Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of pleas for help around this whole resentment thing. Yesterday, two women wrote me complaining that their husbands weren’t there for there emotionally or financially during some intense life challenges. And then there was the man who asked for advice after his wife physically and emotionally distanced herself from him after having children.
You might not think there’s much in common with these problems, but I see it a bit differently. All three, it seems to me, could benefit from learning how to take back their power.
After receiving gazillions of emails on the topic of resentment these past couple of years, I’ve begun to realize that a lot of this tends to revolve around the same common themes. Yes, the details of our resentment might look different, but the path out is almost always nearly the same.So in an attempt to help more readers, I’ve decided to address these larger issues in post format instead of tearing out my hair trying to answer each individual email. Here goes!
It seems to me that many of us get pretty damn resentful when we feel like we’re trapped in a miserable marriage without a path out.
Yes, your spouse may have had contributed heavily to the problem (if not outright caused it). But even if he or she isn’t willing to do anything about it (especially if he or she isn’t willing to do anything about it), it’s up to you to figure out how to get yourself out of this mess. Because it really is true that you can’t change anyone else–the only person you can ever change is yourself.
That said, it is often true that once one partner changes, the other starts to change as well. But don’t bank on that. What you’re banking on here is yourself. And that alone, my friends, is worth the price of admission.
Because we only have one life, you know. And is this really how you want to live it?
I didn’t think so. So let’s get cracking!
Decide what makes you happy.
Would you like some time to reconnect with friends?
Then do it!
Are you itching for some time to read a book? Or maybe you’d rather order a pizza than cook. Alrighty, then! It’s time to give yourself permission. Because you’re the only person in charge of your life. Yes, you.
And when you start putting yourself first, all sorts of miracles start to occur.
Decide what’s right for you. What kind of support do you need in your life? Perhaps it’s time to see a therapist. Or hire a cleaning service. Or join a mom’s group. Whatever it is, do it.
Again, don’t wait on your spouse for this one. You’re one-half of this marriage, remember? Treat yourself with the respect you deserve. Yes, you matter.
Decide what you want your marriage to look like.
Ooooh, this is one of my favorites. I think a lot of us tend to think we need to follow the roles we grew up with. But you know that? That’s bullshit. Times are a-changin’ and so are you. And a marriage is a not a one-size-fits-all kind of proposition.
Meaning that it’s probably time to rewrite the rules. You can do this by figuring out which parts of your marriage are working, and which ones aren’t. Maybe you need your spouse to take on equal child care. Or be the main cook. Perhaps you need a break on the weekends instead of your spouse always being the one who gets that much-needed free time.
It’s all up for negotiation, my friends. But only if you ask for it.
Decide what you are and are not willing to put up with.
As those Dear Abby types always say, we treat people how to treat us. What this means is that if you don’t like how your spouse is treating you, it’s time to speak up and tell ’em what’s cool and what’s not.
Besides, once you’re swimming in a sea of resentment, what do you really have to lose?
Set some boundaries.
Yee-ha! Now we’re getting somewhere!
Start with baby steps, if you need, but be sure they’re clear and enforceable. And then enforce them.
For example, if you tell your honey-bunny that dinner will be served between 6:00-7:00 p.m. and he gets home at 8:30, well, tough luck, buddy. He can heat up his own grub.
Keep working on yourself and figuring out what makes you happy. What makes your heart sing? What do you want to bring into your life? What are you ready to let go of?
Recognize that growth by its very nature tends to be uncomfortable.
If you can’t tolerate some discomfort, then nothing’s going to change. For real.
Stop asking others for advice. (And stop expecting someone else to solve your problems). Decide what’s right for you and what you need for yourself.
We’re all different and we all have different values. Stick to what’s right for you, and things will start to fall into place.
Stop complaining about your spouse to anyone who will listen.
I’ve found that this takes just enough sting out of the problem so that you don’t actually have to do anything about it.
If you really need to get it out, try writing down your thoughts and feelings. Or see a therapist. Either one of these techniques will help you start to make meaning out of your mess.
All complaining does is keep you going in circles.
Take it one step at a time, and keep going.
I’m not saying this stuff is easy. It’s not. But if you’re trying to save your marriage, it’s essential.
I liken the process to shoveling.
Like many of you, we Coloradans have been hit with a bunch of snow lately. This morning, I woke up to another foot of snow. That’s a lot of heavy snow to shovel, and I was tired pretty quickly.
Even though I wanted to give up, I kept going, one shovelful at a time. In between, I’d stop, rest and look around. It was beautiful. (It still is, and it’s still coming down.)
I won’t lie–at one point, I was fantasizing about someone else coming over and bailing me out. But Ken hurt his arm last week, and come ‘on, nobody else was itching to shovel me out. Besides, everyone else had their own shoveling to do.
The same is true for our marriages. We’re the only ones who can shovel ourselves out. Even if someone else gives us advice, we’re still the ones who have to do the heavy lifting.
So keep going, my friend.
Take it one step at at time, and rest when you need to.
Because this is the only way we can save our lives.
Now it’s your turn: I’d love to hear how you took back your power–in big ways as well as small.
And if you have any additional advice for the folks who reached out to me with today’s problems, please share it below.