Resentment feels terrible. And if we’re not careful, resentment can color our feelings toward our spouse and harm our marriage.
When we feel resentful, we often also feel powerless and underappreciated. It’s easy to punish our spouse for “making” us feel this way. But, in reality, we get to choose how we want to feel.
I talk about the source of resentment and how you can take steps to get it out of your life.
What you’ll learn in this episode:
- Why it’s imperative to take care of your own needs yourself
- Why there’s no shortcut to a good relationship with yourself
- How to practice thoughts that make you feel how you want to feel
- Why we also need to let our spouse meet his/her own needs
Resentment is one of those emotions that feels terrible and does nothing but cause you to act out of integrity with yourself. Think about passive aggressive behavior. Today we’re talking about how to get rid of all your resentment.
This is Couples Coaching and I’m Natalie clay.
Resentment is one of the simplest things to solve when you start to understand where it comes from. 100% of the time resentment comes from expecting someone else to take care of your needs.
Now the alternative, of course, is learning how to take care of your needs yourself. I’m going to teach you exactly how to do that today. I like to call this personal self-reliance and it’s the foundation of all of my coaching, so let’s talk about what it means to meet your own needs.
Simply put, it means whatever you want — that’s on you. It means you’re in charge of your happy. Yes, all your moods, your outbursts, anger, highs, lows — all on you.
But let’s back it up even further. It really starts by recognizing that you’re married today because you’re choosing to be married. Under no circumstance do I allow my clients to misunderstand their intentions when it comes to this fact.
If you’re one of those people that tell themselves they’re married for the kids, I want you to listen up. We aren’t wired that way for better and for worse. We’re wired to never stop trying to get what we really want, so when you tell yourself that you’re married for the kids, I want you to dig a little deeper.
Why are you really married? Is it easier than going through an expensive custody battle? Maybe it’s simpler than figuring out how to work and take care of the kids 50% of the time. Maybe the idea of going back into the dating world turns your stomach.
Now, I don’t tell you any of this to strip away your dignity. I happen to think you’re just as good a person if you’re married or divorced. The power in recognizing you’re choosing your situation is that when we choose things for ourselves, it makes us much more compelled to take responsibility to make the best of things. If you think it’s all for them, it’s easy to be resigned to the unhappy state that you’ve been subjected to, and it’s hard to dig yourself out of that hole.
So what are our needs in marriage? The common things I hear from my couples are the same things we needed when we were single: we want to be respected, loved, desired, valued, safe. The list goes on and on. We want to be secure and understood. We want to grow. We want to experience things in life where we find it easiest to feel joy. And right at the top of that list: we want personal autonomy.
When you learn how to meet your own needs, you take back your life.
Now, if you’re thinking that’s overly dramatic, you’re wrong. It really is the key to feeling the freedom you enjoyed as a singleton. And speaking of, remember back to the friendships you enjoyed when you were single. Think about some of the hard things you went through with your friends. Maybe they were really struggling with depression or a breakup or failing a class.
When I think about some of the difficult things my friends and I went through with each other’s support, the memories really are so sweet now. I loved being there for them. I also feel so much love for all the times when they were there for me. My situation wasn’t unique. We seem to have a general understanding that of course this is how friendships work.
Now I want you to think about difficult times your spouse and you have been through. Can you name a couple? If you’re completely honest with yourself, is the initial feeling that comes when you think about those times endearment or maybe do you feel resentment, judgment or even some anger?
Now the key difference between those two situations is not what’s required of you. It’s not that your spouse made a mistake. It’s the responsibility we hand over to our spouse the day we get married.
We find our person and come to this ridiculous conclusion that all those things we were looking to feel before are now answered in this one person. Feeling understood, secure, loved, check check check.
Now is it just me or is it obvious to see how we set ourselves up for a lot of the pain we experience in marriage? We basically concluded that we can stop pretending we’re amazing to attract a spouse and just enjoy the ease of being loved.
We’ve seen the movies. We know how this goes. Remember all those times that the girl feels insecure and silly, but to the right boy, it’s just adorable. There’s no convincing him she’s not amazing. So yeah, that’s just dumb.
When couples come to me and tell me they just feel like roommates now, I suggest that may be a good starting point. We were really good at loving and supporting our roommates and never at the expense of our own well-being.
Can you imagine if your roommate was struggling with something, and the rest of the house took on their mood? That would be so weird, and we did not do that. Instead, we said, “I have to run to class, but when I get back, I want to hear all about it.” Then, we head out, leaving enough time to stop for a Diet Coke on the way.
So, are you starting to see the benefit of viewing your happiness as your responsibility?
Well, here’s another reason. If you don’t believe you’re loved, supported, and desired, no one can convince you otherwise. You allowed yourself to believe you were those things for a few minutes when you got married. But when you don’t believe it for yourself, you will always find evidence to the contrary. There really is no shortcut to a good relationship with yourself.
Remember all we ever want is to feel something. So, the next time you find yourself feeling resentment, ask yourself what am I wanting to feel? Recognized, appreciated, loved, whatever it is…it’s not your spouse’s job to make you feel that way. And they couldn’t, even if they wanted to. You have to figure out how to feel that way for yourself.
You can appreciate all the hard work you did when you would have rather relaxed. You can love yourself for putting in a ton of hours at a job every day that you don’t love in the name of who you want to be in the various roles that you play in your family. Bottom line, practice thoughts that make you feel what it is you want to feel about yourself.
Okay, so what if you’re on board with all of this, but your spouse isn’t listening to this podcast and they for sure think it’s your job to make them happy?
I have a little silly analogy I want to share with you, but this is the simplest way I can think of to explain. I call it “The Dirty Laundry” analogy when your spouse tells you they’re upset. I want you to think of it like a big pile of dirty laundry that just got dumped in your lap.
It’s not a big deal to do their laundry, but when you do their laundry, you never quite do it the way they like. You put things in the dryer that weren’t supposed to go in. You can’t remember if they like dryer sheets or not. And, of course you never fold it the way they like.
Right, so as much as you might want to do their laundry, really, the most loving thing you can do is just hand it right back to them. Remember how good it felt when you learned to do your own laundry? It seemed like it was going to be this big chore, but in reality, it was the best because you knew you would have the shirt the day you wanted to wear it. It felt so good to have clean clothes whenever you wanted them clean and there was no wondering when it would happen. It gave you a tiny sense of control in your world.
So, when you let your spouse do their own laundry, they always do it the way they like it done. It can be easy to get into the habit of taking their dirty laundry and, overtime, they just kind of expect that that’s your job. The more you take it from them and do it, the more they come to expect it to be your job.
Okay, if your spouse comes to you with a grievance. Here are some things to say to hand back their pile of laundry. If your wife says, “I work so hard to keep this house clean and it’s always a mess, this is so frustrating.” Simply respond, “you do work hard.” You just let it land.
If your husband says, “I am so sick of my job. My boss is so patronizing.” Respond, “that sounds like a tough day.”
So, remember, the key is not to do their laundry. They don’t actually even want it done right now. They just want to be upset. Sometimes we all just want to be upset. Your job is not to solve their problem. You can’t change their core beliefs and they aren’t wanting them changed right now anyway. Really, the most loving thing you can do is just to let them sit there in their big old stinky pile and let him know it’s okay. Simple enough, right?
And finally, I just want to tell you that it’s okay to want things. You don’t even have to justify why you want it. Just because you want it is a good enough reason. Practice making your needs a priority. Even go so far as to let your spouse have unhappy thoughts about it.
It’s okay. Total agreement should not be the goal. Taking responsibility for your own needs will get rid of all your resentment. Deliberately live the life that brings you joy. The natural effect of this is it will make loving your spouse a million times easier.
Of all the emotions you can choose to feel, love feels the very best.
If you like anything you’ve heard today and would like personal help in your own marriage, come join me in Marriage Lab, where you can get coached live on any topic that’s bothering you.
Just register at www.natalieclay.com.