Posts Tagged ‘resentment’

Spring Cleaning

April 30, 2013

We’re thrilled to feature a guest-post by Lisa Brooks Kift, MFT this week. Read on for some great tips for “spring cleaning” your relationship.

Having an hour more daylight and feeling spring in the air (in Northern California anyway), I can’t help but think about the meaning of spring. For many it’s a time of renewal and recharge, a sleepy-eyed yawn and waking up from a winter slumber of sorts. Many clean their homes, their cars and their work environments.

Marriages can also “fall asleep” and get into a rut. So let’s dust out the cobwebs and do some spring cleaning there too!

  • Take a walk down memory lane.  Do you remember when you met? Can you recall what drew you to each other? Take some time to reflect upon this time. Research shows that happier couples are the ones who can recall pleasant earlier memories. It can be an anchor for the relationship, a reminder of what you might have forgotten. ”Oh yea, that’s what I fell in love with…”
  • Get back to checking in. At one time you likely talked a lot, especially in the early stages of your relationship. As time goes on and life gets peppered with kid related responsibilities, family, social obligations and work, it’s easy to let the communication between you and your spouse get tossed out the window. Re-prioritize a daily relationship check-in, even if brief. ”How are you?…How are we?…Is everything ok?”
  • Look under the carpet for hidden resentments. One problem that can be a consequence of insufficient communicating in marriage is the build-up of negative emotions towards each other. If anger, disappointment or sadness go unchecked they can become toxic. Resentment can undermine the very fabric of the relationship. If there is something bothering you, bring it up. It’s useful to begin with “I statements” rather than using attacking language.
  • Check your assumptions. What if you were upset with your partner because you misunderstood what he/she said or meant? What if you never clarified this? Well, you’d be suffering for no reason. One of the best ways couples can avoid distress is to simply ask the other what they meant rather than assume you know. Otherwise, you will likely have a negative emotional response towards him/her, followed by a negative behavior – and all for nothing.
  • Create happy memories. If boredom, “same ‘ol, same ‘ol,” and a lack of fun has permeated your marriage, it’s time to have positive experiences together to lay down over the other. It’s kind of like the negativity bias of the brain; the more you internalize positive emotions, the more you can ease your brain away from the negative. Plan date nights, go out and play, take a walk or do something totally new and invigorating
  • If you broke it, fix it. We all make mistakes and can inadvertently hurt our partners. The important thing for the health of relationships is taking ownership when it’s appropriate.  John Gottman, PhD refers to successful repair attempts as “the happy couple’s secret weapon.”
  • More gratitude, please. There is a lot of research out there now on the power of gratitude, individually and in relationships. Express appreciation for each other when possible. Notice the good rather than focusing on the not so good. It’s easy for couples to slip into negative cycles together.  Make the effort to shift to a more positive (and reinforcing) cycle of support and gratitude for each other.
  • Take it up a notch if needed. If your marriage feels particularly “dusty” and in need of some TLC, get proactive and get access to the many tools available to help couples do just that; a local marriage weekend workshop or going through a marriage workbook or book might be just what you need.

It would be nice to imagine being able to do these things 365 days a year but this probably isn’t realistic for many.  At the very least, adding your marriage to your spring cleaning to-do list every year is one consistent way to put the focus back on you and your partner again. If you’ve slipped up and “fallen asleep” during the winter, you can get back to prioritizing your marriage again…and maybe make up for some lost time.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of The Toolbox at, with tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health.  She is the author of The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples.  Lisa has a couples counseling practice in Marin County, CA.

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,