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Published on May 8, 2020

How to Stop Resentment from Ruining Your Marriage

How to Stop Resentment from Ruining Your Marriage

When two people meet and decide to pursue a romantic relationship with each other, they always start with high hopes. They are very happy and look at the other person through rose-colored glasses.

But as most of us know, that loving feeling doesn’t always last forever. It does for some couples, but for many, they find their relationships deteriorating through the years for a variety of reasons.

As the relationship slowly declines, what creeps in?

Resentment.

Resentment in marriage can act as a poison that can kill the love – if you let it.

But first, let’s define resentment, so we can see what it really is.

What Is Resentment?

Resentment is hurt, disappointment, anger, or any other negative emotion that persists over a period of time. It usually doesn’t go away on its own – instead, it accumulates and grows bigger.

As this resentment continues, the people in the relationship find it more difficult to express love and empathy to one another. The reason for this is because of the unheard and neglected pain they are carrying around.

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Because of this, resentment is the most toxic emotion of all in any relationship, especially marriage.

Causes of Resentment

There are many reasons that resentment in marriage can build up. Usually, it happens when one partner feels that they are more loving, attentive, and “present” in the relationship than the other.

If left unattended, it can evolve into contempt, which is when two people feel absolute disdain for one another.

Here are some common causes of resentment in marriage:

Always Needing to Be Right

When spouses see their partnership as a competitor and not a teammate, resentment will likely build up. If they are always trying to “win” an argument and be “right,” then that will cause each other resentment.

Selfishness

When one or both people only think about their own needs, the marriage does not become productive. Instead, both people need to think about their partner’s needs at least equal to, if not less than, their own.

Neglect

People often get lazy in marriages. They think, “Oh…I am married! Now I don’t have to put in any work because I already “have” them!” But that often leads to a lot of neglect – of your partner and the relationship as a whole.

Abuse

No one likes to be treated poorly, but unfortunately, it happens in too many marriages. Abuse means physical, emotional, AND mental. Whenever someone is abused, resentment is bound to grow.

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Ignoring Your Partner’s Feelings

This is closely tied to selfishness because if you were not selfish, you would pay attention to your spouse’s feelings. But if they repeatedly tell you how they feel and they get ignored, it will lead to resentment.

Cheating or Betrayal

Marriage vows include the line “forsaking all others.” So, if one spouse betrays the other in the form of cheating (either physical or emotional), then it is not surprising that the feelings toward the cheating spouse will turn negative, which certainly causes resentment in marriage.

How Does Resentment Affect a Relationship?

If resentment builds over months, years, or even decades, it can lead to withdrawing.

When one or both partners withdraw, they become emotionally and/or physically distant from one another. There can be no intimacy and love when you are moving apart instead of coming together.

Second, resentment can lead to a lot of fighting in the marriage. Conflict is normal and natural, but in healthy relationships, people can work through their problems calmly and productively. However, when there is resentment lurking between the two of you, then the fighting can get down and dirty.

Finally, resentment can also lead to abuse or neglect. As I stated above, these can also be a cause of resentment. But even if they weren’t the direct cause they can certainly be an effect as well.

What Are the Signs of Resentment?

Each marriage is different, so resentment can manifest differently for different couples. However, there are a few signs that are common to many relationships where there is a lot of resentment brewing between the people.

Here are some common signs:

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  1. Your sex life suffers
  2. Unusual distance, quietness, or tense feeling between the two of you
  3. Passive-aggressive behavior by one or both people
  4. Remarks about breaking up – whether it’s serious or in a joking manner
  5. You feel like roommates and not a married couple
  6. You don’t talk anymore or do anything fun together

How Do You Stop Resentment in Marriage?

It’s not easy to stop resentment in marriage, but it can be done. However, BOTH people need to be 100% committed to rebuilding the marriage in order for any of these tips to work.

Here are some ways to stop resentment in your marriage:

1. Don’t Hide or Deny Your Feelings.

Sometimes, people don’t even acknowledge their own feelings. They may have grown up in a family where expressing their feelings is discouraged. So, try to get in touch with how you feel so you can be clear about where you stand.

2. Express Your Feelings to Your Partner Clearly and Directly.

After you have figured out how you feel, then you need to tell your spouse. No one is a mind reader. I know that’s obvious, but some people just cannot pick up on the cues that other people give them. So, be very, very clear and direct about how you feel and what you need.

3. If You Are Holding a Grudge, Write a List of Why It’s Not Helpful.

Holding grudges is a common thing people do when they feel resentment. However, grudges have never, ever fixed any relationship. So, if you find yourself harboring your feelings, write down why doing that is NOT helpful.

4. Write Down Why You Should Forgive Your Partner.

Sometimes, resentment in marriage starts from something relatively minor. It might not feel minor, but perhaps it really is. So, it’s helpful to write it all down, and see what you can let go and what you can forgive your spouse for.

5. Don’t Bring Other People Into Your Negativity.

Many people feel the need to vent to their best friends, family, or anyone else who will listen to why they feel resentment toward their partner. But think about it – talking to other people does not solve your problem. Talk to your partner, not other people.

6. Try to Have Empathy.

Empathy is trying to see a situation from another person’s point of view. It’s a difficult thing to do under normal circumstances, but when you’re resentful, it’s even more difficult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try. Remember that there are always two sides to every story.

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7. Focus on Your Partner’s Good Qualities.

Your spouse must have SOME good qualities, right? I mean, you did marry the person, so I assume there are things you like about them. So, instead of focusing on the things that you think are wrong with them, focus on what is good about them.

8. See a Therapist If Needed.

Many couples simply can’t get past resentment on their own. In these cases, it is very helpful to seek the help of a trained professional. Having an objective third party help you work through your problems can be the difference between saving your marriage or not.

Can Resentment Destroy a Marriage?

This is one of the most common questions, and the answer is a resounding YES.

Resentment CAN destroy a marriage. But it doesn’t have to.

If you don’t want resentment to rot your marriage from the inside out, then you must take action to try to work through it – sooner than later. The sooner you both try to sort out your feelings and change your actions for the better, the higher chance you will have of saving your marriage and becoming happy again.

More Tips for a Healthy Marriage

Featured photo credit: Omar Lopez via unsplash.com

More by this author

Carol Morgan

Dr. Carol Morgan is the owner of HerSideHisSide.com, a communication professor, dating & relationship coach, TV personality, speaker, and author.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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