11 Ways to Ease Your Resentment (and Still Get What You Want)

So, how did Thanksgiving go? Anyone still standing? I hope so, because we still have a few more weeks of holidays to go! So let’s jump right in with a few more tips for surviving the holidays and getting rid of your resentment.

After my last post, lots of folks emailed to let me know that communication (or lack of) was one of the leading causes of their resentment. So today, I’d like to share 11 tips from my new book to help you and your honey-bunny communicate more clearly:

Image courtesy of Idea Go at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Idea Go at freedigitalphotos.net

Tip #1: Ask for what you need.

Let’s start by asking for what we need. What’s something you desperately need help with right now?

Maybe it’s asking your spouse to pick up the kids, cook dinner, clean the bathroom, or whatever else it is that you’re seething about. Or maybe it’s asking for an hour after work to go get some exercise. But this is especially important for men/women who do the lion’s share of the work (and I don’t just mean at the office).

What one thing can you ask for help with this week?

Do it.

Tip #2: Ask for what you want.

Our wants are the next step up from our most basic needs, and just as important. Some things we want might be to go out with our friends or (gasp) take an afternoon to ourselves. But because these types of wants might not feel absolutely necessary, we shy away from asking.

I understand that. So think of this as an opportunity to build your communication muscles.

Then speak up and ask for exactly what you want. No hemming and hawing here. Just a straight, “I’d like to go meet my friends for a couple of hours tomorrow night. Can you please put the kids to sleep?”

If this feels too challenging, start small. Ask your spouse to bring you a fork from the kitchen. Or a cup of coffee.

Once you get the smaller ask down, challenge yourself and ask for something bigger. If you’re not sure what to ask for, revisit the reward list we created in Step 2. Choose something from that list and ask for it. Again, ask clearly, without any hemming and hawing.

But what if you’re too afraid to ask?

Do you feel like you don’t deserve to take some time for yourself? Are you afraid your spouse is going to say no?

Tip #3: Offer to trade.

If that’s the case, offer your spouse something in exchange. Offer him a night out with his friends while you watch the kids. That way, you both win.

I highly recommend this win-win scenario for anyone struggling with this concept, especially if you’re feeling guilty for taking time away from the kids. It’s a great way to get what you want without being sidelined by guilt.

If you’re struggling with your guilt and aren’t able to ask for what you want and need because of it, go back and take a look at your family patterns in Step 3.

Who ladled out the guilt when you were a child? Who decided what was good enough, and what wasn’t? Your mother? Your father?

Now step back for a moment and look at that person’s life. Was she or he happy? Fulfilled?

Probably not. In fact, most people who lay on the guilt do so because they’re haunted by their own ghosts. It seems to me, then, that guilting other people becomes an attempt at managing that anxiety.

But here’s the good news: you don’t have to continue this tradition. Part of what it means to become an adult is to cut the cord and differentiate from our parents. This means we become our own person in every sense of the word, from creating our own house rules to stepping into our own beliefs and values.

For many of us, this is lifelong work. That’s OK. Just take it one step at a time, my friend, and we’ll get there.

Alrighty, then. Back to our regularly scheduled show.

Tip #4: Say NO to the things you don’t want to do.

Yes, it really is that easy.

Don’t cook tonight if you don’t want to—make sandwiches. Don’t volunteer for your children’s school fundraiser if you don’t have the time. Don’t volunteer at all.

Ack!

Does this induce panic or make you feel anxious? Does it make you think, “I couldn’t possibly say no because everyone’s doing it,” or “I have to,” or “what will they think,” yadda, yadda, yadda.

If so, I’m going to teach you a life-saving tip:

Tip #5: Every time you say YES to something you don’t want to do, you’ll end up being resentful.

Every time.

Boy, I had to learn this one the hard way. I continue to learn this one the hard way.

So say no when you mean no. Seriously.

And careful of those attempts to bypass your intuition, inner wisdom, or gut feelings by telling yourself things like “I don’t really want to do this, but I’ll do it just this once.” Beware those Just This Onces. They’ll kill you.

Tip #6: Every time you say YES to something, you say N0 to something else.

For example, let’s say you agreed to meet an acquaintance you don’t really like. Then one of your favorite people in the world invites you out on the same day, but you have to say no, because you’ve already committed to a person you don’t even want to hang out with.

That sucks. And it leads me to this next tip:

Tip #7: Don’t overcommit.

When we give away too much of our time and energy, we end up shortchanging our loved ones, not to mention ourselves.

That’s what happens to me when I overcommit. By the time I’ve wrapped up all my obligations, I’m fried and have nothing left for myself, not to mention my family. And because I’ve pushed myself so far past my limits, we all end up suffering.

So don’t overcommit. Because then everything sucks.

All of which leads me to something I recently heard:

Tip #8: If it’s not a Hell Yes! it’s a NO.

Wow. Think about that one for a minute. Imagine what your life would look like if you only said yes to the things you really wanted to do.

This little technique alone might slice our resentment in half, just like that.

Tip #9: Fuck the “shoulds.”

Seriously. Don’t ever do anything because you think you should. There’s no quicker road to hell than doing something because you think you should.

My Story

After a long week of juggling work with wrangling the kids, I’m fried by the time Friday night rolls around. At the end of a busy week, I need downtime to recharge.

Ken’s the opposite—he’s raring to go.

For a long time, I felt like I should be social on Friday nights. But every time we had friends over or went out, it backfired. Because I’d pushed myself beyond my limits, I turned into a grumpy hellion who made life miserable for everyone around me.

Once I realized that I needed to chill out on Fridays, things started falling into place. If we could just regroup and have movie night instead, then I’d be recharged enough by Saturday to be able to socialize again.

This was a win-win for both of us: Ken got his social time on Saturdays, and I got my downtime on Fridays. And on the plus side, I had way more good (vs. evil) energy for my husband and children, which is always good for everyone.

Tip #10: Divide and conquer.

Now that we’ve talked about some of the bigger issues behind our communication difficulties, let’s take a look at some of the common issues driving us all nuts, like household chores.

There’s just WAY too much work to be done around the house once we have kids. Especially when they’re young. It never, ever stops. And almost everyone I’ve spoken with feels resentful about it.

But most of those folks have never taken the time to discuss their expectations around those household chores. So let’s do it now.

Set aside 15-20 minutes for you and your honey to sit down together and clarify who’s going to do what. Make a list of all the household chores that need to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.

Then figure out who likes to do what. For example, if your spouse likes to cook, great. There’s no reason you should be struggling in the kitchen when Jimbo enjoys whipping up yummy meals. Sign him up!

Meanwhile, you might hate walking the dog while your wife loves it. Great! Figuring this stuff out is half the battle. Keep going until you’ve both taken responsibility for chores you don’t mind doing.

Then bring your kids into the equation. Even small children can set the table or put away toys. Decide how you’d like to split up these tasks, and add them to the list.

Once you’ve addressed the easier chores, divvy up the rest. And compromise, folks. If you both hate scrubbing toilets, for example, alternate weeks. Exchange one chore for another. But keep talking until you’ve discussed everything on your list.

Once you have everything down in black and white, post your list on your fridge, where everyone can see it. If your children are too young to read, add a few simple drawings to represent their chores.

Then stick to them. Consider holding a brief, 5-minute check-in every week to chart your progress and keep yourselves accountable.

Tip #11. Negotiate and renegotiate.

Remember how we decided that Jimbo was going to cook from now on? Yeah, but we forgot to take into consideration that he doesn’t get home until 7:00 p.m. most nights and by that time, the kids have eaten everything in sight and you’re all foaming at the mouth.

So let’s reconsider. Maybe Jimbo makes a big batch of something on Sunday to get you through the early part of the week. Or you make a slow-cooker recipe mid-week. Maybe you order takeout on Tuesdays.

The trick here is to ASK for what you need. Clearly. Then keep talking and talking and talking until you figure things out.

And this, my friends, is where I see a lot of relationships break down. It’s not enough to telepathically beam your wishes toward your partner. That might have worked for Mork and Mindy, but it’s not going to work for you.

If you’re really struggling with asking for what you need, practice with a friend or pick up a book on assertiveness training, but do whatever you need to get those words out of your mouth!

Then repeat as needed. If something’s working, great! If not, renegotiate. Nobody said this stuff is set in stone.

If it makes you feel better, Ken and I are STILL renegotiating. And we probably always will be. We make out a new chore chart at few times a year, and we’re always refining family rules such as how much TV time the kids can watch.

That’s just the nature of living with children. You’re always chasing a moving target. That’s OK. Keep going.

And keep talking! You’re sunk when you stop.

*                            *                     *

All right, folks. Hope that gives you a few ways to start getting rid of your resentment! Even though I was only able to include half of the communication tips I cover in the book, I choose the most common issues we all struggle with so you could get some immediate relief.

As always, I’d love to hear what resonates with you. Leave a comment below, join the conversation on Facebook or email me if you’re feeling shy.

In my next post, I’m going to share some of the deeper roots of our resentment and what we can do about it. Stay tuned!

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2 Responses to 11 Ways to Ease Your Resentment (and Still Get What You Want)

  1. Stacy December 9, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    What about the spouse who is totally on board with the chore-sharing plan but then fails to follow through? This has repeatedly happened in my relationship with my husband. It goes like this: we agree on a plan, he gets busy with work and forgets his part of the deal, I remind him but he’s too tired to follow through, I get tired of reminding him and do it myself, resentment builds, I blow my top. We repeat this broken cycle again and again. I guess the answer is to continue to repeat what I need until he takes action? It makes me tired just thinking about how many times I have to repeat myself. That’s why I fall back to just doing the chores myself. Any thoughts?

    • Tanja December 9, 2014 at 2:43 pm #

      Hi Stacy,

      I hear you on this one, it’s frustrating for a lot of us. The quick answer is to find a way to break the cycle. Instead of reminding him again and again, I’d suggest asking once and then dropping it. When we continue to ask again and again, our partner just tends to tune us out.

      Next, figure out what you can live with. What absolutely needs to be done? What you can let go of? Can you hire someone to take care of some of the other pieces? Then take care of the chores you absolutely must deal with, and do your best to let the rest slide. This will usually inspire your spouse to step up, at least somewhat.

      The longer answer is that this pattern probably has nothing to do with the chores. My guess is that it’s rooted in some larger issues that you’ll need to get at before you can make some real headway around the chores. For example, your spouse might not like being “nagged,” so he’s rebelling by not doing the chores. Or maybe his mom did everything when he was a kid and he’s expecting you to (eventually) give in and do the same. The way you get to the bottom of this kind of stuff is by digging and having lots of conversations. It might take a few uncomfortable conversations to get there, but it’s so worth it.

      Good luck, and let us know what happens!

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