If you think creating resentments in your relationship is only a problem for people in bad or unhappy couplings, think again. Picture it. For months you've been buying the same kind of cookies at the grocery store with seemingly no issue. Then one day, out of the blue, you have a meltdown in the snack aisle because it's not fair that you always get you partner's favorite cookies and not your own, when, honestly, your partner didn't even know that you cared about cookies. Because you never said anything and just let him or her pick the cookies until you built up a nice little cookie fairness resentment.
The struggle is real. Hidden resentments are why people who seemed perfectly happy suddenly snap and get angry about irrational things. And the problems are deeper than cookies. When I worked as a Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator and Homesafe Domestic Violence Victim Advocate, I saw resentments lead to everything from tears to breakups to straight up physical violence.
If someone's mean or violent with you, that's never your fault, and it's never something you have to tolerate. But if you find that you are the person with the mountain of resentments and buried anger, it could be because you're creating situations that foster resentment. And you're probably doing it all in the name of being nice, because you're an awesome partner. Trust me, though, you'll be just as awesome (and much happier) if you skip all these resentment-causing behaviors to begin with.
1. People Pleasing
People pleasing isn't just being too nice. It's a need to please others at the expense of your own happiness. It means you're making dinner even if you're tired. You're eating at a restaurant you don't like because you don't want to make waves. You're taking on too much responsibility because you don't want to disappoint anyone. You're taking care of people who don't necessarily always take care of you back. If you set up this kind of relationship with your partner, eventually you're going to become resentful at all your suppressed needs and wants. People pleasing is a real problem, usually with it's roots in low self-esteem.
Enabling creates a whole giant mess of problems, only one of which is resentment. If you need a crash course on enabling, it's not just giving drug addicts money. It could be not expecting your partner to grow up and contributing financially to the household. It could be doing all the housework so your messy partner never has to learn better habits. It's solving all the problems and doing all the adulting so your partner can remain sheltered. At some point, you'll realize how unfair that situation can be, and you'll resent your partner and yourself.
3. Not Making Decisions
If you're one of those partners who never makes decisions, you have to turn that ship around ASAP because this one piles up resentments really quickly. At first it doesn't seem like a big deal that your partner always picks dinner or the movie you see. You just want to have fun and make him or her happy. You don't realize that you're setting up an unfair situation that gets old really fast. It's real. Speak up. Make your fair share of the decisions.
4. Not Saying No
So you're good at computers and resumes and writing letters and volunteering and making cookies and so on and so forth, but that doesn't mean you always have to do it. If you never say no, whether it be to your partner or his friends and family, you'll eventually overload and over-stress yourself. And then, you guessed it, resentment city.
5. Not Asking For What You Want In Bed
A lot of women don't orgasm every time, but still enjoy sex. And have orgasms sometimes. But if you never have them, and you lie about it, you're really doing yourself a disservice. Asking for what you want in bed shouldn't make your partner angry or embarrassed. It should make him or her happy that they know how to please you. If you spend a long time in an unsatisfying sexual relationship because you didn't want to risk telling your partner what you like, resentment is only one of your problems.
6. Subverting Your Goals
Have you ever said something like "I was going to update my blog tonight but it's OK, I don't mind helping you with..." or "it's OK, I can go back to school when my partner is done." Sometimes these are the goals that make sense to a family, but most of the time, they're one partner subverting their goals for the other. Make sure that you're doing you and creating the life you want, not just the relationship you want. Otherwise, aside from a pile of resentments, you'll also have a pile of regrets.
7. Compromising Too Much
Are you a fake compromiser? Do you pretend you've reached a compromise when really you've just made it seem like your partner's side of things is your side of things, too? That's OK once in awhile. Relationships aren't about winning and always getting your way. But they are about you having the space to be a whole person and to sometimes get what you want. You may think you're being nice, but you're really undermining your relationship. Think of it as a subtle form of lying. It's not good for anyone in the long run.
If any of these sound like you, it's never too late to turn that sinking boat around and create a relationship that's more equal.