If you have ever been angry with someone before, then you have experienced- first hand- the effects of resentment. Resentment can be likened to a thorn that is stuck into your favorite pair of jeans: it starts out as a small stick, and slowly it rubs back and forth and finally becomes a wound; eventually all you can think about is the thorn and you’ll throw out the jeans completely if you can’t pull out the thorn.
Resentment starts with anger, disappointment, or jealousy. When we have certain expectations of someone, and they don’t fulfil our expectations, usually a little bit of resentment is formed.
When we ask someone to do something for us and they fail to follow through for us, we will normally feel a little anger towards that person, and as the anger settles, it turns into a little seed of resentment. We hold onto the resentment inside of our hearts until next time it happens again, but this time we are already looking for it to happen again- our guards are up. What was a little anger last time, becomes a little more this time and like a snowball rolling down a hill, every time this person lets us down, we add a little more resentment into our heart. Eventually it rolls so fast that it consumes us.
Resentment is dangerous, because it happens quietly inside our heart; it can ruin relationships, because resentment allows even a small issue to become an avalanche that wipes away everything in its path. We see the behaviors we dislike, we get angry, we store resentment, next time we add more, the time after even more, and eventually its the thorn in our side: its all we can see, and all we can think about. Resentment can cause us to focus on one tiny thing and completely ignore all the positive areas and aspects of the person we love.
Not only does resentment silently compound and cause us to miss the things we love about a person, but resentment also blocks our connection to the person we care about as well.
The more resentment builds up, the more it blocks the person out of our life. As our expectations (realistic or unrealistic) are let down over time, we begin to lose trust and connection with the person. As we focus on the negative and hold onto the anger in our heart, we start creating a barrier that disconnects us from our partner.
Like a huge vine that engulfs a house, resentment starts out with a tiny seed, but if left unchecked, it will eventually kill anything in its way. We must learn to do one of two things to keep resentment in check.
First we can choose to just let go of control: the main reason we resent people is, because they don’t conform to our ideas of how they should act or behave. As we create expectations for this person’s behavior, we create a web of chances for them to fail us.
Let go of control, learn to love this person exactly as they are, and let them be. Loving someone unconditionally and giving them the freedom to be the person they truly are is one of the greatest acts of love we can give- but it takes courage.
Second, we can reframe situations that cause resentment and choose to not view them so negatively. When someone lets us down we can focus on the problem, thus creating a bigger problem each time it happens, or we can choose to look at the everything the person does RIGHT for us. Choose to see why you fell in love with this person in the first place, imagine a life without them, ask yourself if this is really the issue you want to let ruin your relationship, choose to believe that this person doesn’t intend to cause you harm, and choose to accept that they do love you and they are doing the best with what they have right now.
You have to decide for yourself if this issue is big enough to end the relationship over, but over 70% of fights in long term relationships and marriages are caused by recurring issues that are never resolved. These fights are often not issues of compatibility, but simply are small things we expect to change about someone, and as they refuse to change, we become more angry as the fights rage over and over again.
Lets say the issue is that your partner does 1 little thing over and over again, no matter how many times you ask them not to. It is most likely the case, that it is a deeply ingrained habit that will be VERY hard for them to change. They may have tried, and they may really want to change the habit, but it is just out of their reach at the moment. The more you try to force them to change through: anger, guilt, and resentment, the harder it likely becomes for them to change. People usually respond better to an invitation than to force.
Learn to accept people how they are, learn to let go of the little things, and instead of trying to manipulate them emotionally into doing what you want, give them space and allow them to make changes at their own pace. Sure, if its a major issue you just can’t deal with, you can always let it go, but there must be a reason the divorce rate is sky high today. Most people allow too much resentment to build up in their hearts, they sever personal connections, and they fail to commit to loving one another. If you truly love the person you are with, commit to loving them as they are, refuse to treat this person badly, refuse to hold anger and resentment in your heart, and your whole relationship can change.