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Resolving Anger & Resentment in a Relationship

by Jill Avery-Stoss, studioD

Conflict occurs in every human relationship. On one hand, it can be minor, barely affecting the overall quality of the relationship or even improving it by allowing partners to address and adjust the dynamics to better suit their needs. Conversely, conflict may be powerful, explosive and painful, which can threaten the relationship foundation. By sharpening your interpersonal skills and learning to manage feelings such as anger and resentment, you can nurture your relationship and minimize the likelihood of future emotional injury.

Communicate Assertively

Assertive communication allows you to share your feelings honestly and directly. Utah State University's Academic Resource Center encourages the use of "I" statements as you let your counterpart know of your anger and explain the actions that trigger these feelings. For example, you might say "I feel frustrated, bitter and disrespected when you flirt with your ex-partner." Acknowledging your emotions and presenting your concerns begin the process of resolving problems.

Accountability and Responsibility

After voicing the issues at hand, partners should consider the ways in which they contributed to said problems. This allows them hold themselves and one another accountable. Offending parties should apologize genuinely and take responsibility by identifying -- and following through with -- what can be done to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. Apologizing helps people remain emotionally connected, indicates Beverly Engel in her article "The Power of Apology." She also points out that apologizing is a humbling experience that in itself can be a deterrent to committing similar wrongdoings in the future.

Choosing Forgiveness

Forgiveness is sometimes misunderstood as an act of excusing, justifying or even forgetting wrongdoing, reports Lynn Ponton, M.D., in her Psych Central article "What is Forgiveness?" In reality, forgiveness involves the symbolic letting go of anger and resentment. While these emotions are not inherently unhealthy, ruminating over them instead of processing them can exhaust you. Even if you opt not to continue your relationship, by forgiving your partner you are healing and moving on from the harm done to you.

Establish Healthy Boundaries

If you intend to maintain and nurture your partnership, establishing healthy boundaries will help prevent future incidents that could trigger more anger and resentment. In order to set boundaries, identify and inform your significant other of behaviors that make you feel uncomfortable or disrespected, such as flirting with your sibling or borrowing your things without asking permission. Let your partner know that you will limit contact or possibly even end the relationship if your boundaries continue to be violated -- and be prepared to follow through. Similarly, respect your partner's boundaries.

About the Author

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.

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