Why resentment is so dangerous in a relationship
Resentment “is the persistent feeling that you’re being treated unfairly–not getting due respect, appreciation, affection, help, apology, consideration, praise, or reward,” according to clinical psychologist Steven Stosny.
Unlike anger or rage, which require physical and psychological energy that we can’t sustain for long periods of time, resentment can be easily maintained for years on end.
While initially innocuous, resentment could lead to the beginning of the end for a relationship. If left to fester and grow, resentment can turn into contempt, which marriage research expert John Gottman considers one of the hallmarks of a relationship in trouble. For entrepreneurs in particular, this cycle is a real and unfortunately common threat to our marriages.
Empowerment deters resentment
So what is it that resentful spouses need from their entrepreneurial partners? One key thing: they need to feel empowered.
Those who are empowered feel like they have authority and power. They feel able to control their lives, to make decisions, and to have those decisions stick.
Over the years, my husband and I have tried to make adjustments to give me more of a voice in my own life and that of our family. As my influence in our joint decisions has increased, and as my husband has made compromises so I can focus on my own priorities, the resentment I have lived with for so long has begun to shrink.
How to help your partner feel empowered
Changing the power dynamic in the relationship doesn’t have to involve major adjustments. Even making small changes in how you interact with one another or the ways in which you spend your time or make decisions can help your partner feel more valued.
Here are some examples of what entrepreneurs could do to give their spouses a greater sense of authority and control:
Share your calendars with one another. Honor your spouse’s engagements as much as she honors your business commitments.
- Ask your partner the most important ways you could contribute to housework, childcare, and your relationship. Pledge to do those things for at least a month.
- Make agreements with your spouse about ways in which you will set boundaries on your work, and do your best to honor those agreements.
- Make all major financial decisions together. If you want to invest more in the business, take out a loan, or sell off some shares, for example, you and your significant other should both have a say.
- Encourage your partner to pursue something she is passionate about, whether a career, a volunteer opportunity, or a hobby. Make adjustments in your schedule and availability as needed to support her goals.
- Don’t start a new business if your significant other is against it. Do the hard work of trying to convince him of the merits of your idea; if that doesn’t work, be willing to adjust or even walk away from your plans.
- If your spouse asks you to quit the business, take her request seriously. Talk through the pros and cons of the decision. Most importantly, make the final decision together.
Every individual will feel empowered in different ways, so it’s important to ask your significant other what he or she needs.
Taking steps to give your spouse a greater sense of influence over his or her life will help prevent resentment from gaining a foothold in your relationship. Even better, it will likely increase the strength of your partnership for the long run.