We’re all surrounded by different relationships in our lives and there’s a lot that goes into maintaining and nurturing them.
Sadly, a lot of us think that the name or tag that a relationship carries is enough to make it work, and the minute we become a parent, sibling, or partner, the relationship will automatically take care of itself.
As long as we follow certain prescribed behaviours that come with that tag, it’s done. Sigh…if only of things were that simple.
Getting into and sustaining relationships takes a lot of work. Our relationships need us to be:
Intentional: Why are we in a particular relationship and what does it really mean to us? Just operating under a tag is not enough!
Mindful: Of our own thought and behaviour patterns. You have to act in the best interest of your relationships. You can’t say or do anything and expect it not to have some impact on the other person and the relationship.
Proactive: Most of us are amazing at pointing out the other person’s flaws and we often overlook our own contribution to the issues that arise in a relationship. Healthy relationships require us to own up to our part of the story and take accountability for our own actions.
The fact is that when we fail to do all this and more, it leads to more chaos, conflict, and discontent than any relationship needs.
Yes, relationships do need some amount of conflict because that’s also a space where relationships grow. Sometimes, you need the equilibrium to break so that a new one can set in.
But when conflict becomes pervasive, it brings up difficult emotions of anger, frustration, sadness, and fear. The longer we operate from these emotions, the more we find ourselves feeling unheard, unvalued, dissatisfied, and distant from the very people we are seeking connection from.
Over time, these states lead to the creation of the 10-letter word that corrodes the essence of a relationship: resentment.
It’s an extememly unpleasant yet powerful state where we are filled with deep seated anger and displeasure for people and situations. It serves as a constant reminder of all those times we’ve been treated unfairly by the ones we love.
Resentment often shows up as:
Being passive-aggressive with our words or actions, being rude, sarcastic, or dismissive.
Being constantly agitated and losing our cool at them.
Feeling like we want to escape the relationship.
Finding it difficult to empathise with our loved one.
Constantly battling the feeing of being disappointed with them.
When someone else is holding onto resentment, they may also end up displaying such behaviours toward us.
These behaviours and responses create more stress and tension in the relationship and it can go on like this for years.
Sadly, resentment can lead families and people to become so disconnected from each other that finding a way back seems like an utopian concept. However, there can be a way out if the people in the relationship still find some worth and value in it.
Our relationships are important and there are some relationships that we just don’t want to quit. For those, it’s important to find a way to work on this resentment so we can stop it from killing the relationship altogether. It’s about learning to put the relationship back together in the best way possible.
It often can’t go back to what it was, but it can become better than what it is in the moment for sure.
Working through this deep-seated resentment means we need to:
1. Acknowledge the presence of issues that need to be addressed: Resentment always results from deeply ingrained issues that have been left unattended to and unresolved for way too long. As time passes, we’re just sitting on a mountain of issues and don’t know where to start. Ignoring them or trying to just move on simply doesn’t cut it. Therefore, we have to start talking and addressing whatever little we can.
2. Come to a common ground to start working together: Long-term resentment leads people to go their separate ways. They’re physically together but operating on various tangents. To be able to address issues, we need to start coming to some common ground where we can begin to understand what the other is saying and experiencing.
3. Be open and willing to take accountability for our own actions: Resolution is only possible when each person in the equation is willing to look at how they’ve contributed to issues. It’s easy to pass the buck, but it takes a lot to own up and make amends. Each one of us want to be heard and valued in different ways. When one person takes responsibility for how they’re showing up, it tells the other person that their experience matters.
4. Communicate needs and expectations calmly and assertively: Often we get in our own way by just expecting the other person to understand. We don’t say anything or communicate properly enough for the message to get across. At other times, we are asking for what we want but it’s loaded with aggression. In both cases, the point gets lost. We need to understand that the other person will not automatically “know” what we want all the time. Even if they know, they may not get it right. Our needs are our responsibility and we must advocate for them appropriately.
5. Set boundaries wherever needed: Our hearts become the breeding ground for resentment when we allow ourselves to be taken for granted. Even if we’re allowing our loved ones to take certain liberties, it’s still costing us and when we’re not intentional about it, we’re bound to be filled up with anger and resentment.
6. Be willing to receive what the other person has to offer and give them room: It can never be “my way or the highway” in relationships. People have their own ways of showing their love and concern, and those may not always be what we understand or know. Therefore, we need to give them room to be themselves and accept their love in their way. It’s the intent that counts. We need to cut them slack for not doing things exactly the way we want them to all the time.
7. Find ways to compromise: Relationships survive and thrive when everyone comes from a common ground. Otherwise, it will always be two or more people on parallel roads that never meet.
8. Create room for friendship and laughter: Apart from having those serious conversations, we also need to create space to bring fun, laughter, and joy back in our relationship. Use those light moments.
9. Make efforts to show the other person that they matter: When someone has been holding onto grudges for a long time, it’s because they haven’t been valued and understood the way they would have wanted. Sometimes, a small gesture can go a long way in helping them to break out of shell and feel safe. Letting them know, time and again, that they matter goes a long way in filling the cracks in the relationship and will give the relationship time to grow and develop.
10. Forgive yourself and your loved ones: This can be extremely hard, yet it’s needed! If we truly want the relationship to be a part of our life, we have to allow ourselves to forgive the other person and our own self. The best of efforts can go in vain if we’ve not been able to forgive at some level. Yes, nothing about this is easy. But it’s important in the larger scheme of things.
And we need do all this, and even more, with the genuine intent of repairing the relationship and supporting ourselves and our loved ones to tide over the difficult emotional storms that will come along the way.
At the end of the day, genuine, healthy relationships are not just about doing things because we must or have to. Rather, it’s about nurturing them from a place of want.
When we truly want to make our relationship a healthy one, that’s when we are able to be fully present to its needs and requirements.
“Just like there’s always room for pain, there’s always room for healing.” ~ Jennifer Brown