"He was cheating." She drank too much." "We just grew apart." "We fight all the time." These are all reasons people will tell you they got divorced. But I believe that all those reasons stem from one much larger "root:" resentment.
Every single couple on earth, from the happiest to the most miserable has resentment. It starts the day we meet our spouse and continues through until the day one of the people dies (maybe even after.)
Resentment is impossible not to have, if you think about it. Little things about our spouses bug us, and cause some negative feelings, and if we addressed every single thing to that person, we would have something to say every day! So, it's probably best to hold it in, unless it's something that affects the relationship, but even then, is it worth stirring the pot about something you resent if your relationship is relatively good, and it isn't that big of a deal to you? Yes and no.
Resentment, also known as bitterness is defined in Wikipedia as: the experience of a negative emotion, anger or hatred for instance, felt as a result of a real or imagined wrong done.
The best way to really define resentment is to give examples. Let's say you and your spouse have a five month old, and you, as the woman have been changing the baby's diapers and waking up with the baby for midnight feedings the entire time. Your spouse has never offered to get up with the baby. You are beyond exhausted. Every time you get back into bed after a late night feeding, you see your husband sleeping peacefully and you resent that. But, that's just the way it's always been, and he is the one working, so you say nothing. Five years later, you still resent it. In fact, you will resent that your entire life. Does that mean you will end up divorced? Not at all. It's just a fact that you will hold a little bit of resentment about that forever. Even if you go to marriage therapy and bring it up, that helps, but it's still there and probably always will be. People have a hard time forgetting.
Another example of resentment: Let's say you've been married for 10 years and all of a sudden, your husband starts making new friends and wants to go out with them. He suddenly starts drinking more than he used to, and stays out really late with these guys. He swears he isn't cheating, but more and more, you find yourself home alone on Saturday nights. Six months later, he gets tired of going out and drinking, and stops. But, you have resentment for the past. And again, bringing it out in therapy might help, but therapy can't erase history.
The point of realizing resentment is that how you choose to handle yours could be the difference between whether or not you get divorced.
I think that when people feel resentment, they can act out in several different ways:
Drugs or alcohol use to tame their resentment
Acting blatantly angry and rude to their spouse
Passive aggressive behavior: sugary sweet on the outside, cutting on the inside
Kind of like, "it's payback time," whether they even realize what they are doing or not.
My advice would be that if you are feeling resentful about anything, try therapy. It isn't a cure all, but it really does help. And, if you end up doing one of the above 4 things, try to figure out if in fact you are doing it out of resentment, and what that resentment is specifically. Understanding your emotions and what is motivating the behavior is key to stopping the behavior.
Resentment is a little bit like cancer. It sits there and then it begins to grow, until it is completely out of control if you don't treat it. It's tricky and manipulative.
People often say, "I just don't even care anymore," but I think they do. I think they build a barrier of self-protection because they feel beaten down, the resentment so deep in their core that they think it's too late.
My last piece of advice on resentment is to talk to the person who caused it: the one you love. Telling him or her in a nice way can be productive. Telling him or her that you are trying to get rid of it is a better way of handling resentment than by sleeping with someone else to even the score on something in your mind.
And remember that if you get divorced, it is a certainty that you will have resentment of some type in your next relationship. It's impossible not to. Not saying that relationship won't work out either, just be prepared, and try to learn from the past.
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, "Love Essentially" for Sun-Times Media local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.