I watched a fantastic interview with Brene Brown today that sparked my curiosity around the root of resentment. I had always felt that resentment was an outcome of unresolved anger. And, perhaps to some degree it could be. But, Brene shared her theory that resentment forms out of our envy for another person. And, that makes complete sense when I consider the times I’ve resented another person. At the root of the resentment was, indeed, an envy of something they have or were able to do and I did not have or was not able to do.
In affair recovery we all have to work through our grief and trauma. And, along with that could come feelings of resentment. If we were to view envy as the root of our resentment that would mean that we, perhaps, envy the fact that our husband was able to have a separate fantasy life and, seemingly, had no consequences for it. We feel like justice wasn’t served since we chose to stay and, therefore, he “got away with it.” The envy we feel could easily be tied to the fact that we have “followed the rules” and yet we are the ones who are suffering and being “punished” for it. It all seems so unfair. And, in our case as betrayed wives, we hold not only envy, but deep hurt that is directly tied to this resentment.
Thinking of in this way makes complete sense and actually lends itself to some helpful steps we can take to combat resentment:
- Change the assumption that he “has no consequences” after the affair. We may assume that since we chose to stay then he is “getting away with it.” It is this thought process that feeds resentment. It feeds the idea of it being “unfair.” See the ways in which he is being held accountable for his actions. He may have to explain himself to loved ones, family members, friends. He may be seen differently now by those same people. He has to watch us hurt daily and know that he is the cause. He has most definitely had consequences. How can seeing this differently reduce the envy we feel that is feeding the resentment?
- Embrace mercy instead of justice. This is hard to do when we feel betrayed and wronged by our husband. We feel as though we deserve justice and we hold on the hope that he, or the affair partner, “get what they deserve.” This way of thinking feeds resentment and it can make it challenging to try and rebuild our marriage after an affair. Seeking revenge or justice for what took place is, in my opinion, a valid instinct due to the emotional struggle we go through after an affair, but it can become toxic and fuel resentment long-term. Mercy is another, and perhaps a healthier way to lean when we are moving forward after an affair. Mercy is the act of recognizing what was done to us, while understanding that there is nothing he can do to change it. And, that there is no justice in the situation that can make it go away or make it hurt less. How can showing mercy to our husband reduce the envy we feel that is feeding the resentment?
- Forgive him. This is a process and not something easy to do. But once we are ready to forgive it is the act of not only acknowledging that the event happened, but it’s the ability to release the transgressor (our husband) from the expectation of fixing it and making it up to us. It’s like saying to him that we forgive him and he owes us nothing. This is a tall order and it may take a while to get there, but it is freeing and is all about us and releasing the resentment we carry. How can forgiveness change the way we see our spouse?
All in all, ongoing resentment is harmful and toxic. But, understanding the root cause can help us combat it and release this resentment because it is, at its core, most harmful to ourselves. We deserve to heal in a healthy way – to arrive at a place where we are at peace. Resentment has no place there. So try to work through the root behind your own resentment after his affair and see if you can’t find a way to release it for your own health and wellbeing.
Monica Humpal is a master certified coach who works with betrayed women who are staying in their marriage. She helps her clients heal through their trauma and develop the tools and strategies necessary to lean into a healthier self and marriage on the other side of the affair. If you would like to work with Monica, click HERE to schedule a free consultation.