How To Let Go Of Resentment So You Stop Focusing On Old Hurts & Past Pain
You used to have fun, be loving and enjoy each other’s company, but something has changed. It started with little fights over stupid things. Now, though, you just bicker and fight over everything and anything. It’s making you miserable, and at this point, you only want the old hurts and past pain to go away. You want to let it go.
You want to forgive, but you don’t know how to let go of resentment. It may not seem possible – or is it?
Why Does Resentment Build Up?
Resentment builds up over time. The more you feel misunderstood, and the less you feel heard, the more the pain grows. As you feel more disconnected, you feel more alone and hurt.
You are tired of going around and around on the same issue and not getting anywhere. Each time it happens, you just feel more exhausted and frustrated.
Sometimes, you just avoid talking about issues altogether because you know you will get nowhere. You may find yourself thinking things like, “Why should I talk about this issue? My partner won’t hear me, again, and wouldn’t listen to me anyhow.”
Each time these thoughts creep into your mind, every time you don’t feel heard and understood and every time the situation isn’t resolved, the old hurts and past pain create another layer of resentment.
How Do You Let Go Of Resentment In A Relationship?
How to let go of resentment is a question that I’ve asked for the past ten years as a couples therapist. You may feel hurt and justifiably angry that your partner has not been there for you or does not seem to care about you, which leads to the feelings of resentment, but now what?
What do you want to do with those feelings of resentment, hurt and pain?
You can hold onto the resentment and allow it to continue eating at you and the relationship, or you can pick a different, productive path to resolve this situation.
3 Steps to release and let go of the resentment, hurt and pain:
- Recognize And Notice – The first step in the process of letting it go is recognition. If you feel frustrated, ignored, hurt, dismissed, check in with your body and see if you are holding in resentment or anger. These emotions might express themselves in a few ways. A. Holding in resentment might appear in your body as tension in your jaw, a heaviness in your heart or tightness around your forehead (just to name a few examples). Perform a quick body scan and notice if you are relaxed or feeling tension. or B. Sometimes, you might think you let your resentment go when you have actually “thrown” your feelings into the closet. You may not want to notice that you are feeling hurt or may want to avoid a conflict. You will know if you actually let it go when a similar situation comes up (and it will). If, in that situation, you find yourself bringing up the pain of the last time this happened, that’s a sign that you threw it in the closet and did not truly let it go.
- Decision – Each time you feel resentment build up inside of you, you have a decision to make: what should you do with these feelings of resentment? You have two options. A. Ignore – If you ignore, avoid or stuff the situation in the closet, will you actually be able to release and let go of the resentment? Only you can answer that question and know what’s best for you. or B. The Answer – There are two parts to learning how to let go of resentment. First, you need to discuss your feelings. You can choose to discuss how you feel and why you feel that way. With the use of I statements and by discussing your perspective, you can address the situation and usually let go of resentment. Second, your partner needs to repair the situation.
Use This Repair Statement:
I am sorry for ________ (be specific about the event). I love you, care about you and want to repair this situation (express empathy and say something endearing and from the heart). Is there anything else that I can do to help this situation? Is there anything else you need?
Sometimes when I suggest the repair statement above, clients will say to their partner, “You’re just repeating what Lisa said, and you don’t mean it.” My response to that idea is that this might not be perfect or ideal, but usually it’s better than what your partner was originally saying. Your goal is to decrease the resentment, and repair will move you in a better direction. Even if it’s repeated verbatim, the important thing isn’t whose words it is. Instead, you should focus on how your partner is trying to fix the situation and trying to repair the hurt and pain.
You may need to use the repair statement with your partner too because you may also have made a mistake or miscommunicated, which led to resentment on your partner’s end.
- Forgiveness – After one partner repairs the situation, the other partner can usually forgive them. However, forgiveness is a choice only you can make. It may take time to heal the pain and hurt, and that is normal. Take the time to ask yourself how holding onto resentment will improve the relationship. Depending on what actually occurred to create the resentment, you might need to make other decisions, such as whether you should stay together or forgive and forget.
It’s a process to learn how to let go of resentment, but it can be done. Use the repair statement to focus on how to heal the pain that has accumulated over the years.
Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing: