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Resentment—The Bite That Holds On

I told the troubled couple that they were unique but their problems were not. In the course of counseling many couples, I found that the lack of love was rarely the problem. However, hidden resentments caused many bad feelings, and covert or overt conflicts. Find out how to clear your resentments so that you can have the healthy, loving relationship that you deserve.

Lindsay gazed at the floor as she gently wiped the tears that were trickling down her wet cheeks. As the forty-two-year-old woman composed herself, she was able to renew eye contact with her husband, Charles, whose eyes were also filled with sadness.

They were sitting opposite each other, and sharing their long-seated resentments. Lindsay and Charles did not want a divorce, and were committed to improving their relationship. They had also come to the realization that their upsets were affecting their three children.

At our first couple counseling session, Lindsay and Charles expressed to me the many problems they had been struggling with during most of the twenty-two years of their marriage. Upon further exploration, it was apparent to me that Lindsay and Charles loved each other deeply. They had the same values and similar interests. Each of them had respect for the other, and adored their three children.

They were also very active in their community. Since they never argued in public, no one but one close friend knew about their unhappiness. Lindsay and Charles were attractive, well groomed, and financially successful. They were able to fool the community, but not themselves-at least not anymore. Their marriage was in trouble, and Lindsay and Charles could not run away from their reality anymore.

Everything came to a head when their teenage son, Ricky, was having problems in school. Besides not attending classes, Ricky was caught smoking marijuana in the boys' locker room. During their meeting with the principal, he had suggested that Lindsay and Charles seek family counseling.

The principal was wise to know that the children often act out the pain of the family. He understood that even though Ricky was responsible for his actions, the solutions to his problems involved more than himself. The entire unit, his family, needed some resolutions.

When Lindsay and Charles called me for an appointment, I indicated that I wanted them to bring in the entire family for the first session. Once I understood how they reacted to each other, and what the problems were, I asked Ricky to come in for a few individual sessions. Then it was time to work with the parents who are the foundation for their family unit.

During the couple counseling session I said, "Lindsay and Charles, resentments are like bites that hold on. They keep you separate, and block your love feelings. No matter how spiritual, intelligent, or loving you are, it is important to resolve your resentments so that you can be close."

I told them that they were unique but their problems were not. In the course of counseling many couples, I found that the lack of love was rarely the problem. However, hidden resentments caused many bad feelings, and covert or overt conflicts.

Both Lindsay and Charles had a tendency to withhold their upsets. Therefore, their home atmosphere was relatively quiet, with only infrequent outbursts of anger that were not long-lasting. However, there were lots of covert expressions of anger by way of withdrawal of affection, avoidance of each other, and subtle sarcasm.

Because Lindsay and Charles avoided expressing their feelings, their relationship had become more like roommates than an intimate couple. Their children, to their surprise, were subconsciously sensitive to the negative undercurrent, and were feeling upset. Typical of young people, although it is totally illogical, they subconsciously felt responsible for their parents' pain.

At this point, Charles and Lindsay began to understand how their unfinished business with each other was affecting their marriage and their family. Scared but highly motivated, they were willing to do a clearing process. I first suggested to them that they tell each other the following, "I love you, and I never meant to hurt you. I also understand that you never purposely did anything to cause me pain. I want to be close to you. Therefore, I'm going to share my resentments with you so that I can release them. Please just listen to my upsets. Let's learn from our mistakes and forgive each other."

After Charles and Lindsay repeated those healing words, they felt ready to unload their hidden "baggage." I asked Lindsay to express a specific resentment in one sentence by beginning with the words, "I resent(ed) when you..." Then I asked Charles to repeat back what he heard in his own words. If Lindsay felt satisfied that Charles had listened and understood her resentment, we switched roles, and Charles went on to share his withhold.

Both Charles and Lindsay felt sad as they were reliving those painful times. They were surprised to hear about incidents that had happened early in their marriage, over twenty years ago. They were even more amazed when they realized how those upsets were still affecting them in the present.

Releasing their resentments in this constructive way helped them to feel a great sense of relief. The "bite" was finally letting go. The withholds, the unfinished business, that were keeping them separate, were finally being removed.

At the end of the session, Charles and Lindsay admitted that they were feeling vulnerable, but also much closer to each other. They rose from their chairs, smiled, and lovingly hugged each other. The couple knew that they had more work to doFree Reprint Articles, but they were confident that they were on their way to having the fulfilling relationship they deeply desired.

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Copyright 2006 by Helene Rothschild, MS, MA, MFT, a Marriage, Family Therapist, intuitive counselor, speaker, and author. The article is excerts from her book , "ALL YOU NEED IS HART!”. She offers phone sessions, teleclasses, books, e-books, MP3 audios, posters, independent studies, and a free newsletter. , 1-888-639-6390.

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