We interviewed over 100 people about their marriages for our book The 80/80 Marriage. One of the things we discovered is that resentment might just be the primary emotion in modern married life.
It’s that bitter sting that lands when your partner makes plans without asking you. It's the irritation you feel when you're doing more, caring more, or trying harder (at least from your point of view).
What's the source of resentment?
The feeling that things aren't fair. Resentment springs the moment you sense your partner is benefiting from some special break or marital double-standard. It's the chain reaction that follows in the wake of feeling like you're no longer an equal.
So how can you dissolve resentment?
When it comes to resentment, most couples employ one of three strategies. The first is to stuff it down like a late-night pint of Ben & Jerry’s -- to never reveal it and pretend it never happened (not recommended). The second is to let it explode like a hydrogen bomb in the form of passive aggressiveness or an extended verbal tirade (also not recommended). Marriage pros, however, have a different way of revealing their resentment. They get grounded first in a feeling of love and generosity. Then, they reveal to their partner what’s really going on, working hard not to let resentment and rage run the show. It's a move that could be as simple as saying, "When you didn't include me in the planning for the Mother's Day lunch, I felt upset."
Byron Katie, one of our favorite spiritual teachers, has pioneered a radical way to dissolve resentment. In its shortest form, the practice is to turn your most bitter and resentful judgments about your partner around to yourself. “He is lazy," becomes “I am lazy.“ “She’s too controlling," becomes “I’m too controlling." Sit with this opposite. Consider how it might actually be true. And then, if you want to get even more radical, try to dissolve your partner's laziness or controlling habits by cutting these habits out of your own behavior. Focus on changing yourself instead of them. Then, see what happens.