How to Fix Resentment in a Relationship
In the communities that Springrose shows up in, we hear a lot about resentment that is a barrier to couples feeling connected emotionally or sexually. We wanted to shine some light on how to manage resentment and reduce it from happening.
When resentment is present, it’s helpful to evoke empathy. Empathy for yourself and empathy for your partner. As difficult as it is, it can be helpful to realize that continued resentment is not going to help. Resentment causes a variety of emotions to be expressed when empathy isn’t there to say “hey, this is hard, your feelings are valid, and it’s ok”. Understand what you do when resentment builds. Do you communicate in a way that expresses anger, sarcasm, or sadness? Are you avoidant? These reactions may feel automatic and they probably are, but with increased self-awareness they can become a cue or a trigger to intentionally evoke empathy with yourself and your partner.
Here are some considerations that can help evoke empathy:
- Consider that resentment can build when people aren’t on the same page with their expectations and goals
- Consider the fact that relationships are challenging and most of us were not explicitly taught relationship skills. You can feel good about gaining more skills to help navigate difficult situations in your relationships.
Getting ahead of resentment
When resentment has built up, a lot of times it is because you are not on the same page about your expectations and about your goals. When people expect that their partner shares the same goals and expectations as them, and it turns out they don’t, that’s when resentment can build.
I recommend being very clear about expectations and goals.
For example communicate about your expectations and goals around the following:
- What are your expectations for how you connect with your partner?
- What are your expectations around sex?
- What are your expectations around how desire is built as a precursor to sex?
- What are your expectations around how finances are managed in your relationship?
- What are your expectations around how you receive support with your health and medical management?
Once you’ve reviewed expectations together, consider developing shared goals for each topic. When you develop goals, I suggest thinking more qualitatively versus quantitatively.
For example, if one person's expectation is to have sex five days a week, and another person's goal is to have sex one time a month, you are going to struggle coming together for some sort of compromise. A goal of a frequency number to have sex is not very helpful, because it does not focus on the quality of the sex. Consider making goals that are enjoyment and pleasure focused. For example:
- A goal around building desire
- A goal around managing pain
- A goal around trying something new together
Again, resentment builds when people have expectations that are not met. That is why it’s important to have more realistic expectations, to ask your partner about their expectations for you and sex, and to share your expectations too.