tell when you’re holding resentment, no matter how well you try to hide it. So make sure that when you feel it, you’re open and you talk about it.

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