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What Is Resentment and How Do I Avoid It?

Jessica Pontis, LCSW

No relationship is perfect, whether it’s with your mom, sibling, partner, or best friend.

Every once in a while, you’re probably going to have a disagreement or may feel like they haven’t listened to you, or don’t understand where you’re coming from. When this happens, we may or may not develop feelings of resentment. If you’ve ever been with that feeling for somebody, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Resentment is that feeling of bitterness, anger, irritation, and dissatisfaction with some aspect of your relationship. It’s inevitable that people are going to disappoint us in some way so it’s important to ask ourselves, how do I avoid developing resentment?

Understanding Where Resentment Comes From

Resentment typically comes from a place of feeling as though somebody has treated you unfairly. It’s not at all uncommon for people to unintentionally say or do something that leaves us feeling disappointed. Differences in goals, values, and opinions can all lead to us feeling resentful of someone. It’s also important to recognize that people who find It difficult to engage in conflict or confrontation may be especially prone to feelings of resentment since they find it more difficult to communicate their wants and needs.

How We May Respond to Resentment

If you find that feelings of resentment have taken hold, you may find some lingering bitterness, bouts of unexpected anger, or maybe you struggle to empathize with that person. In some cases, you may even completely withdraw from their relationship, emotionally or physically. If you’re on the receiving end of the resentment, you then may feel some of those emotions coming from that person, and you may have some anxiety or confusion about the status of the relationship.

How We Can Potentially Avoid Resentment

Since it’s not uncommon for resentment to occur in relationships, let’s talk about some ways to potentially avoid building resentment for somebody you care about.

Acknowledge That Resentment Exists

Perhaps the first and most important thing to do is acknowledge that resentment exists in the first place. One thing that people are really great at is sweeping negative emotions under the rug. Like every other negative emotion, resentment is one that will find a way to come out, so allow yourself to acknowledge that it simply exists, and then you can give yourself permission to start working on ways to process those feelings.  

Address the Issues Through Communication

Another thing that is critical to reducing the likelihood of developing resentment is to address issues as the issues come up and learn to communicate and express your feelings effectively. If we never open up about how we’re feeling, we never give the person the opportunity to learn and change the behavior that’s hurtful. If the issue is never addressed, there’s a considerable likelihood that the issue will happen again. So, it’s better to bring it up at the moment and have some resolution and not bring it up at all.

Assess Our Expectations of Others

It can also be helpful to assess our own expectations of a person. If we expect people to be perfect, then we’re always going to be disappointed, because the fact of the matter is nobody is perfect, including us. People are bound to make mistakes because, well, that’s what people do. Acknowledging that somebody might not meet all of your expectations does not mean that the relationship is doomed. As a matter of fact, it allows for more grace in the relationship, meaning that you’ll be able to work through conflict easier and come to a resolution that feels more comfortable for everyone.

Resentment is not a fun or easy thing to experience, however, there are ways to reduce the likelihood that you’ll feel resentment towards somebody. And while it takes courage, speaking your truth and asking for what you need is always going to lead to better outcomes than holding those feelings in. If you’re interested in learning more about resentment or would like to connect with someone to walk with you on this journey, reach out to one of the licensed therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can explore our counseling services on our website, and contact our intake specialists to get matched with one of our very skilled counselors.

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