I have harbored a lot of resentment over the years. The chief cause? A feeling that my partner buries me with the majority of the mundane, daily, essential, non-glamorous and non-paying household jobs while they soar at their interesting, daily, essential, sexy and high paying careers.
The resentment only grew when they expected praise and a big thank you when they helped me with their children and their house.
I always wanted a partner, not a helper. I thought I made that very clear before marrying my second husband. It turns out, I did not make it very clear and I am not great at asking for what I need. Boundary setting is an art I am slowly learning how to practice.
It is more natural and easier for me to give and give and then feel annoyed. Creating limits and enforcing them, pushes me out of my comfort zone.
For many years and even now, I expected my husband to eventually figure out he needs to do the same amount of work around the house. This is putting the responsibility on my partner when I should be taking responsibility for how much I give and what I ask for.
In Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, Dr. John Gray states that when there is long-term resentment between a couple for unequal task division; men need to take responsibility for not supporting their wives and women need to take responsibility for not setting boundaries. Again, I agree with this statement but believe the genders could be switched or the couple could be the same sex.
Both partners need to actively participate in setting and respecting boundaries. Here are some ways to set limits according to Dr. Gray:
- When someone makes a request that you will later resent doing, practice saying “No, I need to relax” or “No, I am too busy today.” No more clarification or justification is needed. Stop talking after making one of those statements.
- When you want/need to take a break, ask if your partner would like to take a break with you (if you want). If they say no, do it on your own. You do not have to feel guilty for resting.
- If you have years of resentment built up, tell your partner you need to feel heard and validated before there is a chance of the relationship succeeding. If they interrupt while you express your feelings say, “I’m not finished yet, please hear me out.”
- Practice asking for what you need. It is most effective if you learn to ask for something in such a way that your partner can take it in without getting upset. It may seem like your partner should know what you need, but they do not. You have to share what is on your mind versus expecting them to read your mind.
- The listening partner has to be respectful of the other person’s changes and not expect them to be the same old accommodating partner.
We all tend to like things to stay the same. Familiar is hugely attractive and comfortable, but in order for a relationship to thrive both partners have to feel safe to grow. Setting limits ironically fosters growth by creating that safety. Limits are like safety rails. They guide and boost understanding. Partners ultimately feel closer to each other.
Do you harbor resentment? Do you take responsibility for giving too much or asking for too little? Do you fairly support your partner?