“Holding anger is a poison, it eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hating is a curved blade, the harm we do, we do to ourselves.”      -Mitch Albom[i]




“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

  • Carrie Fisher


* * * *


Resentment is dangerous stuff. It is seductive. When your partner does that thing that he KNOWS that you hate, it sparks a self-perpetuating cycle. In an equal relationship, when you act in a way that hurts or frustrates your partner, then your partner usually lashes back directly. In an unequal relationship, when you do not have equal footing, you may find indirect or ‘passive’ ways of lashing back.

A good example of this is from the movie Parenthood (1989). The character Susan is married to Nathan, played by Rick Moranis. In their marriage, they have some disagreements on how to raise their daughter. In one such disagreement, Nathan ‘puts his foot down,’ and refuses to compromise. Susan backs down. But after he leaves, she sneaks into the very back of her closet, where she has hidden a shoebox full of treats such as cupcakes. Nathan ‘forbids’ such unhealthful, processed and sugary food in the house, and this is clearly a stab at him. With each bite Susan takes, she looks in the direction he left in with a mixture of disdain, anger, and satisfaction at ‘getting back at him.’ Since their relationship does not afford her a direct means or outlet for lashing out, she takes revenge in her own way and in a way that intentionally disregards his wishes.

In that case, Nathan was oblivious to the fact that Susan felt overpowered and oppressed. He argued his point and believed he was right. For him, it was about his sense of certainty in his view. He did not see how this way of speaking made Susan feel. When she was finally able to really show him how his actions affected her, he altered how he treated her.

Resentment incites that part of you that wants to strike back. In that moment, the hurt and anger at whatever offense your partner has just committed are very powerful motives. It is difficult to hold onto that faint part of you that believes your partner is your ally and did not offend or hurt you intentionally. At that moment, approaching your partner with vulnerability is the last thing you want to do. It is difficult to trust that your partner will not take the advantage to strike again. What’s more, you want some sense of retribution for the offense. Even though you may know that putting it aside is better for your relationship and will result in a more positive outcome, putting aside that desire can be very difficult.[ii]


* * * *


“When you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.” -Andy Rooney


[i] Mitch Albom, The Five People you Meet in Heaven (New York: Hyperion, 2003), 141.


[ii] A recent study found that couples that had difficulty forgiving and being benevolent in the face of a partner’s transgression were more likely to have more conflict 12 months later than those who were able to forgive. Fincham, Frank D.; Beach, Steven R. H.; & Davila, Joanne. (2007). Longitudinal Relations Between Forgiveness and Conflict Resolution in Marriage. Journal of Family Psychology 21(3), 542-545.


Tags: ,

Comments are closed.