“I am struggling to understand what is a normal and reparable level of resentment and dislike of one’s spouse versus what is not.” This is a quote from one of the commenters on my blog.
The answer? That depends.
Resentment in relationships results from one or more factors having varying levels of complexity. Some situations warrant outside help and guidance. Peggy’s story below represents one of the more common situations.
Meet (former) Giveaway Girl Peggy
When Peggy first came to see me, she was furious with her husband. She felt invisible to him. He never seemed to notice or appreciate it when she did an exceptionally good job of handling their kids, or when she made him a special gourmet dinner, or even when she threw him a beautiful party for his 40th birthday. After years of this, Peggy’s resentment had built up, and she often found herself making sarcastic statements to others about her husband.
The root cause of Peggy’s resentment was in unmet needs. In this case, the problem was simple. He just didn’t know.
Asking for what you need from a partner with specifics, and in many different ways (sometimes many times), is a part of a healthy partnership. Unfortunately, Giveaway Girls tend to sacrifice their needs so often that when they know the one thing they really need, so much emotional energy rides on it that if their partner falls short, the explosion can be way out of proportion with the issue at hand.
Ask for what I need? That’s now how love works! Did my partner only give because I asked? He didn’t really want to do it in the first place, so it doesn’t count. It doesn’t count!
Reframing the problem
Consider instead that a lot of times someone doesn’t know what you need until you ask. If they did, that would be mind reading, and most people can’t read minds. That’s why we should always have the courage to speak up. Then, when our requests repeatedly go unmet, ignored or there arises conflict or worse, aggression, help is needed.
For some partners, you have to ask repeatedly, sometimes within the context of marital counseling, to consistently get what you need. Don’t give up too soon.
What Peggy Discovered About Herself
Through our work, Peggy and I discovered that she had no good relationship model upon which to base her marriage. It took some practice but eventually, Peggy began expressing her needs and asking for help in meeting them. It took a while for her emotions to catch up with that deep-rooted need to not have to ask, so it felt a little fake at first. But once Peggy allowed herself time and practice, her feelings caught up. Her partner responded. This hugely improved this relationship. Peggy’s partner had been willing to give her what she needed all along. All she had to do was ask!
It will be true for some, unfortunately, that a partner will not give. The most important part here is trying for yourself in the right way—speak up, speak clearly, be specific. In addition, sometimes we want our partner to fill us up in places where we can fill ourselves up. That’s a good place to start too. Make sure you are reaching out to the right people to get what you want and need.
Feeling like you can’t or shouldn’t have to ask specifically for what one needs is one of the unhealthy beliefs I write about in my book, Stop Giving It Away.
About the author: Cherilynn M. Veland, LCSW, MSW, is author of book Stop Giving It Away. She leads a new self-advocacy movement intended to help women reach out, speak up, and take action steps for what’s best for them. Please support this effort by liking the Facebook page and/or subscribing for updates on my blog. You can also connect on Twitter and Google Plus. “Help me out, sisters!”