Have you ever felt a deep pang of irritation at something involving your spouse? Has that irritation progressed to a gnawing anger that you harbor for days, months, even years? Welcome to the world of spousal resentment. Luckily, you don't have to stay angry forever.
Dictionary.com defines resentment as "the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., as causing injury or insult." Everyone feels resentment toward others at certain points in life, but experiencing resentment toward your spouse can cause a great deal of emotional pain and turn a household upside down.
People handle resentment in many ways, including withdrawing, being argumentative or holding it all in and not showing any signs of upset at all until they eventually explode. Resentment can start out small and grow over time to invade your entire relationship.
One common source of resentment in a relationship is related to money and power. When one spouse makes more money than the other or has a more prestigious job, the other spouse may feel envious and resentful. Sometimes, a woman will put her career on hold to raise children and feel she's made the right decision until the reality of her spouse being the breadwinner sinks in.
The interplay of money and power is a complicated thing and differs from one couple to the next. Much of it depends on the partners' family history of money, among other things. To combat resentment in these situations, you should realize that you do make a large contribution to the household, no matter how much money you make.
If you want to increase your financial independence, work toward it. Do at-home work, take classes or do whatever you need to advance. Until then, strive to do the best job you can, whether you work for pay or work as a stay-at-home mom. Having pride in what you do will boost your self-confidence and help dispel some of that resentment.
If you feel as though your spouse is being unappreciative or domineering because of his status, it's time to have a conversation with him. He may not realize what he's doing, or you may be misinterpreting his behavior through the lens of your own feelings of resentment. Communication is the way to go.
Getting a Hand
Division of chores is another point of resentment for many couples. Women can feel overburdened doing more than their fair share of housework and childcare while their partner enjoys some downtime after work. It can be difficult to know your spouse expects you to do certain tasks, while hardly ever stepping in to give you a hand.
Dealing with resentment in cases like this can involve being accepting on the one hand, while making proactive steps toward change on the other.
First the acceptance: Historically, women have taken care of the household responsibilities, and that won't change overnight. You might find it irritating that the chores aren't split 50/50, but few things in a relationship can be perfectly balanced. It's likely your partner isn't living the life of luxury, either. He has his own responsibilities, which he performs whether or not he feels like it, just the same as you do.
Now the change: You should be able to ask for and expect some assistance from him around the house. It's his home as much as it is yours, so he should pitch in to help it run as smoothly as possible. Talk with him about what you're feeling and see if you can both agree on a fair and equitable division of chores.
Healing After An Affair
We can't have a discussion about spousal resentment without mentioning the doozy: a husband's affair. An affair can turn any wife into a regular resentment factory, and with good reason; it threatens your security and your self-esteem and makes you question the strength of your marriage.
Even after the millionth "I'm sorry," and months or years of good behavior on his part, you still may not be able to let go of the past. Resentment about an affair can be incredibly painful for the wife and cause all kinds of strife in a marriage.
If you want to save your marriage, you should take steps to get past resentment. The best course of action in a case like this would be professional couple's counseling. Counselors have seen and heard it all, and will help you talk through your feelings of resentment, no matter how intense.
Whatever the cause of your resentment, you don't have to let it eat away at you forever. There are some strategies to handle this difficult emotion before it gets out of hand.
Breathe and center. You may not think of yourself as the meditative type, but living with resentment can be irritating enough to make you try just about anything. You might find that simple grounding meditation may clear some of the stormy feelings you're having and open your mind to creative solutions to your problem. There are countless resources online and at your local library that can get you started in a simple meditation practice.Quit the self-blame and guilt. Resentment is often fed by a feeling that you should be better or even perfect. Women grow up with the notion that they should carry the whole household with no complaints and with a smile. This isn't always possible. You resent your husband for not helping, and then you hate yourself for wanting help or for complaining. Stop. It's a vicious cycle in which you don't want to get trapped.
Realize what's lacking. Resentment can stem from feelings of envy for someone else's life or emptiness in your own life. Pinpoint your resentment triggers and you may find out what you need deep down. Is it freedom? Influence? Attention? These things aren't necessarily bad things, and there are probably avenues to obtain them in a healthy way in your present situation.
Be good to yourself. Having some time to yourself is vital for your mental health, and to the process of shedding resentment. If you give yourself to others until you're burned out, you might end up resenting them for it. Spend quality time with friends and quiet time by yourself doing things that make you feel relaxed and happy.