January 8th is known as ‘divorce day’ as it seems to be the most popular day people start divorce proceedings. Why? There has been struggles building towards the end of the previous year but it gets close to Christmas and people are busier, often pushing relationship issues under the rug. There might be plans for the holidays and no one feels like tearing a relationship apart just before the time of year when family is supposed to be close.
Bringing in the new year makes us reflect on what has been going on more and focus on starting the new year different and fresh. If someone has been thinking about getting out, sometimes this pattern helps to give them a bit of a push.
It’s not secret I analyse relationships for a living. I once was a family mediator, assisting couples through separations and I got to see the most raw and honest part of a relationship… it’s ending. I’m at that stage in life where some people around me are struggling and sometimes splitting up. If we are not going through it ourselves, it feels like we all have at least one close friend who might be. Is it the norm these days that marriage is not till death do us part and more of a stage of life and love that could have an ending? The debate of what marriage should be is for another day, but it’s more of something I see commonly going on in these relationships that I want to shine light on.
When a couple split, whether married or not, people will always ask, “what happened?”. There is a multitude of reasons why a couple decide to end things, but there is one underlining pattern that subconsciously might be going on.
I once read an article about resentment being the worst thing in your relationship and after experiencing resentment in my own life and overcoming it, I realised just how powerful it can be. Even when you are aware of it, it can still take hold. Relationships are not always easy and it’s normal to feel resentment towards one another from time to time. But it’s when that resentment can’t be resolved or has been going on for too long that it starts to cause real problems.
We all have issues and obstacles in life and love, but let’s just say that there is a problem that doesn’t really go away, rather just swept under a rug. You are too busy to focus on it, deal with it, have small children and better things to focus on. But it’s still there. Without that problem causing resentment being resolved, it festers. Sometimes it might feel better because something on the surface has been worked on, but if the roots of it are not truly addressed, it will always show its head.
Have you ever had those arguments where your significant other says you are making a big deal out of nothing? You are over reacting? That’s resentment coming up to say hello. Not those statements, but the reason why they are being made in the first place.
If we hold on to these issues that cause resentment instead of addressing them, maybe because you have tried what feels like a million times before, your anger gets focused on other issues as an outlet. It’s not that he is out catching up with his friends that is the issue. The real issue is maybe you feel that you are the only one in the relationships doing all the work and that you are just over asking for something simple as unpacking the dishwasher (the way you like). If your spouse was helping you around the house a bit more and with the kids, you might not actually care that they decided to catch up with friends. But the resentment associated with this issue might feel like a never-ending cycle, growing from something small into the underlying cause of most arguments.
And it doesn’t stop there. Who actually enjoys someone getting angry at them? So, when you are the person that is faced with an angry spouse yet again, telling you off for not doing something or something as simple as catching up with friends, you might fight back because you just can’t see the rational in it and feel as though your partner is making a big deal out of nothing (because they are actually resentful towards you for something else and it’s not just the surface issue that’s getting to them but a longer period of frustration that’s fueling the fire). And so, then what happens? You fire back, most likely making that person more resentful towards you because not only are you not considering them in the home and not helping them out around the house but you are also the dick head who gets angry at them when they try and tell you they are upset. Sound familiar?
This cycle starts to continue, a little argument on the surface turn nasty. The daggers get thrown, the words get said and there is so much hurt and hatred floating around that it feels nearly impossible to love each other again. There is probably no sex going on or if it is it’s very disconnected and infrequent, and things from there might spiral out of control. (Please note this is a generalisation but I’m just trying to show you a pattern that I commonly see).
Of course, there are more factors to contend with. History of the relationship, communication, love and passion. But I see variations of this cycle of resentment happen so often, whether it leads to divorce or unhappiness in relationships. But what to do?
If you are finding yourselves arguing over little things and squabbling over what feels like every daily task, you need to ask yourself what’s really going on? If you are always feeling grumpy, delve into how you are feeling about love and life. If you feel as though you have spoken to your partner about this issue a million times before, try a different approach. Or maybe it’s even time to get some help.
If you are the one faced with a constantly angry partner, think also about what might be going on for them. Don’t fight back or continue the squabbles, but stop and think that it might be fed by something bigger and consider addressing that first.
This is not a time to play the blame game. Even if someone has checked out of a relationship, is playing with the fine lines of infidelity, is not being the person that they used to be, stop and think about the full picture. What has been going on and is the cycle of resentment at play?
No relationship is perfect, no matter what it might look like form the outside, or even on social media. We get it wrong so often. We think that the perfect relationship should mean we are always happy. If you don’t have your tough times, you won’t appreciate the good times and the tough times are what makes you who you are and even strengthens the connections you have with others. You just need to understand how to get through them to survive and thrive.
I can’t say that the cycle of resentment is responsible for all splits, but it is commonly there when a couple decide it’s time to end. It also doesn’t mean if it’s present, a relationship ending is inevitable. It happens often and to most, but if this has been happening for you, maybe now is the time to change things and put a break in the cycle of resentment before it overtakes you and your love life.