Leslie continuously ruminated about the reasons why her beloved didn’t invite her mother to the family barbeque. She tried to brush it off as no big deal, but no matter how she spun it, she still felt hurt. She didn’t want him to touch her, let alone make love to her.

Joe reassured April that he would lighten her load by helping out more with the household chores. But every time something needed to get done, he conveniently found a “more important” sporting event to watch. April fantasized about showing him a preview of the latest newspaper headline: “Unsuspecting husband gets knocked out with a right hook by angry wife.” Fortunately she was able to refrain from turning her fantasy into a reality.

Pete was shocked when his mate blatantly discouraged his efforts to advance his career. After all, Allison had always supported him in past endeavors. Of course, he never specifically expressed what he needed from her “But shouldn’t she just know by now what’s important to me?” Pete asked with deep concern.

While these stories vary, each demonstrates the painful bite of the resentment bug. Like countless others, these people suffer from an emotional sting created by a disappointed expectation from someone significant in their lives. Of course we all experience being let down from time to time. However, when these wounds fester, turning into resentments, they become toxic forces. And ultimately these hurts can lead to the destruction of a relationship.

Often we feel justified in our resentments, especially when someone has outwardly agreed to do something and then repeatedly fails to follow through on his or her promises. However, while we all have a right to our feelings, longstanding resentments won’t ultimately serve us well. In fact, they tend to make us cranky and unattractive. And, they may lead us to lose sexual desire for our mates or to withdraw emotionally from the people we love. But when we can use a resentment as a signal that we need to reassess our situation, then we can ultimately decide whether 1) there’s any real hope for change, 2) we can accept the limitations in another person, or 3) it would be best to move on from the relationship. As a friend of mine once said, “Resent is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other guy to die.” Not a pleasant thought!

If you’ve become ensnarled in the web of the resentment bug, try practicing the following tips:

  1. Experiment with forgiveness. Accept that everyone, including your loved ones, makes mistakes. We all do things that disappoint others and we all need to be cut a little slack.
  2. Evaluate your expectations and make sure that they are reasonable. Otherwise they can easily become resentments, especially if we have expectations we haven’t even communicate. Also, the more we depend on others to fulfill our needs and preferences that we are able to fulfill ourselves, the more we set ourselves up to be disappointed. Granted it’s reasonable to expect your mate to follow through with his promises and commitments, but in the end if he doesn’t, it’s your responsibility to make a choice to either drop the expectation or leave the relationship.
  3. Own your decisions and choices. If you decide to carry on with the relationship, don’t hold the other in constant contempt for his failings and mistakes.
  4. When you have expectations (which we all do), make sure you express them very specifically, frequently, and clearly. Remember that no one can read your mind. People are prone to forgetting things (even someone who loves you), not to mention, perceive things in ways other than you may have intended. So it’s best to over-communicate rather than under-communicate.
  5. Lighten-up a bit. Pick and choose your battles. Very often what seems like a major insult really isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of your relationship. Most of the time, in a loving relationship the blunders we make are unintentional.

Most importantly (barring any abusive behavior of course), take a deep breath, let go of the anger and accept others in your inner circle for both their strengths and weaknesses. When we approach our friends, family members and significant others with love, there’s a good chance we’ll get a great deal more in return!