Understanding the poison pill of resentment

Dear Paul

These last few years in my marriage have been strenuous ones. I’m feeling unhappy and almost bitter. I do so much for everyone in my family and so little is done for me. What can I do with this resentment that’s building in me?

Tanya

I’ve said before in this column that it is common, even normal, for difficulties and challenges to appear in relationships. These problems appear precisely to encourage us to learn and grow in the understandings and skills we bring to life.

Relationships are a curriculum like none other, always inviting our personal growth and development. Yet so frequently we ignore our lessons.

Why? For the simple reason it seems much easier to look at our partner and make them responsible (blame them) for the problem we are experiencing: “If they would only…. then I’d be happy. If they would just stop … then things would work.” With blame there is no looking, no inquiring, no learning at all.

The posture of blame  appears real and correct. We can find lots of evidence that our unhappiness is due to them and their behaviour. Yet if you look closer, you will see that while perhaps valid, this view gives us no real power or effectiveness in the matter. It gives all the power to our partner. Yes, we are “right” — it is them after all — and we remain ineffective and miserable.

What is this problem, this particular difficulty, trying to teach me? Now I say that’s a much more powerful question — that sadly few ask themselves.

Now let me be clear. Exploring this question, being responsible this way, does not mean making yourself wrong or at fault somehow. It is not meant as blame or self judgement. It is meant as the doorway, entered into lightly and curiously, for learning and new understanding.

So Tanya what can you see when you explore resentment? What is resentment trying to teach you?

Someone once said, “Resentment is like eating poison and hoping that the other person will get sick.”

Here’s where we begin, by noticing what the experience of resentment is really doing to us. It is destroying our sense of enthusiasm, optimism, our happiness, our aliveness, our satisfaction. It leaves us feeling powerless and victimized. It results in distance blame and protection.

So what are we not seeing clearly, what are we not understanding here?

Many of us live in relationships with the promise or hope that if we just take care of others, in turn, we will be looked after. This is not necessarily so. After some experience with this, we see that being satisfied requires much more attention and skill from us. Being satisfied requires a clear commitment to self care.

In this view resentment can be a very valuable and powerful inner signal. Resentment can let us know we have forgotten ourselves, that we have failed to check in with ourselves, to see if whatever arrangement we are agreeing to takes care of us.

For example, say you’ve just given your support to your husband to take the day to go to his brother’s and to go golfing and you’ll be home with your two young kids. You notice a twinge of resentment.

Noticing this, you remember to check in. Have I asked myself: Does this really, genuinely, work for me? If your answer is yes, fine. If the answer is no, the question becomes: In order for this to work for me, what do I need here? What would take care of me here?

Perhaps the answer is “I will be fine. No problem.” Or “It would work fine for me if we have our sitter come over for the afternoon. I really wanted a few hours to get at the garden.”

Yet so many of us have been trained not to look at what we need or what we require for something to work for us. We’ve been trained out of our “self signal giver.” This failure to take care of ourselves blossoms into resentment.

Now Tanya, we have learned something. We have seen that looking after ourself includes a clear remembering of ourselves and a negotiation with those we live with. We can do that.

Resentment is now your friend and brings a new clarity. Resentment becomes a strong and clear signal for our own self care.

pbeckowletstalk@shaw.ca

— Paul Beckow is an individual, marriage and family therapist on the West Shore. See www.paulbeckow.com.

 

 

Just Posted

Saanich police are seeking suspect in sexual assault report

Incident happened early Saturday morning near Rudd Park

Saanich to hear update on regional sewage treatment plant

Likely subjects of presentation include fate of trees along Grange Road, costs

Canadian students are smart cookies

Canadian teachers also among highest paid in the developed world

Local fundraising initiative addresses tampon recall

Period Posse checking donations during 10-day campaign

Langford light up celebration was the biggest one yet

The city spends about $25,000 annually on Christmas lights

Langford elementary school kids test their hand at entrepreneurship

Students sold their own products at a Young Entrepreneurs Fair Friday

POLL: Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

The rain Vancouver Island is famous for is coming down in buckets,… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 11, 2018

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Canucks score 3 power-play goals in 4-2 win over Oilers

Vancouver sniper Boeser has 6 goals in last 5 games

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

Most Read