It can be really hard letting go of resentment. After all, you have your reasons for being so frustrated, disappointed and angry. You may feel taken advantage of or just so tired of dealing with the same thing day after day. You wonder when he or she will change or if you'll ever get over what's happened.
See, when someone you love hurts or disappoints you, you feel vulnerable. You wonder if you can trust that person to be there for you or care for you in the way you need. When you feel vulnerable, you often feel powerless and stuck. It's this lack of power that causes resentment. So then to get power back and to protect yourself, you start acting out your resentment (consciously or unconsciously). You might withhold affection, sex, time, devotion, sharing your feelings, praise or appreciation, forgiveness and a willingness to respond to your partner’s needs. In this environment, your relationship begins to break down.
Over time, your resentment becomes like your favorite tattered sweater- comfortable, worn frequently and seemingly unable to be tossed out. You must make a decision to let it go because as resentment becomes more comfortable, the problem becomes more entrenched. As you withhold (and feel justified to do so), your partner's behaviors either get worse or your basic respect and love for them diminishes.
So, okay, you're ready to consider letting go of resentment, but how do you go about it?
1. Feel COMPASSION and be tender with that part of you that felt really vulnerable and then sealed up to protect yourself. You've been doing the best you can to cope. One way to do this is write a letter to the hurt parts of yourself and really acknowledge how much pain you've been in over time. Talk to that part of yourself like you would a small child. Be gentle and validating.
2. Now put on your big girl or big boy pants and take RESPONSIBILITY for allowing poor behavior to go on for too long without taking appropriate action. And just so you know, complaining and arguing about it for years on end isn't appropriate action.
3. Take ACTION. Appropriate action is insisting on counseling, engaging in accountability conversations and follow up, or focusing on your own health and goals. In some cases, you may need to temporarily separate until the partner changes bad behavior. If your partner's behavior is problematic beyond repair or your willingness to live with, you may need to consider ending the relationship. Resentment is toxic to your health.
4. FORGIVE your partner for failing you and consider that you have failed him or her too. I mean it. Really consider forgiveness and compassion for who they are and what they've done. For the most part, your partner has not meant to hurt you. They just see life and operate differently than you do.
5. GIVE to your partner. If you are choosing to stay in the relationship, you must turn back toward your partner again. This means acknowledging their contributions and strengths. This means being affectionate again. This means doing little and big things to help make their life easier. You must re-engage with an open heart again if you're going to turn things around. Yes, this takes courage. You may indeed be disappointed and hurt again. But you won't know until you try.