Archive for the ‘Resentment’ Category

Resentment is a sneaky emotion

June 9, 2014


Those of you who have been to our Getting the Love You Want workshop may have heard Lawrence speak about resentment as the heart disease of relationship. Our guest blogger – Seattle therapist Claire Hatch, LCSW, says that resentment in intimate relationships can take more forms than you might realize. She says resentment is a sneaky emotion and can creep in as boredom. Read on to learn the difference between this and simply being in a rut.

Feeling a little bored? Doing a lot of small talk? Has your quality time dwindled down to screen time with some silly T.V. show? Feeling bored can strike panic in your heart. This isn’t why you got married! What is going on? Are we doing something wrong? Have we just turned into boring people? Or is this just the natural drift of a long-term relationship?

At least, those are the kinds of questions that run through my mind. Because that was my view of marriage when I was younger. And that was the experience I swore I would never have. When I find myself having even minor feelings of boredom, my system goes on high alert. But there’s no need to catastrophize. (As I need to tell myself from time to time.) You don’t have to settle for a boring relationship. Once you know the reason for your boredom, you can take steps to put more juice back into your interactions. You’re probably familiar with the common causes of boredom. Everyone gets lazy from time to time. We fall into ruts, often when we’re working too hard or dealing with a lot of stress. We go for a long time without bothering to try anything new or get a change of scene.

But there’s another, less obvious cause of this problem that you might not have thought of.

I often say resentment is a sneaky emotion.

One of the sneakiest things it does is masquerade as boredom. How? Well, for starters, you can’t pick and choose which feelings you’re going to suppress. If you’re bottling up feelings of sadness or anger, you end up suppressing all your feelings. You’ll find yourself feeling less joy and love, as well.  So, if you can’t get a dialog going about something you’re unhappy about, you’re going to feel less of everything toward your partner. Less warmth, less affection, and yes, less curiosity and fascination.

Then too, when you’ve got resentment building up, you feel like your partner doesn’t care about you.

At least, not the way she used to or the way you want her to. Or he doesn’t care about your feelings about a particular issue. When you feel like that, you unconsciously start to edit what you say. You stick to safe subjects. Keep at this for awhile and, voila! Your conversation gets stale. I know that when I’m afraid to open up to my husband, but then I finally do it; I feel a sudden whoosh of affection for him. I look at him with new eyes and marvel at his good qualities. He’s fascinating! He’s tons of fun! He even looks cuter! And all those loving gestures come back again naturally.

So, how can you tell whether you’re resentful or just in a rut?

My advice is to do some of the common-sense things that wake up a relationship. Greet your partner warmly when she or he comes home and offer a hug and a kiss. Instead of half zoning out, when he talks about the report he’s writing, give him your full attention and try to really get it.  Spend an evening with just the two of you. Send romantic texts or emails. Make a point of telling him or her why you appreciate them.

Now, don’t just give this one or two shots and then give up.

That is one of the biggest mistakes long-time couples make. If you’ve had a dry spell, it’s going to take some time to warm up the climate between you again.  If your problem is just laziness, and one of you starts to put in more effort, pretty soon you’ll get a virtuous cycle going. The more love you receive, the more you’ll want to give, and soon you’ll be back on track. But what if you aren’t? Your hugs feel forced. You feel like you’re going through the motions. You get the babysitter, make the dinner reservations, and then sit there, fidgeting, not knowing what to say.

That’s when I put my money on stockpiled resentments.

One of you (or both!) has an important unmet need, and is longing to be understood. Once you find a way to open up and get that understanding, you’ll find that your partner turns back into the interesting person you thought she or he was.

Dare y’a:    First of all you have to acknowledge that you are resentful. Once you’ve taken that step, you can now take step two ….get curious about your resentment… What need is not being met? It’s usually about not feeling connected to your partner and feeling unacknowledged for something you think you should be acknowledged for. So what’s the answer ? Acknowledge to yourself what you really want from your partner and take responsibility for the fact that you might be putting something on to your partner that has no business being there. Try and meet your own needs. Then tell your partner what you need from them without being CRITICAL ! Dare ya! Yours truly, T

*** About Claire Hatch, LCSW Claire Hatch is a LCSW in Kirkland, Washington and creator of Save Your Marriage: Get Rid of Your Resentment, an audio seminar for women. She loves giving couples the tools they need to put the hard times behind them and get their connection back. See her website for more information.

The Problem with Holding Onto Hurt Feelings in Your Relationship

October 11, 2012

This post was written by Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT. Lisa is the creator of The Toolbox and author of The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples and The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples.  She is a frequent consultant for the media and has been interviewed, quoted or has appeared in numerous publications and online news sources including,, Shape Magazine and Martha Stewart Weddings.  See more marriage and relationship tips by Lisa.

An ideal relationship is one where there are two lines of open communication, where both feel safe to “be” and there are no “monsters” lurking under the radar.  One type of relationship monster is one that is born out of hurt feelings and/or anger that has decided to lurk in the shadows rather than come out; when your pain is not expressed.  You may believe you are making a better choice in “letting it go” or minimizing your feelings.  If you tend to hold onto hurt feelings in your relationship, you and your partner may have an even bigger problem on your hands down the line.

What are some of the consequences of holding in hurt/angry feelings?

  • Your baseline of sensitivity to your partner may rise.  Feelings are still there as much as you think you have buried them. They can come out in other ways that often having nothing to do with the original incident.  You may react on a bigger scale to smaller things, leaving your partner at a loss as to “where that came from.”
  • The emotional safety in your relationship will be eroded. If you choose to sit on your feelings, inherently the comfort you feel with your partner will be diminished.  There will be a wound that you never allowed the chance to heal.  This will compromise the stability of your relationship as you possibly pull away (likely without even realizing it).
  • Your partner isn’t allowed to make a repair attempt.  If your partner inadvertently did something to upset you and would want to know if that occurred, they won’t.  They may not have any idea they hurt you and if so, certainly wouldn’t be allowed the opportunity to apologize.  Couples who are good at communicating their pain and making repair attempts are typically happier.
  • Your relationship may become disconnected.  The more resentment and distress that is carried in a relationship (by one or both), the more an emotional gap can grow between the couple.
  • Your pain may lead to relationship-damaging acting out.  Affairs often happen when there are unresolved relationship issues.  If you are not getting your needs met or you have underlying anger or sadness, you are at risk for making choices that can do further harm.  It’s better to put the issues on the table rather than let too much time and unprocessed feelings get the best of you.
  • You may be wrong!  If you are feeling hurt about something you assumed your partner meant and you didn’t clarify – but rather said nothing – you could be in pain for no reason!  Not only are you suffering but your partner may suffer for something that didn’t happen.
  • Holding onto hurt feelings can show up in your body.  People who internalize their emotions can run the risk of psychosomatic symptoms; physical ways the pain expresses itself.  Examples of this are chronic headaches, stomach issues and rapid heartbeat (panic attacks).

There are lots of reasons we struggle with communicating difficult emotions.  Most of us have experiences in our family of origin or past relationships that have taught us it is safer to stuff feelings than express them.  If only it were true that we can pack our feelings into a box and nail the lid shut and NOT have it backfire.  Unfortunately, pain has a way of becoming a “monster” as it tries to break free to be heard.  And it will.

But we know a safe, structured way that allows us to speak to our partner and it is—you know it—the Imago dialogue.

Dare y’a:

What hurt feelings are you holding onto? Why? Here’s a weird question…What do YOU get out of holding onto hurt? For example, some people hold onto hurt because it allows them to feel better than their partner and feel righteously resentful. For some it’s plain old pride! What might be your reason? What is one step you could take to find the courage to let go of your hurt?

If you hold onto hurt you will just keep feeling worse and angry and the R word.

Remember the heart disease of relationships is the R word RESENTMENT! (A direct quote from Lawrence Pillon stated at all our Getting the Love You Want Workshops).

Yours truly,


I Cheated! Now I Want My Partner Back!

July 12, 2011

In this post from, Tim Atkinson interviewed Maya Kollman, MA, Imago Master Trainer

John only had a short affair. And it was a long time ago. Years later the truth came to light and his marriage to Maryanne hit the critical list. Maryanne didn’t want the marriage to end. But how could she ever again trust John? John desperately wanted to be forgiven for the past, and find a way for the marriage to continue.

By the time they came to see me for help, they were completely stuck, hopeless and miserable. Unfortunately they aren’t alone. I’ve worked with many other couples in a similar situation, and always my goal is to leave them with a much more rewarding relationship than they ever had before.

Here are the steps that John and Maryanne were able to take, which illustrates how many couples can rebuild trust and transform their nightmares:

Step 1: Make a Clear Decision

When there is an infidelity, there’s a decision to be made. The unfaithful party must immediately cease all contact with the person they have been seeing; no phone calls, no emails, no texts, no cards or notes, no drive-bys. John’s essential first step with Maryanne was to commit willingly and wholeheartedly to emotional and physical fidelity – and to mean it.

Step 2: Shift from Guilt to Remorse

John felt guilty about his affair and horrible about himself. Unfortunately feeling guilty didn’t help at all. It led John to be quiet and keep his distance. But what he couldn’t see was that as a result Maryanne felt shut out. This formed a downward spiral, leaving her feeling even more tense, unhappy, and unloved.

Guilt is useless! Don’t let it ruin your relationship. Guilty people are so absorbed in their own feelings that they can’t even see what is happening for someone else. John’s guilt was driving his wife even further away from him.

The dramatic change came when John made the huge shift from guilt to remorse, and focused on the pain Maryanne was experiencing instead of his own. He got interested in what was going on for her. Feeling compassionate rather than self critical, John was able to begin creating connection with Maryanne rather than distance.

Step 3: Be willing to sit and listen

If you are going to leave an affair behind, sooner or later you have to talk about it. John had to be willing to let Maryanne ask for whatever details she wanted to hear. What’s more, he needed to listen to her feelings of betrayal and hurt in a supportive way. That’s extremely tough to do, which is why John and Maryanne chose to do this part with me, over several therapy sessions.

To make it easier, I taught John and Maryanne a three-part communication skill called the Imago Dialogue. We worked together to bring respect to the dialogue structure by eliminating shame, blame and criticism as John and Maryanne learned to focus on their own deeper feelings and express them.

John and Maryanne found a deep understanding of one another. A deep connection was building, perhaps deeper than they had ever experienced before.

Step 4: Re-imagine your role in the relationship

Although John felt and understood Maryanne’s pain, internally he still had plenty of excuses for the affair. He still wanted to justify his actions to her in some way, but every time he did he undermined his attempts to rebuild trust.

Instead, I coached John to take on a new role, as protector of the relationship.
He prepared himself, like a martial arts expert might. He knew that he would have to be able to absorb Maryanne’s anger and yet still hold his ground. Just like in Aikido. He worked on calming his reactive tendencies with breathing exercises, used music to calm himself, and learned to sit in a grounded position when he talked with Maryanne.

Creating new mental images was another important step. In addition to seeing the pain he had caused, he also recalled positive times in their years together, and all the things that led him to fall in love with Maryanne. All of these actions helped John’s romantic, creative side come alive, and he began to court Maryanne much like he had when they first met.

Naturally, Maryanne responded by beginning to feel more trusting and secure.

Step 5: When it’s time – explore and repair

Up until now, we’ve really only talked about John examining himself. But it takes two to make a relationship. For complete healing, John and Maryanne became a team to understand how their histories and their present day dynamics may have made them vulnerable to an affair.

But it’s important to complete steps 1 to 4 first. That’s because Maryanne can’t feel safe to explore until she truly feels John’s remorse.

This is very tender territory and can be aided tremendously by the coaching of an Imago therapist. Just like steel rods are broken and re-soldered many times to make them stronger, a relationship can emerge from a betrayal stronger than before when the couple are willing to climb the above steps.

Heart Disease of Relationships

October 19, 2010

Flickr / Carbon NYC

What hardens the arteries of a relationship?

What an amazing question.

Just a few weeks ago at our most recent Getting the Love You Want weekend workshop, Lawrence, Maureen’s partner, asked us this question: WHAT IS THE HEART DISEASE OF RELATIONSHIPS?

Many people had thoughtful answers, ranging from feelings of hurt to frustration at not being listened to, being betrayed and lied to.

Lawrence responded, “Good answers but not the one I was looking for”. He continued, “You know what the real killer is, the real thing that clogs the arteries of a relationship…RESENTMENT.”

The room fell silent. You could have heard a pin drop. People were listening and nodding their heads. We all knew he was right.

This has really stayed with me and started me thinking…

First of all, what does resentment mean and where does the word come from?

Resentment comes from the word sentire which means to feel. When we put the “re” in front, it means to feel again and again. Consider this for a moment. When we resent we put negative beliefs and feelings about someone (in this case our partners) in front of them and we no longer see them. Then we feel the bad feelings over and over until they turn into… dis-ease in our hearts. Pretty soon, it is all we experience.

What happens when resentment builds in our relationships? I think you already know that people usually do one of two things.

  1. Stay in an angry state with either resentment seeping out all over the space between you or exploding in anger. This happens when we criticize, blame and stay angry. What is most dangerous is when we think we have the right to feel this way and then express it whenever and however we wish. We start to feel righteous about it.
  2. Or, we hold it all in. We tighten and seethe anger much of the time. We obsess and build up negative scenarios in our minds and the resentment grows. Just like morning glory in the garden, it takes over. Nobody likes morning glory; soon all the beautiful plants die and all that’s left is the morning glory.

What happens next? Not a pretty picture…

It only gets worse. We begin to live more and more in our heads and we create stories which we believe are true. We make our partner the villain and soon we have created bestsellers. This is when heart disease affects our health, occupies much of our thoughts and generally runs our day to day lives.

At this point we project a myriad of assumptions and interpretations onto our partners and the dance of distance and disconnection become a way of life.


Flickr / Mykl Roventine

What is  the remedy for heart disease in relationships? There is only one answer. Forgiveness. You must forgive to get well. You must let go. You must see your partner for who they really are. See their struggles and limitations, their lack of perfection and their humanness. They must see the same in you and together you must accept and move forward. When you forgive you are able to truly let go and be free. You must dig deep and find the place within you where your compassion lies. This is the single most important factor if you are to cure this type of heart disease. Have you ever tried to get rid of morning glory? I have and let me tell you it is possible but the key is to dig deep.

The Skill (Dare ya):

The good news is that since most of you have experienced the Getting the Love You Want weekend you know what to do…now you must do it. Sit down, face to face, calm your soul, cross over the bridge to your partner’s world and LISTEN with an open heart. Mirror them. You have just begun the process of curing the clogged arteries of your relationship. Begin to dialogue and make sure you validate and empathize and do it again and again and again.  I promise something will shift. It will get better.

I would like to end this blog by quoting a passage from John O’Donohue from his blessing, “After A Destructive Encounter” (page 174) from his beautiful book, “To Bless the Space Between Us”.  I hope it will help to ignite an opening in your heart…

”Now that you have entered with an open heart
Into a complex and fragile situation,
Hoping patience and respect
To tread softly over sore ground in order
That somewhere beneath the raw estrangement
Some fresh spring of healing might be coaxed
To release the grace for a new journey…”

With love and support to all of you and much appreciation to Lawrence for inspiring me,