A recent story I read about a woman who disappeared on her husband for four days in order to make a point reminded me of how far we sometimes need to go to get our partner to take us seriously.
I frequently annoy clients by suggesting they view resentment of their partner as a sign that, somewhere in the past, they haven’t looked after themselves. Once you get your head around it (which may take some doing), this way of viewing resentment is empowering. It highlights the fact there is often a lot more you could have done to get what you want, if you had been sufficiently self aware, assertive and persistent (the exception to this is if you are in an abusive or exploitative relationship). When we avoid being assertive to prevent the short-term discomfort of a disagreement, we are likely to end up hurt, bitter and unfulfilled in the long run.
So another way I annoy clients is by encouraging them to have more conflict sooner. In in the long run, dealing with disagreements when they first arise is much easier than letting them build up till you are ready to explode. Not least because, when we explode, we tend to do a poor job of convincing our partner what we want is reasonable .
Being resentful isn’t “nice” nor “chill”
Here in Aotearoa, many of us were raised to not “rock the boat”, to “let it go” and “be chill” or “laidback”. If you were brought up female, you had the added burden of having to be “nice” and pleasing. All of these things are fine, IF you are not selling yourself out. However, if you end up resentful, bitter and passive-aggressive, that is not very nice or laidback, at all. You are better off “making a nuisance of yourself” by persistently raising issues, rather than ending up in that state.
I’m not saying it’s easy to work out what is worth having conflict over. I encourage you to let go as much as you can, BUT be honest with yourself. If you CAN’T let it go, if it keeps bugging you, then you need to bring it up. Don’t let it fester. Unspoken frustration is like a slow-acting toxin, poisoning the relationship gradually, but inexorably.
If at first you don’t succeed…
The crucial thing is, if it’s important to you, you will need to be persistent. Even if they love you, your partner is not you. They can’t have the same motivation to fix things that bug you. So they will misunderstand, forget or sometimes deliberately avoid doing what you want. To get what you want, you need to be willing to make a serious nuisance of yourself. Keep bringing it up and getting increasingly serious about the consequences.
Your partner won’t thank you at the time. But you will know you have looked after yourself. You won’t be living with resentment. If your partner is smart, they may in time appreciate living with someone who is straight-up and never resentful or bitter. In the long run, you will both benefit from having things sorted and living a much more harmonious life.