Most couples get married with the hope of a, “happily ever after” etched deeply in their hearts and minds. In the early days of marriage, husbands and wives proclaim undying love for each other, telling each other how they couldn’t imagine living a life without the other.
Passion, romance, affection, and sharing of hopes and dreams are probably the most common and expected characteristics of the early stages of marriage. It is in these early stages that most people experience the cliched marital bliss and unfortunately, it is also in these same years that the tone is set for whether a marriage will survive the inevitable ups and downs common in marriages.
The early years of marriage, particularly the first year, often come with a lot of changes and adjustments as couples settle into their new roles as husbands or wives. Conflict management, shared financial responsibilities, different beliefs on certain topics, and division of chores around the home are some of the issues newly married couples must navigate.
Marriage requires a lot of give-and-take and sometimes spouses give up certain parts of themselves to accommodate their new lives for real or perceived reasons. All this is done in the hope of making their relationship as smooth as possible.
It is also at this point – when people start living together as husband and wife – that they tend to discover not only the true nature of the person they married but a new version of themselves that must share a home and a life with another person. Often, it is these discoveries, compromises, and adjustments that make the early days of marriage the most difficult stage of the relationship for many.
What causes resentment in marriage?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines resentment as “a feeling of anger because you have been forced to accept something that you do not like.” In the context of marriage, this means a spouse feeling angry or offended by the actions of their spouse without necessarily bringing it up. Often, resentment is not typically borne out of a single action but a series of them that cause a buildup of anger and frustration.
Resentment is often described as a disease in marriage because of its nature, if it is not addressed correctly and immediately, it may lead to the death of a marriage. But how do couples move from declaring undying love for each other to feeling resentful and bitter? We will list some of the common causes of resentment in marriages below.
Failure to accommodate differences. We mentioned above that the early days of marriage involve adjustments and accommodation of differences that you and your spouse may have. These differences may range from small to large.
For example, one may be a morning person while the spouse is the exact opposite. Someone may like to see everything put in its right place at all times while the other just throws things wherever is handy.
Over time, one may start to feel that the differences are intolerable and too much to accommodate and might fail to adjust accordingly. Instead of bringing up the issue with their partner, they decide to remain silent while fuming inside.
Unmet expectations. When people get married, they have certain expectations of what it means to be loved which goes beyond just being told the words, “I love you.” This is the origin of the idea of different love languages. Usually one expresses love to their spouse in a way that they expect to be shown love. When their spouse does not reciprocate one may feel as though their partner does not love them, fostering resentment.
Poor communication and conflict resolution strategies. Poor communication often leads to conflict and if the conflict is not resolved properly the same issue may keep coming up repeatedly until either or both parties get fed up with having to confront the same issue and seeing little or no change. This might lead to resentment.
When one spouse feels they are doing more. Division of household chores or financial or parenting responsibilities can be the perfect breeding ground for resentment. This might happen when one spouse feels as though they are bearing more of the burden than their partner and this becomes worse when one feels their efforts often go unappreciated.
When one spouse feels they gave up more. This happens for example when one spouse must give up their job to be the full-time stay-at-home parent with the children or when they must move to a different state or country for their partner’s job. If one feels as though such a sacrifice is unappreciated, they may start to feel as though their dreams and ambitions are not important to their spouse, leading to feelings of resentment.
Limited physical intimacy. All things being equal, a normal healthy marriage must have both emotional and physical intimacy. Where for some reason or the other, a spouse withholds or limits physical intimacy in marriage, this may lead to one partner feeling frustrated, rejected, and even angry.
Not making time for each other. Life does get busy due to work and other day-to-day commitments. However, where one spouse seemingly makes time for everything and everyone else but their spouse, it may cause some serious problems.
With the invention of social media, some spouses would rather spend time scrolling up and down social media pages instead of dedicating some of that time to their spouse and this often leads to feelings of resentment.
Can a marriage survive resentment?
Whether a marriage can survive resentment largely depends on how deep and how long the causes of resentment have been present. If the issue or issues have been going on for a long time, then like an untreated disease, this may require more rigorous treatment lest it lead to the death of the marriage.
The key solution to the issue of resentment in marriage is to have open communication where spouses can bring up issues for discussion respectfully to address issues as they arise and not wait until they have piled up. Let your spouse know if you are unhappy about something.
If both of you are willing to make the relationship work, things like unmet expectations, feeling unappreciated, feeling as though you are doing more, not making time for each other, and physical intimacy are all topics that you and your spouse can have open discussions about to try and find solutions.
The thing with resentment is that sometimes, your spouse may not even be aware of how you feel about an issue or a situation. If someone is not aware of how you feel, their every move may seem deliberately aimed at frustrating, hurting, or angering you, which may not be the case.
There is a saying which says, “A problem shared is a problem halved” so consider talking to your spouse about how you feel and once you bring the issue up, you may be able to work things out as a couple.
Where the problem is too far gone, couples may by themselves struggle to find solutions. Seek the help of third parties such as marriage counselors, pastors, and older and trusted couples who may all help you and your spouse find your way back to each other again. Whether or not this will work depends on whether both parties want to make the relationship work.
Talk to a professional.
Dealing with resentment can be a daunting task, especially where it has been festering for long periods. If you are dealing with resentment in your marriage and you feel like you have exhausted all the solutions at your disposal and you don’t know where else to turn, reach out to us and we will get you the help you need.
“Comfort”, Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reaching Out”, Courtesy of Youssef Naddam, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Desert Road”, Courtesy of WantTo Create, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mountain Stream”, Courtesy of Mohammad Rahmani, Unsplash.com, CC0 License