I’ve had “how to stop resenting your spouse” on my editorial calendar, awaiting my writing and editing and publishing, for over a year now. I just keep pushing it out because honestly, it’s a touchy topic and I don’t want to offend anyone with the idea that their spouse might resent them.
In fact, I think we might all feel offended to learn that our spouse resented us. Their resentment implies that we’re not carrying our share of the load.
I mean, how dare they! Right?! We’re doing our best!
But I believe resentment says much more about the resenter than the resented. It’s usually a sign that we’re overwhelmed by our workload.
We wake up exhausted, force-feed our bodies a steady stream of caffeine just to keep moving, go to bed half-dead, and start all over again the next day. And we feel like there’s no hope for escaping this vicious cycle.
So we look to our spouse. They’re supposed to pick up the slack, right? When they can’t, or simply choose not to, the seed of resentment is planted in our hearts.
And as they continue to fail us, the resentment builds. Soon we can discredit even the good and helpful things they do.
“What does he want, a ribbon?! I do that same thing every day with zero thanks.”
But that attitude doesn’t help or empower us. It just hurts us. It severs our relationships with those we love most and leaves us feeling bitter, angry, and exhausted.
So how can you ever hope to stop resenting your spouse? Here’s what’s working for me.
Stop Resenting Your Spouse By Focusing on Their Strengths
List all of their strengths and contributions.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember what your spouse does do when you’re zeroed in on what they don’t do. So make an actual list, paper or digital, and keep it somewhere you can easily review it the next time you find yourself resenting them.
This list isn’t for keeping score, but for helping you find some balance when all you can see is their faults.
Think over your list often.
Whether you’re a Christian or not, you’ve likely heard of Philippians 4:8. This popular Bible verse says “whatever is true…whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
The idea is to focus your attention on the good rather than the bad. If you spend the majority of your day stewing over your spouse’s lack of effort around the house, it’s going to color how you view them, your circumstances, and your entire day.
As Martin Luther said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
You’ll likely always experience resentful thoughts every now and then but you can make a conscious decision not to sit with them. Acknowledge the resentful thought, then shift your thoughts to focus on their strengths.
Stop Resenting Your Spouse By Reevaluating Your Workload
Question the necessity of every item on your to-do list.
I don’t know about you but I often hold much higher standards for myself than anyone actually expects from me. Sometimes I take on the larger portion of responsibility for things that, frankly, don’t matter all that much.
I make sure the house is spotless before we put our daughter to bed – toys picked up, dishes washed, counters wiped down. But my husband doesn’t actually care if the house is clean or not.
I’m determined to get my daughter to every library story time and free movie day over the summer. I think it’s important! She doesn’t care if she misses sometimes. She doesn’t even know what day of the week it is most days.
Make sure you’re not killing yourself to do something that’s not vital or doesn’t really matter to you or your family.
Show yourself some grace.
Along the same lines, don’t be too hard on yourself.
It’s easy to feel like you have to do all. the. things. And well!
We’re constantly inundated with heavily-filtered social media photos of picture-perfect families and homes and careers. It’s not reality and so is impossible to reproduce.
So don’t load yourself down with more responsibilities and worries than necessary, which inevitably leads to resentment, in pursuit of perfection. Decide what’s important to you and what’s not, then prioritize that list appropriately.
Focus your efforts on the top of the list, try for the things in the middle, and let everything else go in the name of peace and contentment.
Stop Resenting Your Spouse By Communicating Fairly and Clearly
Remember the grass is always greener on the other side.
When I was a stay-at-home mom, my responsibilities included caring for our child the majority of the day, cleaning the house, cooking meals, and running all household errands. I often envied my husband, who could check out of dad duty for 8-9 hours a day, come home to a warm meal (or warm takeout, let’s be honest), then “wind down” on the couch most evenings.
But it turns out, he envied me. He felt the pressures of being our sole financial provider, hated his job, and yearned for the long hours and deep bond I shared with our daughter. Remember that your spouse might have a vastly different take on the situation.
Communicate your concerns to your spouse.
We can’t hold our spouses responsible for an issue if they’re not even aware the issue exists. Talk to your spouse about how you feel.
Make a list of your workload and ask them where they can help, or what you can both agree to check off the list completely. Listen to their response as openly and kindly as you’d like for them to hear yours.
Resentment is not just a “given” in every marriage! By focusing on their strengths, reevaluating your workload, and communicating fairly and clearly, you can stop resenting your spouse and get back on the same team!
Which tip will you try first?
P.S. Ready to reconnect with your spouse and strengthen your relationship?Then be sure to sign up for the 5-day Stay in Love Challenge here!
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