After being married for a while, many couples find themselves in a situation where one partner feels angry, hurt, and/or resentful toward the other.
They feel that they’re the only one who’s made sacrifices for the relationship, that they gave up their dreams, so that their partner could succeed.
Is it possible to overcome these feelings of resentment and move forward to have a loving and caring relationship?
Here’s a question from Jim in Michigan who’s trying to work through these feelings himself.
Dear Dan and Jennifer,
How do I stop resenting my wife for all the things I gave up for her to have all that she wanted?
All The Things I Gave Up…
We often choose to ‘give up’ certain things in our lives for the ones we love.
They don’t force us to give them up, and because of this, it’s not fair to blame our partners, or anyone else, for the decisions that we make or for the things that we choose to give up.
Making sacrifices for those we love is a very admirable thing to do, and most of us do it because we want what is best for our loved ones.
Of course ‘give up’ is an interesting, and often misleading, phrase to use when referring to something in a relationship.
What ‘give up’ really means is that we’ve chosen to do something (or to not do something) in order to make our partners happy rather than to make ourselves happy.
Then we try to blame them because we’re unhappy with our decisions!
Parents are particularly notorious for this one, often saying things like, “All the things I gave up for you, and this is how you repay me!”
We did not ask our parents to change their lives or to give up their dreams for us, and yet many parents somehow blame their children for their own misery.
How Silly Is That?
We all make decisions every day that determine how we live our lives and whether or not we pursue our dreams – whether or not we’re happy.
Happiness is a choice.
We are not victims of circumstance, though many of us would like to believe that we are. If we were victims of circumstance then we wouldn’t have to take responsibility for our own lives. How convenient…
On the other hand, if we actually do take responsibility for our decisions and our happiness, then we have to own up to the fact that we are ultimately responsible for our own misery as well.
What normally happens in a relationship is that the moment we make decisions for the good of our partners rather than ourselves we create certain expectations for how our partners will react as a result of our ‘sacrifice’.
Essentially our partner’s positive reaction to our self-negating behavior is the very reason we make those kinds of decisions in the first place.
These ‘unspoken’ expectations can include all kinds of things – from a small recognition (such as a simple “thank you”) to an overwhelmingly positive response (such as complete attitude change).
From our (the sacrificer’s) perspective, we’ve chosen to give up certain things or ideals so that our partners can have what we perceive they want and need.
Often times we don’t even ask our partners if this is what they want and what will make them happy!
So when our partners don’t respond in the way we expected them to, we get angry and resentful and wonder why they didn’t keep their side of the bargain.
That’s not really fair to them, now is it?
So rather than basing our happiness on our partner’s actions or reactions, we should take responsibility for own happiness starting right now.
Take Responsibility For Your Own Happiness
Here are some questions you should ask yourself.
What else will make me happy right now, in this moment?
Identify what’s missing from your life and what will really make you happy. This is not about your wife, your children, your boss, or anyone else. This is about you looking inside your own heart.
Don’t worry about what others might think or say. Ask yourself what would truly make you happy.
There’s a book called “The Passion Test”, that can be very useful in helping you identify what’s missing from your life and what will really make you happy. I highly recommend purchasing this book and actually reading it.
The only way you’ll ever be happy with yourself, or be able to have a happy and loving relationship, is to own up to your own happiness – to take complete responsibility for it, and to recognize that true happiness starts from within.
YOU OWN IT!