Actress Carrie Fisher once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” Described as misdirected displeasure about someone or something unfair, resentment is inexorably linked with the emotions of anger and fear. We can get so overwhelmed and consumed with the cycle of these emotions that our relationships suffer.
In my therapy practice, couples often express how grudges they are holding get in the way of their relationship, and inevitably their own personal happiness. Resentment certainly has a tight stronghold on relationships. So how can we release its grip? Acknowledging the resentments is the first step to creating a pathway to forgiveness that will lead you toward greater joy and fulfillment—both as a partner and as a person. Incorporate these six techniques to further reduce resentment and strengthen the bond between you and your partner.
1. Communicate openly and honestly
Make your partner aware of any concerns and/or negative feelings you are experiencing regarding their part in the relationship or the relationship as a whole. It doesn’t matter how small the issue feels. Thinking about what has happened and discussing it with your partner permits a way to process confusion and hurt feelings. By openly sharing your feelings, you are allowing for more productive communication.
2. Take ownership
Take responsibility for, and ownership of your part in, a conflict. This small step may help your partner admire your candor and think differently about the conflict and, at the same time, enhance greater understanding.
Taking responsibility is the first step, apologizing, when appropriate, is the second. A simple apology promotes forgiveness by your partner and opens the door for greater communication.
4. Learn Acceptance
Focus on accepting and living in the here and now. Without this acceptance, resentment will thwart any efforts made to fix the relationship, because neither partner is truly living in the present moment—you are both being weighed down by the past and the grudge you are holding. Choosing acceptance neither negates thoughts about the past or future, nor does it mean you’re allowing others to hurt you. It just means you are no longer letting the past feed your resentments.
5. Let Go
We all make mistakes, and we all have flaws. Holding onto unhealthy thought patterns and feelings leads to unproductive rumination and resentment. Once processed, make the effort to release hurt feelings, let go of the past, and move forward and work toward healthier thought and behavior patterns.
Avoid holding onto anger, and allow yourself the freedom to no longer view yourself as a victim. Forgiveness benefits your partner, but it benefits you and your relationship as well.