When two people meet and decide to pursue a romantic relationship with each other, they always start with high hopes. They are very happy and look at the other person through rose-colored glasses.
But as most of us know, that loving feeling doesn’t always last forever. It does for some couples, but for many, they find their relationships deteriorating through the years for a variety of reasons.
As the relationship slowly declines, what creeps in?
Resentment in marriage can act as a poison that can kill the love – if you let it.
But first, let’s define resentment, so we can see what it really is.
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What Is Resentment?
Resentment is hurt, disappointment, anger, or any other negative emotion that persists over a period of time. It usually doesn’t go away on its own – instead, it accumulates and grows bigger.
As this resentment continues, the people in the relationship find it more difficult to express love and empathy to one another. The reason for this is because of the unheard and neglected pain they are carrying around.
Because of this, resentment is the most toxic emotion of all in any relationship, especially marriage.
Causes of Resentment
There are many reasons that resentment in marriage can build up. Usually, it happens when one partner feels that they are more loving, attentive, and “present” in the relationship than the other.
If left unattended, it can evolve into contempt, which is when two people feel absolute disdain for one another.
Here are some common causes of resentment in marriage:
Always Needing to Be Right
When spouses see their partnership as a competitor and not a teammate, resentment will likely build up. If they are always trying to “win” an argument and be “right,” then that will cause each other resentment.
When one or both people only think about their own needs, the marriage does not become productive. Instead, both people need to think about their partner’s needs at least equal to, if not less than, their own.
People often get lazy in marriages. They think, “Oh…I am married! Now I don’t have to put in any work because I already “have” them!” But that often leads to a lot of neglect – of your partner and the relationship as a whole.
No one likes to be treated poorly, but unfortunately, it happens in too many marriages. Abuse means physical, emotional, AND mental. Whenever someone is abused, resentment is bound to grow.
Ignoring Your Partner’s Feelings
This is closely tied to selfishness because if you were not selfish, you would pay attention to your spouse’s feelings. But if they repeatedly tell you how they feel and they get ignored, it will lead to resentment.
Cheating or Betrayal
Marriage vows include the line “forsaking all others.” So, if one spouse betrays the other in the form of cheating (either physical or emotional), then it is not surprising that the feelings toward the cheating spouse will turn negative, which certainly causes resentment in marriage.
How Does Resentment Affect a Relationship?
If resentment builds over months, years, or even decades, it can lead to withdrawing.
When one or both partners withdraw, they become emotionally and/or physically distant from one another. There can be no intimacy and love when you are moving apart instead of coming together.
Second, resentment can lead to a lot of fighting in the marriage. Conflict is normal and natural, but in healthy relationships, people can work through their problems calmly and productively. However, when there is resentment lurking between the two of you, then the fighting can get down and dirty.
Finally, resentment can also lead to abuse or neglect. As I stated above, these can also be a cause of resentment. But even if they weren’t the direct cause they can certainly be an effect as well.
What Are the Signs of Resentment?
Each marriage is different, so resentment can manifest differently for different couples. However, there are a few signs that are common to many relationships where there is a lot of resentment brewing between the people.
Here are some common signs:
- Your sex life suffers
- Unusual distance, quietness, or tense feeling between the two of you
- Passive-aggressive behavior by one or both people
- Remarks about breaking up – whether it’s serious or in a joking manner
- You feel like roommates and not a married couple
- You don’t talk anymore or do anything fun together
How Do You Stop Resentment in Marriage?
It’s not easy to stop resentment in marriage, but it can be done. However, BOTH people need to be 100% committed to rebuilding the marriage in order for any of these tips to work.
Here are some ways to stop resentment in your marriage:
1. Don’t Hide or Deny Your Feelings.
Sometimes, people don’t even acknowledge their own feelings. They may have grown up in a family where expressing their feelings is discouraged. So, try to get in touch with how you feel so you can be clear about where you stand.
2. Express Your Feelings to Your Partner Clearly and Directly.
After you have figured out how you feel, then you need to tell your spouse. No one is a mind reader. I know that’s obvious, but some people just cannot pick up on the cues that other people give them. So, be very, very clear and direct about how you feel and what you need.
3. If You Are Holding a Grudge, Write a List of Why It’s Not Helpful.
Holding grudges is a common thing people do when they feel resentment. However, grudges have never, ever fixed any relationship. So, if you find yourself harboring your feelings, write down why doing that is NOT helpful.
4. Write Down Why You Should Forgive Your Partner.
Sometimes, resentment in marriage starts from something relatively minor. It might not feel minor, but perhaps it really is. So, it’s helpful to write it all down, and see what you can let go and what you can forgive your spouse for.
5. Don’t Bring Other People Into Your Negativity.
Many people feel the need to vent to their best friends, family, or anyone else who will listen to why they feel resentment toward their partner. But think about it – talking to other people does not solve your problem. Talk to your partner, not other people.
6. Try to Have Empathy.
Empathy is trying to see a situation from another person’s point of view. It’s a difficult thing to do under normal circumstances, but when you’re resentful, it’s even more difficult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try. Remember that there are always two sides to every story.
7. Focus on Your Partner’s Good Qualities.
Your spouse must have SOME good qualities, right? I mean, you did marry the person, so I assume there are things you like about them. So, instead of focusing on the things that you think are wrong with them, focus on what is good about them.
8. See a Therapist If Needed.
Many couples simply can’t get past resentment on their own. In these cases, it is very helpful to seek the help of a trained professional. Having an objective third party help you work through your problems can be the difference between saving your marriage or not.
Can Resentment Destroy a Marriage?
This is one of the most common questions, and the answer is a resounding YES.
Resentment CAN destroy a marriage. But it doesn’t have to.
If you don’t want resentment to rot your marriage from the inside out, then you must take action to try to work through it – sooner than later. The sooner you both try to sort out your feelings and change your actions for the better, the higher chance you will have of saving your marriage and becoming happy again.
More Tips for a Healthy Marriage
We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.
The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.
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The Importance of Living in the Moment
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha
While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.
Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:
By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being.
Improve Your Relationships
Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?
Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.
How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.
By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.
You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier.
Why Do We Worry?
Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.
When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.
Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.
Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.
3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment
Step 1: Overcome Worrying
In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:
Calm Your Mind
When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.
The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.
In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.
Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems
Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.
People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.
If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.
Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment
In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.
Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.
You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.
If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.
Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past
None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.
So how do most people cope with painful emotions?
By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.
In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.
Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.
A Wandering Mind
From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.
Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.
Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities.
Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future.
Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.
Step 3: Practice Mindfulness
So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?
Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.
The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.
When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality.
You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.
This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.
To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.
If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.
You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.
Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.
Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.
You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.
This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.
If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article:
While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.
You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.
Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)
Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?
Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?
Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.
You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.
In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.
You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.
Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.
The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.
Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss.
So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:
- Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
- Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
- Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.
You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating
Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.
Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.
You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.
Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.
Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.
The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.