“Next to Mom and/or Dad, spouses usually come next on our list, and why not? Intimate relationships can be a hot, sticky mess, especially down the road when we have children and are left with little or no time at all to nourish ourselves or pursue our hobbies and passions. As we temporarily lose ourselves, our most challenging parts begin to surface and when the going gets rough, we are faced with the question of whether we truly accept these parts in each other and if we truly love the person we are with. Matters of the heart are complicated and confusing, and the dynamics are easily misunderstood. We often resent our spouses because 1) we know them so well, as they do us, and 2) we have expectations of them. When we cannot reconcile their respective flaws or quirks with what we want from them, we cop resentments at will. I used to resent my wife simply for suffering. How ridiculous and deranged is that? Very much indeed, but I came to see that my experience wasn’t so novel, that many of us resent others just for suffering, and sometimes just for existing.
So why did I resent my wife for suffering? Because it took me out of my comfort zone. As well, I didn’t get the attention I wanted. I would do things for her and expect her to notice me and thank me. I resented her because I expected a certain reaction or result. I expected her to be happy and present, or at least not to suffer so much and bring me down with her. Can you believe it? It is quite unloving not to let the person we supposedly love suffer. Why am I unable to comfort her by showing some patience and compassion? By writing inventory, I found answers, and I came to understand that it wasn’t about me at all.
Relationships will get quite ugly and confusing if we develop resentments based on false assumptions and then leave them unattended. This is how we lose respect for one another and eventually stop loving them. This is how we start bringing out the worst in each other instead of the best. This is how relationships end. It is not because of our failure to work on the relationship, but our failure to work on ourselves. If we want to save our relationships, we don’t go to couples therapy to “work out” the superficial annoyances we have with each other. These are but reflections of underlying individual problems, so to heal a relationship, we must work on ourselves individually and as a result of individual change, the relationship heals. This is why couples therapy is often such a disaster and accomplishes little or nothing at all. The health of the relationship is a direct reflection of our inner health, and thus changing ourselves is the best chance we have to change the world around us. Trying to change the other person is fruitless and will only lead to defensiveness, divisiveness and more resentment.
Along with our spouses, we often make false assumptions with much of the world around us. The guy who cuts you off on the road might have been rushing to the hospital for some emergency, as opposed to purposely trying to annoy you and be a jerk. We personalize the actions of others when they have nothing to do with us. We do this because it helps us to avoid taking responsibility for our feelings and reactions. “Well, if someone did that to you, you’d get angry, too…” is a typical response to justifying and rationalizing road rage, but that is not so true. Plenty of people don’t flip out when someone cuts them off. Why? Because they’re okay inside.
So we have a lot of work to do. We have to write resentment, fear and sex inventory. If possible, try to write it out by hand, so go get a fresh notebook and some pens. Let’s begin with resentment inventory. Following this breakdown, there are several diagrams filled with examples.
The first set of instructions is to make a list of…” – Anybody Can Take Steps, Chp. 4