Most women I know struggle with anger but it’s actually a helpful emotion. It’s protective. It alerts you that something is wrong. When it shows up as resentment, it’s a red flag in relationships that you’re being taken advantage of. It tells you to be on the lookout for more ways you may be treated unfairly so you can avoid them. As messy as it is, it’s trying to help. If you can see it that way. And use it that way.
It’s also problematic. For one, it can be seductive, pointing fingers at external causes so we don’t have to take the blame. Resentment makes us feel petty and bitchy. We feel closed off. Guarded. When that happens, we lose connection with other people. You can’t simultaneously hold resentment and generosity in your heart.
When we feel resentment, the last thing we want to do is step toward the person treating us unfairly. Repressing those feelings won’t make them go away though. They build on each other until we have a giant mass of resentment that’s going to come out eventually, probably in a super unhealthy way.
To avoid that, we need to use it as the helpful guide it is. We need to manage it and release it, so we can re-establish the connection it’s blocking.
Here is a series of questions to get yourself unstuck when resentment shows up, and also to help you use it to your advantage.
Question 1: What do I feel resentful about?
This one’s simple. Write down exactly what you feel. Don’t worry about how petty and small it sounds. Avoiding it will only keep the poison running through your veins.
Question 2: What is the truth?
We need to strip off any story we’re telling ourselves about the person or circumstances. Unless we’ve asked them explicitly, we don’t know their motivations. We don’t know what information they have or don’t have. We don’t know how they feel. Resentment is a story about the other person being wrong and treating you unfairly. We make assumptions about their relationship expectations but we don’t actually know.
Question 3: What belongs to them?
What are they responsible for? Now that you’re looking at the true facts, what did they do or say (or not do or say) that’s bothering you? Unfortunately, you can’t change another person; only they can. You need to know what you control and what you don’t.
Question 4: What belongs to me?
You will probably have to take some ownership. You may have said yes when you should have said no or let a behavior slide that you shouldn’t have or badly need to put a boundary in place. That’s okay. This is the empowering part. You can change the stuff that lands in your lane.
Question 5: What do I want to do about it?
Action will always feel better than resentfully stewing about something and doing nothing. Now that you know what you control, you know what you can change. Not only that but changing things causing resentment now will give you ideas for avoiding it in the future. Pick a small (maybe a little uncomfortable) action you can take immediately.
Because resentment is a form of anger which usually covers up hurt feelings, you can also use this as an opportunity to understand something deeper that’s bothering you. Maybe under resentment you’re feeling unappreciated or sad or lonely. Those are important things to know. When you tell the other person your truth at a deep level, that vulnerability is what leads to true intimacy in a relationship.
When we start drilling down into the emotional depths, it can sometimes be hard to get specific about our feelings. A Feel Wheel is a helpful tool for identifying what you’re feeling so you have the clearest understanding of your heart. You need that before you can share it with someone else. Grab a free PDF here.