Group therapy: How to overcome resentment

Someone emailed me this question: “I want my husband to take some of the initiative in fixing our marriage, but he seems completely unable to do that. I noticed that in your account as well. While you were researching communication and intimacy, Mark was biking and watching TV. I just want to know if you had the same feeling of wanting him to share in the effort. Did you resent that he didn’t make it a priority? Did you feel as if this was just another thing that you were now responsible for in your relationship? How do you get past those feelings?”

I get this question a lot. I get it from people in bad marriages. I get it from people in good marriages. I get it from reporters. I get it from friends. I get it pretty much from everyone who has read my book Project: Happily Ever After.

It’s normal to feel resentment, especially when you already feel taken advantage of, taken for granted, and walked on.

So, yes, of course, initially, I was resentful. I bathed in that emotion. I was resentful about A LOT of things back then. If we had all known each other back then and one of you had asked, “So what are you feeling resentful about?” I’m pretty sure I could have talked nonstop for an hour.

At first during our marriage project, I highlight books and asked my husband to read the highlighting. I nagged him. I gave him deadlines.

Eventually, however, I realized that I had to get in the driver’s seat and navigate us toward a better marriage. If I kept trying to navigate from the passenger seat, he was never going to turn the key in the ignition. He just didn’t have it in him.

Interestingly, I’ve since had an opportunity to interview John Friel, PhD, who wrote one of the books that was instrumental in helping me save my marriage: The 7 Best Things (Happy) Couples Do. He told me that the definition of co-dependency is “chasing your spouse around the house with a self help book.”

It’s a funny line, but it’s true. The longer anyone stays mired in the quest to fix someone else, the longer the misery goes on.

More important for us, it just made sense for me to be the person who took the initiative.  First, I was the one who was the most miserable. I was the one who most wanted things to change. I was the one who had a vision of where I wanted our marriage to go.

My husband did not have a vision. He just wanted me to be happy, stop nagging him, and worship him in the bedroom. He didn’t have high expectations. I was the one with the high expectations.

Two, I’m a lot better at solving problems than he is. He admits this. In fact, last week a television reporter asked him why he didn’t take more initiative, and this was his answer, “My wife is a lot better at solving problems than I am. She can take a big problem and break it down into small goals and create a game plan for accomplishing each goal. She’s really good at that.”

My husband isn’t a natural problem solver. He’s a “let’s sweep it under the rug and see if it goes away” kinda person. He’s just not all that good at facing problems head on, but he is really good at other things like following a set of instructions (to put together a Lego creation) or First Aid. I am not good at those things. We have different strengths and different weakness. This was hard for me to see when I hated him and wanted him dead. Back then it felt like I had all the strengths and he had all the weaknesses–but that wasn’t true. It was a delusion.

This doesn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed. Of course I was. I wanted to tell my husband, “I’m not happy. Please do something about it,” and have him do something about it. In lieu of that option, a fairy Godmother would have done nicely. I really didn’t want to do all of the work myself. Who does?

But I think this resistance is similar to training for a marathon in Alaska and realizing, on race day, that it’s 90 degrees outside. You expected cool weather—the kind of weather that’s perfect for a marathon and normal for Alaska. But you know what? You got hot and humid. Are you going skip the race after putting in all of that training? No, you’re going to suck it up and run the race.

It’s the same with marriage improvement.

So I let go of my resistance. I surrendered. I said, “This is the way it’s going to be.” I let go of the notion of marriage improvement being fair. In return I was able to remove the hurdle standing between us and happiness.

Sure I occasionally grasp after the idea of fairness. Occasionally I feel resentful. But I just keep reminding myself that fairness never worked for me. Resentment never worked for me either.

Getting in the driver’s seat? That has worked for me. So that’s what I do.

Readers: Do you ever feel as if you are doing most of the work? Do you wish your spouse would do more? Does this cause you to feel resentful? How do you overcome your resentment? Have you found a way to make it fair? If so, how? Let’s puzzle through this together.

39 comments… add one

  • Eve March 8, 2011, 11:36 pm

    “My husband did not have a vision. He just wanted me to be happy, stop nagging him, and worship him in the bedroom. He didn’t have high expectations. I was the one with the high expectations.”
    That sounds exactly like my husband. He thinks things are better because we’ve talked a little about “stuff”. So then when I bring up a question or topic that has been bothering me, he’s all confused and of course defensive. “I thought we already solved this issue.” No honey talking about something for 15 minutes one time does not solve the problem. At least not for me. Grrrr

  • chuck March 9, 2011, 8:08 am

    I have a problem in the winter: dry skin on my legs leads to winter itch. My legs will itch so bad that I love to just scratch, and scratch and scratch!! It feels so good to take my nails and rake up and down my calves, it really does. But when I do that, I end up with the most god-awful sores from having scratched the skin raw. Mind you, it felt good, oh so good, to scratch that hard. But I ended up just hurting myself with my ‘therapy.’ Welcome to resentment.

    Resentment is a natural response to the itch of “he’s not doing his part.” But like my scratching, allowing resentment to be part of your ‘therapy’ means that you are making your marriage more raw and wounded.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that the ‘natural response’ is usually the wrong response. Resentment and anger are ‘natural responses’, and yet, we find that it is only when we give up our right to our natural responses and extend grace and forgiveness (definitely not natural responses) that we find grace and forgiveness extended back to us.

    Resentment is a luxury that we can’t afford. Just like scratching my winter itch actually does more damage, resentment just adds to the stresses of a marriage.

    (btw: my wife has found a second use of coconut oil now; it really helps to soothe my winter itch. who knew?)

    • Alisa March 9, 2011, 9:12 am

      Chuck–coconut oil is magic. It can be used for nearly everything. It’s better than duct tape.

  • Sara Z. March 9, 2011, 8:23 am

    There is abundant resentment in our marriage, but unfortunately my efforts to get into the drivers seat have not helped. Alisa, I thoroughly enjoyed your book but one of the main differences I saw between Mark’s behavior and my husband is that though Mark was not willing to take the initiative and didn’t want to read self-help books (my husband, too), he did appear willing to respond to your attempts at applying those principles in the books you were reading. Whenever you sat down to ask him questions, it seemed like he was willing to give honest answers. My husband is of the mindset that the bulk of the marital problems are my fault and therefore there is nothing for him to do. He is not and has never been interested in talking about our marriage.

    At this point he tells me that he doesn’t know if he even wants to fix the marriage. So either I have to walk away (which I don’t want to do, I still love him) or I need to stay in this state of limbo not knowing whether we will even be together by our anniversary next month.

  • Angela P. March 9, 2011, 10:05 am

    Do you ever feel as if you are doing most of the work?

    Rigth now I feel like I am doing all of the work in our relationship. Granted my husband has a sort of excuse of not having his diabetes under control and trying new medicines to get it under control. So he does not feel well most of the time. I have went 100% his direction to make him happy. He has not came 1% my way to make me happy.

    Do you wish your spouse would do more?

    I wish my husband would do more of the housework. We both work full time at demanding jobs but if I want a house clean enough for company I had better put in the work. If I want to go to a book store I had better take myself. But if he wants to go on an eight hour motorcycle ride I had better be willing to suit up. (We live in New Mexico so it is already riding weather). I wish what I like mattered.

    Does this cause you to feel resentful?

    Of course I feel resentful. I even told him last night that I was going to start doing what made me happy because he was not even trying. So I read half a book and three magazines last night. It bugged him but I at least got to do something I wanted to do that didn’t involve cars or motorcycles. Cars are his mistress.

    How do you overcome your resentment?

    I wish I could overcome my resentment. I am going to see a therapist/hypnotherapist/regression specialist on saturday. I want to overcome my major dental anxiety first but then I want to work on being a better person and not harboring that resentment.

    Have you found a way to make it fair? If so, how?

    I think for now the only way things will be “fair” is if we each do our own thing. But then that is not fair to him because he wants to spend the time with me. I am over it right now. I want to improve myself fair or not.

    Wow I sound awful today. It has been a hard couple months in an oterwise good marriage. I guess we each go through the hard times.

  • Bodhima March 9, 2011, 2:27 pm

    Agh. This is so hard! This is the subject of the blog I’m keeping. I had one good week and then majorly fell off the wagon. Now I’m burnt out. I just asked for a couple days of space so I can recover my strength to keep working on this.

    You think the guy might say, “Ah, you take a little break, I’ll take over for a while.” Hahaha.

    Yeah, resentment doesn’t work for me either. But fairness? I’m still real stuck on that one.

    And anger. Yeah, that too.

    Alisa (or anyone), how do you manage the anger?

    And how do you manage with a partner that thinks it’s you not them (that is the trigger to my anger).

  • Bodhima March 9, 2011, 2:29 pm

    Eve wrote: “That sounds exactly like my husband. He thinks things are better because we’ve talked a little about “stuff”. So then when I bring up a question or topic that has been bothering me, he’s all confused and of course defensive. “I thought we already solved this issue.” No honey talking about something for 15 minutes one time does not solve the problem. At least not for me. Grrrr.”

    See, and if I were your husband (and me being a woman and all), I’d be like, “I have an idea. Why don’t we go out and relax and get a nice dinner and have some wine and talk this through.”

    But I’m a woman.
    Bodhima´s last blog post ..Day 7- The Oatmeal Incident

  • Bodhima March 9, 2011, 2:32 pm

    (((Sara))) Hugs. I am in the same boat. Though I have to say I REALLY changed my behavior last week (for five whole days – yay me!! :)) and I got major results. I just can’t keep it up though. I wiped out, so I have to recharge. It’s A LOT of work.

    (And I also want to add that I’m heartened – in a way – to hear that other people have these issues – that ends my fantasy of “some other man out there” would be better for me- hahaha.)
    Bodhima´s last blog post ..Day 7- The Oatmeal Incident

  • Maggie March 9, 2011, 2:41 pm

    Resentment is a very sticky emotion—it makes your spouse feel terrible, whether you actually express your resentment verbally, or not. And it makes you feel terrible–though you may get some small satisfaction out of feeling “right.” I loved the line in THe Course In Miracles that said, “Would you rather be right or happy?” It really stumped me for years…because giving up my resentment felt like giving up my chance at happiness, and giving up being right about my complaints and somehow it felt like an invitation to lie about my feelings. Byron Katie’s work, called The Work, was a great help in practicing getting out of resentment…her 4 questions and the turnaround…i.e. “If my husband loved me he would remember to take out the garbage.” Is it true? Can you absolutely know it’s true? What does it feel like when I think that thought, and then my husband forgets to take out the garbage…It’s a fun “workout” to go through her steps when you feel judgemental and resentful. It really helps you to see how much you create your own suffering with your thoughts.

  • stephanie Fox March 9, 2011, 2:41 pm

    Oh yeah… The good old resentment…
    I think almost all men are so careless. All it takes it’s a bit of attention to resolve an issue.
    What usually makes me angry is that you talk about an issue. You find a solution. And a couple of days it happens again… Then I ask myself is it all worth it?
    It takes sooo much effort.:S
    I think you need to find the special way to approach a man to get his attention.
    Very good post. Interesting topic.

  • Pam March 9, 2011, 2:44 pm

    Oooh Resentment! I am wallowing in resentment right now. I bathe in it every day. I eat, sleep, and breathe resentment. I tried that “driver seat” thing, and all it got me was more hurt, bitterness, and added resentment.

    I was done with our marriage – in the driver seat, I drove straight into a brick wall, repeatedly it seemed. Hubby says it’s not over (he was the recipient of all the positive attention while I got walked all over??)- he wants to work it out, so now it really is HIS turn to get in the driver’s seat. Actions speak louder than words, and all that. I’m sticking around, because at this point I’ve got nothing to lose, but for now I am only a passenger. We’ll see how it turns out.

    I am working on letting go of the resentment and learning to forgive. I need to do it either way, whether we work it out or not. Holding on to it is toxic to me and anyone I come in contact with.

  • Pam March 9, 2011, 2:47 pm

    I just wanted to add, that I was one who entered in to marriage not believing in divorce. I did take the Until Death part of the vows seriously.

    • New shoes July 19, 2012, 2:25 pm

      Being in the passenger seat won’t work either. Get him to go to Christian counselling which is covered by your insurance. If your not a Christian, consider it heavily. Both of you read “love and respect”. I am separated from my wife of 28 years where resentment of small things built to these proportions. My wife has felt just like you and now has decided to be in the passenger seat. I’ve decided to hire a lawyer because she is not responding. She may think being in the passenger seat is the right move in this game of chess, but now she is loosing me. I wod advise you to have courage, get out of your comfort zone, and start being the more mature of the two. You are the one that can move this forward. After all, you are the one reading this blog. Also, give up something that important to you. That is a sure way to get his attention. It will move him up on the list of your priorities. After this is over, he will beg you to take that back, so giving it up is only temporary. Only you know what that is!

  • Bodhima March 9, 2011, 3:44 pm

    Maggie, I love CIM and Byron Katie – I recently mentioned them in my blog. CIM is a little more difficult for me to navigate… But your absolutely right. This has been a good wakeup call for me today b/c while I want to sit here and mourn that I am with a total dumbbell, he is a GUY after all and it sounds like he’s no different from what everyone else here is talking about.

    My BF admitted to hiding looking at porn and contacting an ex. I got upset, said he’s stop the porn, but not the ex. ??? He said he doesn’t think it’s “inappropriate.” Oooookay.

    I wanted him to step up and say “I understand this hurt you and while you and I work on our relationship, I can refrain from being in touch with her until we’re more comfortable about it.” Nope. Instead. I’m the psycho. And when I went to him last night and simply opened my heart and approached things differently, he said I was “attacking” him…


    But I’m going to go back to holding onto my own … divinity, I guess they say, and love, and not let his bad behavior drag me down some pity-party road.

  • Iva March 9, 2011, 3:52 pm

    My husband stopped loving me and left because he resented me, he still hasn’t told me why. I stopped asking. I still want to know but I am no longer going to lower myself down to that begging level again. I gave him your book to read since at the time i wasn’t able to read a marriage saving book that arrived the day he left and Excuses Begone by Dr Wayne Dyer. Last i asked he still intended to read them but hadn’t yet, wasn’t able to read to sad and depressed. (duh you left you wife and kids).
    So I was decent and even getting better about letting go of resentments, but now I think I am still in the place where I am taking comfort in the ones this whole thing has brought up, I know I should let go and move away from the pain and into the future but I am having trouble with that.
    I wish I could find away to help him over come his too though.

  • Angela P. March 9, 2011, 4:57 pm

    Pam, I really think it is funny how every man I have ever known only steps up as a last resort. My husband has got me to the point of saying you need to shape up or else. Just this week he decided he was going to stop taking all of his diabetes medication because his sugar was still high. The new medicine they put him on four days before takes two weeks to work to full potential. So after trying to reason with a man that was irrational due to high blood sugar poisoning his brain I gave up. I am not proud of giving up but I had to. I put him back in the drivers seat. I told him that if he chose not to take his medicine that evening I would chose to take a sick day the next day to pack up and leave. Guess what? He took his oral medicine and injection.

    Stephanie, I had to laugh at your post because it is so true. If I ask my husband to replace the toilet paper if he uses the last of it more than once it’s nagging. But I still have to ask him to do something that has been agreed upon as a polite thing to do.

    Sara, I know your pain. My husband does know that some of the marital problems are his. But he won’t work with me for a solution. A great example is that he loves cars. I did at a point love cars too but he has killed that in me. I had agreed to go with him to a car show two weekends from now. I told him last night that I didn’t feel like he was caring about what I wanted and needed in our marriage (intimacy and a respect for things I like). So instead of doing the logical “what can I do to change that?”, his response was fine then don’t go to the car show. Great! That was absolutly not my point.

    I wish I knew if my husband felt resentment for me ever. I am just full of resentment this week. God help me.

  • Ronnie March 9, 2011, 4:58 pm

    Oooohhh, can I relate. Alisa said: “He just wanted me to be happy, stop nagging him, and worship him in the bedroom.” As a man and husband, this is me. I want my wife to be happy, to stop nagging, and definitely have some bedroom worship towards me. I am simple. Men are simple. Not dumb. simple. Really, if I could get consistent food, sex, attention/affection, I would be the happiest man on the planet.

    Then Alisa said: “He didn’t have high expectations. I was the one with the high expectations.” Not sure what a husband’s expectations are supposed to be, especially because the previous paragraph sums up so much. Now her expectations seem to get loftier every year. To me, a man, it seems to almost be a moving target.

    So now I am in driver’s seat. I am doing, and have been doing so much to show how much I love my wife so she will want to stay married to me. To me, the question is this; How does one get his wife to do two simple things? 1. realize what it is she does have, and appreciate it. and 2. read the first paragraph, apply some K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) logic and devise a plan to show love back to her husband, no matter what?

    Now, before I get flamed too badly, I know some are thinking “I showed him love and got nothing!” Maybe so, but was it in his love language? Think about it, if I speak a language to you that you do not understand, I can scream at the top of my bloody lungs and you still will not get it. Example, my wife said that she showed me love by cleaning the house, doing my laundry, etc. That does not show me love. Love me by touching me, praising me, flirt with me, and rock my world several nights a week.

    Simple. Not stupid.

    What? You don’t feel love or connected. Love is an action and the feelings follow the actions. Not the other way around.

    What I have gained from this site, and soon to be the book, is that Alisa and her struggles is the evidence that proves this theory right. I am grateful to God she shares them.

    To have good marriage, give, give, give, and give some more of your best self. Never give up and quit. Yes it is sacrifice. Yes it can be tough. But aren’t you, and your family worth it?

  • Angela P. March 9, 2011, 5:05 pm

    Ronnie, I have to be the first one to comment to you because I don’t want you to get flamed. There is part of your statement that hit home really hard to me.

    “Example, my wife said that she showed me love by cleaning the house, doing my laundry, etc. That does not show me love. Love me by touching me, praising me, flirt with me, and rock my world several nights a week.”

    Wow! I thought that by bringing my husband lunch when he was home sick and doing the laundry and keeping his appointments to see the doctor with him was showing him love. Maybe you are on to something that I am personally missing. It is really nice to have a man’s perspective. I am going to ask my husband about this tonight. Maybe what I perceived as feeling loved os different than what he perceives. I would feel a lot more loved if my husband would help with the house work. Thank you for making me really stop and think today.

    P.S. I am kind of missing Rav Sean’s input on this one…

  • Bodhima March 9, 2011, 8:08 pm

    All the good advice I’ve heard has sounded like what Ronnie wrote – find out what your man needs, do it. And you’ll get what you need. It worked for me for five days straight until I fell off the wagon.

    Ask what he needs, what he wants, what makes him happy. He’ll probably say I don’t know. But what you think he might want/makes him happy is not always what he wants.

    Sadly, for me, right now I think my boyfriend wants and needs a lot of space. But I do too, at least until I can get the energy back to please him again (i.e., talk about welding, ask him about work, stroke his ego, be grateful, don’t bitch about stuff.)
    Bodhima´s last blog post ..Day 7- The Oatmeal Incident

  • chuck March 9, 2011, 9:28 pm

    In her book, Is That All He Thinks About, Marla Taviano tells in the first chapter of a conversation she had with another woman. This woman complained about her husband, saying “‘I didn’t get married just to spend my days making some guy happy.’ After talking with her for awhile, it became apparent that what she had in mind was more along the lines of marrying a guy whose goal was to spend his days making her happy.”

    Sounds like a recipe for resentment, to me.

  • Bodhima March 9, 2011, 9:36 pm

    Is this nonfiction? Geesh. What ends up happening??
    Bodhima´s last blog post ..Day 7- The Oatmeal Incident

  • Snoopy March 9, 2011, 9:48 pm

    > My husband did not have a vision. He just wanted me to be happy, stop nagging him,
    > and worship him in the bedroom.

    I’d say that this is what 90% + of all husbands want. If women only realized how simple it really is.

  • Spoiler March 10, 2011, 6:45 am

    Mmmm, interesting blog and comments. I have been divorced for 1,5 years and am happier than I have ever been. I now know what a good relationship is like after giving years of loyalty and love to a distant, resentful spouse who finally capped it all when she had an affair. I spent a year of couple work trying to save the marriage and eventually, after lie after lie after lie, had no choice but to sue for divorce. The stuff that came up in that year of emotional turnoil was so painful at times I could hardly cope but it was also good. No stone was left unturned and I know now that there was nothing that I could have done to save a marriage that one party had no interest in and hadn’t for years. That very hard work freed me to move on and find huge happiness with another woman and as a 50/50 parent of my amazing little boy.

    I guess what I am saying (on a blog about having a happy marriage!) is that sometimes no matter what you do, how hard you try and change yourself, you are not going to be successful in changing the other person. They may be too stubborn or broken to change or grow. That resentment may have taken over and when it does love disappears and your spouse feels justified in engaging in an affair or some other destructive behaviour. Could I have done anything about my wife’s resentment of me had I acted earlier. Perhaps, but I doubt it. She resented all in me that she lacked in herself and was unable to grow and challenge herself to change. Instead she opted out.

    I am also interested in the assessment of what men want in a marraige – that men are simple – I think more along the lines of what people want – why this huge division between the sexes? Ask any psychologist and they’ll tell you woman can be just as obsessed with sex and equally men are sometimes not at all interested. The list goes on. Who wants to be nagged? Some men nag their wives and vice versa. Don’t women enjoy sex and the compliments (“worship” for want of a better term) their husband bestow on them?

  • Caro March 10, 2011, 8:43 am

    Wow, I really wish I’d found this blog a year ago when I was in the depths of despair and wallowing in resentment. At the time I was a new-ish mom coming to terms with the fact that I’d married an alcoholic who was spiraling out of control. I simply did not know what to do but I sure felt justified in nursing all my anger and resentment. Al-Anon helped a lot. So did sudden improvements in my health. So did his hitting rock bottom and going sober.

    The last straw was when I thought I’d found evidence of my husband’s having an affair. I was wrong, but when I confronted him I told him that I was going to counseling no matter what because the threat of an affair was enough to have derailed my trust. He offered to go with me. Those conversations we had surrounding going to counseling and the non-affair were the first honest conversations we’d ever had because he was finally sober and clear-headed. We were able to acknowledge that our marriage had problems but that we loved one another and wanted to figure out a way to find contentment again. We’ve been in counseling for about 2 months and it’s definitely helping.

    But back to resentment. I finally just had to drop it. It was not helping. It was driving my husband farther away from me and only adding to my misery. It was incredibly humbling to realize all that because at times it felt like anger and resentment were all I had, my only friends. But I gave them up and felt naked and horrible for a while, but that was the only way to let in grace and forgiveness.

    I do believe that my husband’s needs are simple and remarkably like my own. He wants to know that he’s appreciated and loved for who he is. He wants me to support his cycling addiction since exercise is instrumental in keeping his diabetes under control. He wants me to initiate sex a couple times a week. I can do these things.

    About fairness: One thing our doctor suggested is to make an hourly schedule of the weekend–write in all the things you have to do and then put in some things you want to do. We each are supposed to do it and then share our schedule with the other. It seems simple and even contrived, but this is one area where I’ve found that fairness comes into play. I no longer feel like I “never” get to do what I want on the weekends (I’m a SAHM of a toddler and often feel like I never get time off from my “job”), or that I have to nag or complain to get to do what I want sometimes. Now we negotiate instead of argue and my husband “gives in” to what I want much more often than I ever thought he would. When I asked him about it he said that he never knew what I wanted because I never said before. Wait, he can’t read my mind????

    So anyway, we’re still working on our marriage and probably always will be, but I finally feel hopeful that unhappiness or divorce are not definitely looming on the horizon for us.

    Thank you for this blog and all the thoughtful comments. I wish you all peace in your relationships.

  • Lisa March 10, 2011, 8:47 am

    @Ronnie, I have been with my hubby now for 23 yrs. I feel like I know him like a book and yet your comment makes me question things. Last year he had an emotional affair and he nearly left me. Maybe I didnt give him what he was looking for but he never asked either. I definitely heeded this warning and reprioritized to put him first. I get up in the early am with him, make his breakfast and lunch, he enjoys sex daily, seriously daily, he doesnt do anything anymore i.e mowing the lawn, bringing in wood for the woodstove are just a couple of examples. I am in the drivers seat. I dont like it. I feel like there is nothing for me. Like I am a slave to everthing he wants or needs. Yesterday I suffered all day with a stiff and painful neck. Did he care NO!! He still expected me to cook dinner, make his cigs., and have sex. Are you kidding me! I cried and then he left me alone, seriously I deserve so respect and I dont know how to put him in the drivers seat. He used to be in the drivers seat and I guess he felt resentment. Now I know how he feels. I guess. I just dont know how to make this relationship equal. without resentment. Just equal! I would like to hear a mans point of view.

  • Maureen March 10, 2011, 9:24 am

    I used to think the same as you Alisa. But it finally came down to the exact same questions as you. It was me who was unhappy. It finally dawned on me that the only one I had control over was me. So I was the one who wanted to change. The anger…? I started taking up journalling. The anger I spilled into those journals could start a fire. I said some of the nastiest stuff in there and I eventually got a divorce. Would I change a single thing? Nope. I am stronger, emotionally healthier than I have ever been in my whole life. I’m remarried to an incredible man. And every time I cross paths with my ex, I see a stuck human being in a relationship with a very needy woman. Gives me the shivers.
    Maureen´s last blog post ..The Magic of Choice

  • Maureen March 10, 2011, 9:34 am

    @Ronnie bravo for fearlessly talking about what men want. I usually go by the following rule, When in doubt ask. So I did. Too funny my husband said the EXACT same thing. Be happy myself and have our home be a “haven from work” for him. I still wasn’t sure what that meant so when he gave me examples they were: don’t nag, sex and touch. I do bring him the occassional beer and he asked me to have breakfast with him in the morning. So I do.
    Maureen´s last blog post ..The Magic of Choice

  • Angela P. March 10, 2011, 10:01 am

    This is such a powerful topic for me right now. I am drwoning in resentment. I love seeing everyone’s perspective and it gives me a jumping off place to think about it. Thank you again Ronnie for adding a man’s perspective. It takes a real man to get a group of women to listen:)

  • Bodhima March 10, 2011, 10:28 am

    Ah geez… Maureen, your email gave me the shivers! I have a daughter involved, so I’m scared and feel responsible. But this is getting nowhere.

    He started talking to his ex girlfriend behind my back (says he told me – um, no) and then revealed that he’s been looking at porn even though I’ve had to ask for sex for six months now and get rejected. (that’s been really horrible) and I was doing good but then fell off the wagon when I realized he has no remorse AT ALL about this (at least he doesn’t show it) and I’ve been resentful ever since. I asked him for space so I can try to regain the strength to work on our relationship and maybe switch to a life coach who I interviewed and seems VERY proactive, but I know relationships are HARD. Are they THIS hard? Anyway, asked him for space, so last night he doesn’t come home for dinner. Awesome. And then this morning gets into bed and starts complaining that he has no time to go to the gym?

    Seriously? This was during the time I asked for space to regain strength to work on our relationship and that’s what he says to me?

    I’m kind of thinking it’s over, but then I think of Alisa’s advice to “try everything” – and we still have this life coach, and I can still go back to being nice when I can find the strength to do that (that seemed to work) but … when I hear all of your success stories about leaving a stuck person and finding a good partner, I’m kind of … eh. I wish I could … I’m going to be 40 next year and I want a chance at love for myself. Real good love.
    Bodhima´s last blog post ..Day 7- The Oatmeal Incident

  • Lisa March 10, 2011, 10:39 am

    @Maureen at least he told you what he wanted and you are doing it. Did he ask you what you wanted and fullfill your needs?

  • Sarah Liz March 10, 2011, 3:51 pm

    @Alisa saying Coconut Oil is better than duct tape–LOL! Thanks for the laugh, I need to get myself some of that stuff!

    This was a great post and I especially liked the definition of co-dependcy “following your spouse around the house with a self-help book.”

    I think realizing each other’s different strengths and weaknesses is really important. For me, though, I got tired of doing ALL the work. And as grown up as we all want to be on here, and are–there are some people who will just not work at anything. And that’s sad, because anything in life worth having or that’s halfway good takes some amount of work or sacrifice. And I mean that in the most positive way!

    For me, I got tired of being strong all the time, the healthy one and the “thinking” one. My husband was not, and still isn’t, a stupid man. I’m just such a thinker that I wore him out, and myself too. (I hope that doesn’t sound conceited because I don’t mean for it too, I’m not that brilliant, I just think a lot!)

    Even though the whole “sweep it under the rug” thing works for some people, it just did not work for me. I have never been that kind of person and that’s an attribute that I like about myself, so in hindsight–I should’ve seen that major difference between my husband and I BEFORE we got married and worked harder to accept that earlier on in our relationship. I didn’t. No one’s way is better than any one else’s and what works for some will not work for others.

    I don’t think any one single person can make a marriage work, period. I just don’t. It does take TWO–there are two people there and regardless of what others have said, I will go to my grave believing it takes two to make much of anything work!

    One person can do most of the heavy lifting, most of the work, and a heck of a lot of self-improvement, but no one person can do it all. For me, if I had stayed in my marriage, I would’ve grown into a ball of resentment, I was already halfway there.

    That being said–I think it’s true what Alisa said about her husband having lower expectations…..

    I honestly think men just don’t expect that much, where as us women, we want it ALL! And most of us want it all RIGHT NOW (at least I do most of the time! LOL!).

    So, I think at that point it becomes more of a practice of surrender and patience. Lots and lots of patience.

    In the weeks since my divorce, I’ve heard this line over and over and over again (like a sign from the Heavens telling me what to differently the next time!) “Marriage is patience,” or “Marriages takes a lot of patience.” Clearly, that wasn’t my better quality.

    My point is, I did wait it out for a long, long time and while I can’t speak for you, or anyone else here–at some point you either have to just let the resentment go, or go yourself.

    I’m NOT encouraging anyone to leave, I absolutely believe in making marriage work. And if one spouse is even 5% invested in making it work, on a half-way consistent basis, than it is totally worth fighting for, and saving. Marriage is a beautiful thing and such a teacher–as Alisa has always pointed out!

    I also agree with Alisa about delusions–it’s so easy to live in denial and blame others for our situation, I did it in my marriage for a while. But, then (and again this is just me and my personal situation) when I realized my husband was NOT going to try on a consistent basis, I just gave in and decided to move on.

    Resentment is a very strong emotion, and often very justified. It does suck to always be the bigger person, to be the one who’s working harder and making more sacrifices. But, I’m sure if you took a step back, you’d realize little things your husband is actually doing that are helpful. They may not be helpful by your definition or on your scale, but they are there. Try and see the positive and let go of past resentment.

    I wish you and your marriage the very best, good luck!

    Many Blessings,
    -Sarah Liz :)

    • New shoes July 19, 2012, 3:27 pm

      The one word I got out of your story was you “waited” it out. That’s what people tend to do. The question is, who starts… Who makes the first move. You mustn’t wait! You have to go to work. If he needs respect from you, start giving it. Give the physical aspect to him. That’s what he needs most. Mwn, Love that anger out of her. Step it up! Take your love for her to the next level. That’s what she wants. If her spirit is broken her body is not available to you. Ok? Everybody stop waiting and start doing what you know. He has complained about it, that’s his way of telling you what he needs. She has nagged you about it, that’s her way of telling you what she needs. Go do it. Both of you. Get closer to god. He will bring you together.

  • Rollercoasterider March 10, 2011, 7:34 pm

    Looking back I don’t think I felt a lot of resentment. I don’t know why; it certainly would have been normal and justified. I know I felt it at times. But what a waste it was. Sweetheart left and was living with his “soul mate,” so of course he wasn’t going to be the one working on our marriage. It all happened quickly. First the wanting a divorce Bomb Drop, then news of the other woman a few weeks later—it wasn’t physical yet. He was in his own apartment 6 weeks after Bomb and living with the other woman four weeks after that. She immediately donned a diamond ring and announced they were engaged.

    Were there warnings? Hindsight shows a few, sure. But there were no serious red flags to catch my attention. It was a shock, it was fast and it was immediately clear that he was only set on destroying us, not saving us. That sort of immediacy coupled with the clear difference in our goals (save versus destroy) sent a clear message to me that I was going this alone and wishing he would help was just that, wishing. Within the first months I was told the only way was to accept the process. Being told didn’t mean that was easy, coming to acceptance was itself a process.

    Reading that Sweetheart left for the same other woman—multiple times over a 3.5 year period—you may think he is an awful person and a horrible husband and that you would not have put up with that behaviour. Most wouldn’t. He’s different now, but he has many wonderful and enviable traits that were present before infidelity…

    “Do you ever feel as if you are doing most of the work?”
    Sometimes I wish I did because I feel a bit guilty. Sweetheart does 50% of the work—he does all of the outdoor work. If I ask him to take out the garbage, he does it; though it is rare that I have to ask. He vacuums and picks up the living room. He does laundry and so do I. I take care of the kitchen—I want that responsibility. I usually cook dinner, but he sometimes cooks for me. For years we planned that he would be the one to stay home when we have kids because I earned a higher salary. I don’t anymore, but he still has great house husband potential.

    My resentment is regarding the entertainment and vacation issue. I wish we didn’t always do what he wants regarding vacation and activities. I know we camp because it’s more affordable, but I sometimes want a different vacation. He has been looking for bicycles for me on Craigslist to replace my old bike. Great, that’s nice and all, but did he ask what I want? We’re trying to start a family and due to fertility problems I have a 1-5% chance of conceiving. Our savings is for the adoption, but I still want to try to get pregnant and am going to acupuncture. I will resent that bicycle if it gets in the way. It’s like Fred Flintstone buying Wilma a bowling ball. I will love the bike, but there are things that are more important to me.
    Rollercoasterider´s last blog post ..Articles- Standing

  • Pam March 10, 2011, 7:57 pm

    Yes, I read an article about a man realizing he really does love his wife as she’s walking out the door. So true in my case (well almost, I didn’t actually leave, but did tell him I was done and planning to leave.). He managed to kill the love that I had for him while I was trying so hard to save a marriage that was so one-sided.

    Ronnie, thank you for your insight. His love language is touch. Sex, massage, kisses and hugs, etc. Yep. He got it all. Lots. Therefore, in his eyes ‘there was nothing wrong in our marriage’. If I tried to bring anything up about me/our marriage, I was just being overly sensitive/nagging/too hard to please.

    Meanwhile, I sunk in to depression because my needs/love language/etc. were not getting met, or even attempted to be met. I’m getting better now. Stronger. I gave myself the option of walking away and that has helped. In the meantime, I am careful to make sure that I express my appreciation for his actions and attempts toward trying to resolve our issues, because I’d never wish what I went/am going through on anyone, not even him.

  • Anne March 16, 2011, 3:40 pm

    While I agree to some extent that one should work hard on his/her marriage and try not to focus on feelings of anger and resentment, I also think that there are some spouses who are just simply not willing to DO the work to make a marriage “work”. One spouse may try day in and day out to attempt to save the marriage, which is admirable, but if the other spouse does not respond and in some way do some work, I don’t believe that will save the marriage.

    There is a point where you have to say to yourself “I deserve someone who is going to put forth half of the effort”. Otherwise you’re always living FOR someone else. A marriage is about living WITH someone else. Side by side. It’s about two people working together, not one person working while the other does whatever he or she wants without any regard to the other spouse. That’s just not marriage. This, of course, is not meant for people whose spouses are actually putting forth some consistent effort. :)

    I would just worry that some people would make meeting the needs of their spouse 100% of the time a priority while not meeting his or her own needs, which is unhealthy. I found that I needed to focus on myself first, and figure out my own priorities and what I needed to be happy in order to then look at my marriage and figure out what I was willing to do to try and make it stronger. I realized that I did not have the energy to focus on 100% of my needs while also focusing 100% on his needs, when he would not do the same for me.

  • Drummer Guy March 18, 2011, 2:02 pm

    Really interesting stuff. I didn’t even have time to read all the comments. Some comments did make me wonder a couple of things. Understand these are questions not acusations etc.

    I wonder how much resentment comes about because of just plain differences between the sexes. Different ideas of what is important. Different expectations. Different views on issues etc. It may not be PC these days to even say that men & women are just wired differently but it is a biological fact. Some comments from the ladies have stated that ALL men are alike. While it may not go to that extreme I would say that most men are wired in the same basic ways.

    Ronnie’s comments made me think about the fact that we do have different thought processes. We don’t tackle a problem the same as the husband/wife sometimes. I would wonder how often men & women see the other as not doing anything, when it truth he or she IS doing something but maybe not doing it the same way as us? This could cause some resentment.

    Also in general we men really just don’t think as deeply about personal issues. We don’t in general talk to our friends about personal matters in marriage. Whereas my wife & her friends will talk about anything & everything. For instance if I go to a music event with a good friend she will ask how he & his wife are doing. His wife told her they have some problems. My answer is always the same but true. It is “I don’t know honey we didn’t talk about that”. She is always stunned that we don’t talk about personal issues as she does. Anyway just an interesting thought on the differences.

    Keep On Rockin Alisa
    Ron :-)

  • Sherry March 29, 2011, 1:26 pm

    I too am suffering from resentment issues in my marriage although they seem to be quite different and more specific than some of the issues I have seen mentioned here. First, there is the issue of my husband filing for disability and a two year pending process that still hasn’t been decided. True enough there are some learning disabilities and some physical disabilities that make it mostly impossible for him to keep a job. Never in our six years together do I ever remember him being able to keep a job for more than a few months at a time for one of the two above mentioned reasons. He tries hard, gives his employer 100% of his abilities and still it hasn’t manged to hold on to a job. We live month to month on my disability which is just under $700 per month. I resent that I have to spend every dime of my income on just keeping our heads above the water, so to speak, and that there is never any room for error or spending a dime friviously. I dress in clothes that look like they came from the rag bag. My shoes are literally seperating at the soles. Toilet paper is a luxury. Bathsoap is usually a bunch of little remnants that have been reformed into some sort of a ball so as not to be wasteful. Normal household goods such as paper towels, dish soap, laundry soap, and cleaning supplies are hit or miss. I have to wash clothes and dishes with whatever soap, including shampoo, that can be found at the time. I know that it is not my husbands fault that he had to file for disability or that he truly is physically and mentally unable to keep a job. Still, the resentment is there. Maybe it is unjustifiable, but that makes it no less painful. If he ever gets the chance to work an odd job, he isn’t at all selfish with his earnings. More often than not, he will buy something to bring home as s surprise to me or want to take me out to dinner. These are lovely gestures. What I resent is that he can’t see the needs of the household and buy a bar of soap, a roll of paper towels, or maybe something to wash clothes and dishes with. Do all men go through life not noticing what the woman in there life is doing just to make ends meet and the household function? Does anyone have any ideas on how I might let go of this type resentment and replace it with something that will be positive for my marriage. I love my husband dearly, but the resentment is making me emotionally distant. I fear that if a solution is not found there may be permanent damage. How does one hold on when they can see so little to hold on to?

  • lee August 27, 2012, 9:55 am

    im not married but i do resent my girlfriend alot and in turn its made me neglect her, im not showing loving feelings enough and im put off sex with her and because of this she’s got depressed that iv gone off her and im not bothered about her no more, i tell her she’s gorgeous all the time and tell her i love her but it dose’t seem enough, iv told her how i feel but she doesn’t seem to understand, she thinks she’s the only one suffering from all this, we’ve argued about all this loads of times and its never got sorted, its at a very sore point at the minute and could lead to a break up but thats far from what i want,

    if anyone can help then please please reply im desperate,

  • Kevin June 26, 2013, 7:16 pm

    Hi all,
    I was checking out this blog and was fascinated by the comments. A heads up for the ladies: If you think all men want to avoid conversation and intimacy, you are dead wrong. I agree with an earlier poster; we are people. Saying or buying into a mindset that all men are one way, and all women are another, is a recipe for dissaster and continued suffering. I was in the drivers seat for years. It was my wife that I could not get to open up or even admit that our marriage had problems. We are 3 years into counseling, and still spinning our wheels. Open, honest and vulnerable. That is the only way to be (for both) if it is going to work. It is true, you cannot change anyone else, only yourself. It is also true that even if you do everything right, the other may continue down the wrong road. Resentment and anger block Grace and Love. Everyone brings in baggage and makes mistakes. Those who are mature enough to accept responsibility for their part and do something about it, are the ones who can truly learn and become better. My best to all, never give up, never be a doormat. We all have value and are worthy of respect. We all must be willing to extend that to our others as well.


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