Steven Losardo, AMFT

More than ever, we need some peace in our lives. The kind of peace that surpasses one’s understanding when it shows up during unforeseen chaos. The inner tranquility brings us a sense we are loved while providing joy, patience, kindness, and goodness. Unfortunately, the road to this mindful place can have a few cobwebs entangling us in relational discord or even hatred. Often, this is due to resentments that we may hold. I wrote about these in a recent blog. Resentments remind us of the pain or hurt caused by others in the past. They keep us referring to the suffering as we project it into the future. Here, one may actualize ongoing fantasies of revenge as an antidote to the persistent pain or ill will (Tylim, 2005).

Unfortunately, the relief is only temporary, and we end up denying ourselves deep inner peace. Perhaps worse, the resentments break our mental health life’s normal flow and harm memory functioning, disturbing our psychic equilibrium (Tylim, 2005). The effect lingers and passes from one generation to the next. Often transgenerational, resentments create a form of psychic bondage that shows up in our intimate relationships (Tylim, 2005). 

When we have unresolved past and present resentments, they seem to become darkest in our intimate relationships. As an example, in couple conflict, we can get anxious. We can become critical, defensive, bitter, and self-righteous. While holding a grudge, we are ready to “fight, and we want an immediate knockout. After all, we have been waiting far too long for payback. In the end, there are too many regrettable incidents. And before long, the couple is in the gridlock of a perpetual problem.  

At the relationship’s impasse moment, what we cannot see is the current and old resentments disrupt one’s thoughts, emotions, or biological life, blurring the present interaction (Engel, 1977). The dilemma may result from mishandling an initial resentment, which is now hovering over this relationship. These things become extraordinarily uncomfortable, and partners get gridlocked over the conflict issue (Gottman, 2017). They may try to discuss it but get nowhere as the problem is not the problem. As a result, more hurt shows up, and there seems no possibility of compromise. Over time, both partners become entrenched in their position and polarize (Gottman, 2017). Forget the peace; the couple is at war. 

How might they get back to love? At some point during the aftermath, they must realize submission is the best strategy. The surrender will bring a resentment free life and end the war. So, how do you begin this process? This blog will review some steps on how one may submit or transfer away this travesty.  

Step One: Search Your Heart 

Try to assess the cost of anger resulting from resentment. This action highlights the need to bring in some interference or a safe-haven to submit these nasty resentments. If a partner tries to be supportive, but the response comes with the anger of resentment, they may fear messing up and won’t try again (Gottman, 2017). One answer in the here-and-now can be to ask right then, “What do you need from me right now?” In this way, the partner can reflect at the moment and give an appropriate answer minus the reactivity of emotion (Gottman, 2017). 

Cast All Anxiety Away and Replace It With Gratitude 

Gottman, 2017 notes that there is also an absence of cherishing the partner and feeling grateful for what they provide in these situations. The focus is on resentment for what the partner does not give, minimizing positive qualities. Meanwhile, the negative attributes are the emphasis. The couple can create a ritual to express cherishing thoughts and gratitude for each other regularly. The practice will help stop expressing resentment and disrespect “for what their partner lacks (Gottman, 2017). 

Get Humble

Resentments can get suppressed. They will build over time are become transgenerational issues. Humility will serve each partner well and allow the space to find your center in this process.

This step involves partners learning to express resentment toward their partner. If not, guilt and shame are not often far behind (Gottman, 2017). While each is responsible for their health, wellness, and interdependency, it is necessary to support talk about each other’s feelings, hopes, concerns, and needs (Gottman, 2017). This conversation includes the ability to share negative about one’s partner. 

Essential Tools that can help

Some tools for a couple to break free from resentment include Open-Ended Questions, Appreciate exercises, and build Rituals of Connection. An example of an open-ended question is, “I wonder what that may be like for you?” An example of an appreciation exercise can be to call in the middle of the day and tie an appreciative comment to a specific moment. As an example, “I appreciate how organized you were for our guests’ visit last night. I could see that made them feel right at home.” An example of building a ritual of connection can be defining a time, place, event, organizer of the couple, and frequency. A morning “ritual” can be a kiss, and as each partner sharing one thing, they are excited about as it relates to the day.

References

Engel, G. L. (1977). The need for a new medical model: A challenge for biomedicine. Science,

196(4286), 129–136. 

Enright, R. D., & Fitzgibbons, R. P. (2015). Forgiveness Therapy: An empirical guide for

resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington, DC: American Psychological

Association. 

Gottman, J.  (2017). Level 1 Clinical training manual: Gottman method couple

therapy. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute Inc.

Tylim, I. (2005). The power of apologies in transforming resentment into forgiveness.

International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 2(3), 260-270.