There's tons of advice out there on how to confront your partner about a behavior that bothers you. But what if you follow it all, and you're still angry? Dealing with resentment in relationships is common, even after a problem's "supposed" to be resolved. The right way to deal depends what exactly it's about, but generally, resentment indicates that at least some issue really wasn't resolved after all.
You can put the sources of your anger toward your partner into three categories, Barbara Neitlich, LCSW, author of Stop Dating Like a Teenager, tells Bustle: large injustices (like cheating), medium injustices (like being a bad listener), and small injustices (like forgetting to put away the peanut butter).
A good way to gage the size of the injustice is to think about how long the behavior affected you for (it takes a minute to put away peanut butter, for example, but could take months to get over cheating). Picturing yourself outside the situation and asking how you'd react to someone seeking your unbiased opinion could also help. Depending on the injustice's size, your anger may be directly related to it or may be about something tangentially related. Either way, it usually means something's wrong, so don't dismiss it.
"Usually, where there's resentment, there's someone who is continuing to give something they're not OK with giving," emotional health expert and NYC-based psychotherapist Katherine Schafler tells Bustle. "This can include the intangible like time, patience, and trust. It's not necessarily the best course of action to examine the lingering feeling as the problem. In a way, it pathologizes natural human experiences and encourages the internalization of a negative feeling, i.e. 'Why do I still feel resentment even though we've been through this and she's said she's sorry, what's wrong with me?' Typically, the situation that remains is the problem, not the person reacting to it."
Instead of trying to get rid of your feelings, think of them as information pointing toward an unresolved issue in your relationship. Here's what to do about lingering resentment regarding each type of injustice.
1. Big Injustices
If your partner has seriously wronged you, it's expected that you'd feel angry even after they've apologized. "You need to take the time to process feelings of anger and resentment with a close friend, family or professional," says Neitlich. "You need time to understand the wound and engage in self-care to help repair (if you can) what has been broken." You may even want to talk to a professional to help move on.
Before trying to move beyond a big injustice, make sure you're truly open to forgiveness. If there's nothing that could get you to forgive them, there's no point in trying. Your partner should also be willing to stop doing the thing that hurt you and make whatever changes are needed for you to feel secure and valued again. If you and your partner aren't both committed to moving forward, the resentment may be a sign that the relationship is no longer serving you.
2. Medium Injustices
Medium injustices you can't stop ruminating over tend to be part of a larger pattern. For example, it may not seem to make sense that you're so angry toward your partner for accidentally scheduling something when you already had plans. But if you think about all the times they didn't take your plans into consideration, you realize there may be a larger pattern of disrespecting your time.
If this is the case, address the entire issue rather than just that one trigger. Acknowledging an ongoing pattern that's hurting you helps your partner see where you're coming from and makes them less likely to brush off your anger as an overreaction.
3. Small Injustices
If you get caught up on things that you don't even find important, they could also point toward a larger issue. For example, maybe you're mad about your partner not putting the peanut butter away because you feel like it's yet another example of them not listening to you. In this situation, you should also address the overall issue.
Again, these things usually do have some basis, but in rare cases, it's possible the issue has nothing to do with your partner. Maybe you actually just don't want to be in a relationship, so you're looking for some reason to leave them. Or maybe you've been really unhappy or grumpy and are looking for the next thing to get angry about, and they happen to be there.
If the little things you're mad about truly are little, remind yourself why you appreciate your partner despite all them. Neitlich recommends reciting to yourself, or even writing on a Post-It on your wall, "No one is perfect. I love and accept my partner for everything they do and do not do" or "life is short, don't sweat the small stuff."
Remember, there's no right or wrong way to feel, so don't try to judge your anger. Allowing yourself to feel it and understand its roots can help solve the underlying problem, whether that's a problem with your relationship or one with your own mindset.