Resentment in Your Significant Other

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As mentioned in a recent post, resentment or bitterness results from you not dealing with past hurts. But what can be done about resentment toward you in the person or persons closest to you?

First of all, remember you can only change yourself.

You cannot make the other person forgive you or reconcile; neither can you make him or her discuss the sources of the resentment, if they are not willing. By being wise and non-confrontational in your approach, hopefully you can create a non-threatening atmosphere that will allow your significant other to be willing to discuss the hurts which bred the resentment. If you are willing to listen to the criticism and accept it in a constructive way, even if the communication toward you is not necessarily in the most pleasant of form, you will have examples to work with to make needed changes on your end. If the person is absolutely unwilling to talk at this time, you have to begin with expressing your sorrow for causing him hurt, and make changes in any areas in which you are already aware that have caused resentment. In other words, begin by not adding to the resentment that already exists, making changes to your habits or personality which you already know are offensive to your loved one.

To more easily identify problem areas, let’s take a look again at what causes resentment.

Not Confronting Boundary Violations – Due to childhood environment, some people have a very difficult time saying, “No,” for a variety of reasons:

-Especially in religious circles, people are often made to feel that they can never say “No;” they are told that a “No” response is always unloving and selfish instead of self-sacrificing. However, in Matthew 18:15 and following, God very specifically says that if someone wrongs you, you are to clearly let the person know so that he can change. Verse 17 also makes it clear that if the person is unwilling to stop the inappropriate behavior or abuse, you should distance yourself from that person.

-Afraid of hurting other people’s feelings

-Afraid of angry responses/conflict resulting from speaking truthfully from his heart

Giving Under Compulsion – The hurting person outwardly complies but inwardly resents giving in to your demands. He resents giving in due to missing out of something important to his own life or because it violates what he personally feels is right to do in the situation. A resentful person usually feels compelled to give for the following reasons:

– The giving is initially out of compassion but then the controlling person manipulates him to give more than what he feels able to or is right to.

– He makes the choice to win your approval and avoid conflict.

– He makes the choice because an “oversensitive” conscience [one that isn’t working properly] makes him feel guilty to say “No” and disappoint you.

– Similar to the oversensitive conscience, he gives in based on his own sense of what he “needs” to do, even though it is incorrect, such as taking responsibilities that you were supposed to do and didn’t follow through with.

Give clear, verbal admission to your spouse or significant other that you are willing for him to make needed changes on his end to prevent further resentment, that you will not respond selfishly or in anger to him expressing his boundaries.

Make it clear that the other person is free to:

– Give in to his own sense of what should he should or should not do in a situation, rather than being afraid of disappointing or angering you.

– Give you clear descriptions of what he feels the proper rules of your relationship are and how whatever specific circumstance is taking place at a particular moment is not going according to healthy relationship rules.

– Be in control of his choices in spite of what his oversensitive feeling may be saying internally. Be clear that you do not want him to do something because he feels that he “had to.” In reality, there is no such thing as “had to.” We are in control of our choices regardless of our emotions.

– Say “No” to your wants when he feels you are expecting too much or something that violates his boundaries in another way. You, in turn, need to be willing to quit wanting too much of other people, as is typical of a controlling personality.

As you both desire change, be willing to face the fact that if nothing changes, nothing changes.

That sounds silly, but way too many people go through life earnestly desiring their lives to change but never making any changes.

-You must each identify your own failures. If you are manipulative and expecting too much, admit it and change. If your significant other who is struggling with resentment is compliant, as is often the case, he needs to admit that he should have spoken clear boundaries and done what he felt was right, and now change-speak and act according to his boundaries in the future.

– Be aware that you each must change how you handle situations. For example, you make a commitment to be aware of when you are being too controlling and handle the situation differently by limiting your wants and asking what the other person’s needs are. The resentful person chooses to become aware of when he is feeling afraid to speak or act truthful to his desires and now speak and act truthfully in spite of past fears. He should also take notice of when you are not recognizing his need or boundary in a situation and handle the situation differently than in the past by verbalizing his boundary or his need.

Related Article: Resentment and Anger Management

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