By Terry Gaspard MSW, LICSW
I read your blogs often but haven’t found one to help me get over my feelings of resentment toward my boyfriend, Kyle. We’ve been dating for over three years and living together for almost two. During our time together we’ve gotten over many hurdles – including adjusting to crazy work schedules and my returning to school to get a degree in nursing.
But honestly I just can’t seem to get over the fact that he has been communicating with his ex–girlfriend, Kim, for the past few days and never told me about it. The way I found out is that I saw a text message from her and recognized her name immediately. I knew that they had an amicable breakup right before we met but it hurts me that he was hiding the fact that they’ve been in touch.
Kyle says that he doesn’t have any romantic interest in Kim. Apparently, she recently moved back to our area and is hunting for jobs and contacting him for advice. I want to believe him but I’m beginning to lose trust in him. If he’s covering this up, what else could he be hiding? We’ve been talking about getting married next year but now I’m beginning to doubt whether he’s the right one for me.
Please get back to me as soon as possible. I need to know if I should forgive Kyle or if my resentment is legitimate and we should consider breaking up.
One of the biggest problems with ongoing resentment in a intimate relationship is that it often leads to withdrawal and a lack of vulnerability. And if you’re bottling up feelings of anger, sadness, or disappointment often, this can lead to feelings of resentment. Along with this comes less warmth, affection, and over time less fondness and admiration for your partner. Forgiveness can allow you to move on with your life and to embrace love, trust, and intimacy.
Trust is an essential element of any close relationship. You seem to lack trust that Kyle has your best interests at heart. First of all, I would take an inventory and determine whether or not there have been other occasions when you’ve had reason to mistrust him. Ask yourself: Is it possible that Kyle simply made an error in judgment by not telling me about his contact with his ex? Or, is it possible he felt he couldn’t be completely open and honest with me because I’ve expressed jealousy in the past and he feared losing me? Finally, do you believe it’s possible to rebuild trust with Kyle and to forgive him? These tips can help you let go of resentment if you decide to give Kyle a chance to regain your trust.
8 ways to prevent resentment from ruining your relationship:
- Acknowledge your feelings and practice being vulnerable in small steps so you can build confidence in being more open with your partner. Discussing minor issues (schedules, meals) is a great place to start before tackling bigger matters such as intimacy issues.
- Communicate honestly about key issues in your relationship. Be sure to be forthcoming about both of your past relationships, and concerns about present ones.
- Take responsibility for your part in the conflict or dispute. One person’s ability to do this can change the dynamic of the relationship. Dr.’s Julie and John Gottman write: “one person’s response will literally change the brain waves of the other person.”
- Apologize to your partner when appropriate. This will validate their feelings and promote forgiveness and allow you both to move on.
- Don’t allow wounds to fester. Challenge your beliefs and self-defeating thoughts about holding on to hurt feelings. When you listen to your partner’s side of the story, you will gain information about their intentions and feelings. Processing what happened briefly will allow you to let resentments go so you can move on to a healthier relationship.
- Express thoughts, feelings, and wishes in a respectful way. Resentment can build when couples sweep things under the rug, so be vulnerable and don’t bury negative feelings.
- Accept that people do the best they can and attempt to be more understanding. This does not mean that you condone the hurtful actions of others. You simply come to a more realistic view of your past and give it less power over you. As you take stock, you will realize that all people operate out of the same basic drives, including self-interest.
- Practice forgiveness. Learn to think like a forgiving person. Avoid holding a grudge and declare you are free to stop playing the role of victim. After all, we are all imperfect. For some people, genuine forgiveness is not possible, but acceptance is a worthy goal.
If after considering the merits of letting go of resentment and forgiveness, you decide that Kyle is a keeper, you may find that your relationship moves to a deeper level of intimacy. As you learn to reveal your thoughts, feelings, and wishes in an open and honest way, you’ll be better prepared for the ups and downs of an intimate relationship.
In closing, adopt a mindset of a forgiving person if your partner has given you reason to believe that he is trustworthy. Try to remember you are on the same team. Practicing forgiveness signifies breaking the cycle of pain and giving up the belief that the other person should suffer as much as you do.
Let’s end on the words of Dr. Paula Bloom: “Forgiveness is really a choice we make. If we wait for the feeling to fill our hearts, inspiring us to forgive, we could spend our lives waiting. It is a decision – a conscious decision. While we don’t have control over events that occurred in the past, we have some say over the role these events play in our present. You may find that you may not necessarily feel immediately better after you forgive, but as with many things in life, action often precedes motivation.”
Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter and Facebook. She is pleased to announce the publication of Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship (Sourcebooks).