Individual Counseling Insights From Westlake Village-Based Patricia McTague-Loft
Oh my, relationships in the beginning stages can be wonderful! Simply looking at your potential partner is a delight, and conversations never seemed so deep and meaningful. That elusive connection, chemistry, is just right. (OK, it may just be dopamine flowing, and your hormonal response is overwhelming rational thought, but hey, let’s not spoil the mood.)
With a little luck, that courtship phase turns into a real relationship. Day-to-day routines develop, and then one day you find yourself strangely irritated by this wonderful human who once got your heart beating and palms sweating.
What’s going on?
There may be an underlying feeling that is manifesting itself in changed behavior, and you might not even recognize the nature of that feeling. In fact, that all-too-common feeling is resentment. In a weirdly fortunate way, people express resentment in fairly predictable ways. “Resentment can manifest in subtle ways that aren’t always super apparent to your partner ― or even to yourself,” writes Caroline Bologna for HuffPost.com. She then lists several changes in behavior that could actually be a response to an underlying feeling of resentment.
Of course, recognizing that your behavior is a reaction to resentment is only the first step. The next step is figuring what you’re resentful about.
But first things first. Do you recognize any of the following in your own behavior? Check out what Bologna cites as signs recognized by experts as indications of resentment.
Changes In Communication. If you’ve always had a lighthearted way of communicating, good for you. Playful is good. But edgy comments can subtly shift into not-so-nice barbs. “Passive-aggressive comments, subtle digs, scoffing and belittling what the other person says can all point to resentment,” says Bologna. “There could be a sense of moodiness or short closed-end statements that cut off actual conversation as well.” Not a good sign.
Keeping Score. In your mind, you might have a very good reason for taking note of an imbalance in the relationship. You do the dishes how many times per week? And he does them how many times? Well, that’s just not right. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop with something so mundane as dishes. Who’s actually contributing more to keeping this relationship going?
Avoiding Spending Time Together. Everyone needs their alone time. But are you looking for more and more time away? Time to step back and ask yourself why.
Criticism and Blame. Criticizing your partner is a sure sign that trouble’s brewing in the relationship. Again, though, look deeper into yourself and ask why you’re criticizing your partner (or vice versa). It’s a red flag that the relationship needs help.
Complaining Behind Their Back. If you’re fortunate enough to have a dear friend in whom you can confide your deepest feelings, do you find yourself complaining about your partner if given the chance. “In addition to frequently nitpicking or complaining to your partner about things they do,” writes Bologna, “a sign of resentment might involve how you talk about your partner to other people.” Watch out for this not-too-subtle sign of trouble.
Emotional Outburst or Coldness. Resentment is a bit strange because it actually builds up inside. If you live with resentment — and don’t recognize your feeling — it can suddenly erupt in response to an otherwise minor offense. “Resentment can manifest in emotional outbursts or cold behavior as those pent-up feelings are released,” says Bologna. “Resist the urge to boil these deeper issues down to pure anger or sadness.” That, indeed, is the danger — allowing yourself to express resentment in anger without understanding the real issue.
A Change In Intimacy. No surprise here. It’s hard to be intimate, open and loving when negative feelings are flowing barely beneath the surface. This may be the ultimate red flag. Heed the sign and make the commitment to confront the issue — or be prepared for the relationship to fade away.