3 Solutions to Resentment in Your Marriage
I struggle with resentment toward my husband.
Perhaps it’s because we have three young children and he works a high-stress job which requires long hours and sporadic traveling. Or maybe it is just the natural result of two fallen people sharing a life and a calling together in marriage. In reality, I have struggled with resentment in general ever since birth. We all do.
As a stay at home mom, I frequently entertain the temptation to believe that there is an imbalance in our marriage when it comes to caring for our home and the children. It actually started before we even met our first child. In his book, Dad is Fat, Comedian Jim Gaffigan jokes.
"Women are amazing. Think about it this way: A woman can grow a baby inside her body. Then a woman can deliver the baby through her body. Then, by some miracle, a woman can feed a baby with her body. When you compare that to the male's contribution to life, it's kind of embarrassing, really."
It’s funny because, well, there’s some truth to it. Mamas, if you’re looking for ammunition to keep score and hold resentment against your husband, you struck gold before he even had a chance to hold your little one.
But, beware: because as bitterness festers, your work as a mom will feel heavier, the team-like quality of your marriage will deflate, and your joy will suffocate.
So, what do I do on the days when my role in our family feels unfair? How do I let go of my anger and give the grace that I know I ought? Here are a few places to start:
1. Investigate It
When you find yourself glaring at your husband or perhaps swearing at him while he’s at work, consider the possibility that you are partially mad at someone else. Often times, my husband is just the easiest target. When my toddler is driving me up a wall, I (usually) have too much self-respect to look her in the eyes and say, “You know, you are really ruining my morning.”
I’m not enough of a crazy person to yell at the dishes in the sink, and I certainly don’t want to consider the ways that I am making life harder on myself by being overly controlling or selfish.
If I'm honest, a lot of my disappointment and anger in the day-to-day traces back to God. I think too highly of myself as a Christian to admit it, but I’m often mad at Him for the circumstances He has given me. It feels far less blasphemous to point a finger at my husband and all the ways that he seems to be letting me down. In reality, though, if I have a problem with God, He wants me to take it to Him.
We see this principle throughout Scripture: Psalm 142:2 says, “I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.” When I make my husband into the scapegoat of my disappointment, I miss out on the opportunity to right my heart with the Father and enter into His rest.
So as you notice the resentment arise, adopt a stance of curiosity about your own feelings and reactions toward your husband. With the chaos of the daily grind, ever-changing hormones, and deep-rooted sin of yourself and those around you, it’s hard to track down the source of the struggle.
Are you actually angry about the way your husband loads the dishwasher, or is there something else underneath it?
I am an internal processor, so I find it helpful to “word vomit” into a journal as I seek to make sense of the longings and disappointments whirling within me. If you are an external processor, it may be helpful to seek out a counselor or trusted friend who can enter into the weeds of these complicated feelings with you. Most importantly, ask the Lord for wisdom to discern the root of your frustrations.
It may feel like a mystery to you, but He is neither confused nor surprised by the feelings that dwell within:
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely” (Psalm 139:1-4).
2. Confess It
When resentment is kept internal, it grows. When you bring it into the light, reconciliation becomes possible. However, the process of looking your resentment in the face and sharing it with someone else can be painful and embarrassing. Often times I hesitate to bring up a complaint with my husband because I don’t want my own agency in our issues to be revealed. I want to save my confrontation for a time when I know I can present a clear case of myself as 100% the victim, and my husband as 100% the offender.
Unfortunately, that is never the case. We are all both victims and agents of sin in the conflicts that plagues our lives.
This reality of our dual-sided identity as both victims and agents of sin was an uncomfortable realization for me to make until l learned how the Gospel changes the equation. Because of Jesus, we are free to look our sins in the face with the assurance of receiving mercy in place of judgment. Also because of Him, we have a Brother in our corner who empathizes with the pain of being sinned against by others, and who will one day make all wrongs right again.
In Him we can find not only forgiveness for our sin of resentment, but also comfort in our hurts and disappointments.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul describes the maturity and unity that can occur within the Church as believers engage with one another honestly and gently. The concept proves true within marriage as well:
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work... Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:15-16, 31-32).
So, boldly yet humbly enter into that uncomfortable conversation with your husband. It may help to prepare both of your hearts by actually scheduling a conversation with him for a time when you can avoid interruptions. Or perhaps you could start with writing a letter and encourage him to respond once he has had time to think it over. Begin with an honest confession of the resentment that you are struggling with, repent of bitterness, and make room for him to share his disappointments too.
It may be that turning your inward grievances into a conversation will help illuminate the ways that you and he truly are laboring together on behalf of your family. Consider finding a marriage counselor to help you navigate the journey to reconciliation and mutual understanding.
3. Invite Jesus into It
I easily slip into resentment toward my husband when I dwell on the moments of struggle in our home that he misses while he is away. It aggravates me because I feel unseen in my difficulties. However, as Hagar testifies in Genesis 16:13, we are not alone: “You are the God who sees me.” We have a Savior who is with us every step of the way.
Isaiah 40:11 paints a beautiful picture of the Father caring for us as we care for our little ones: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
Not only do we have a gracious leader in Jesus, but also an example of crying out to Him in our moments of struggle. Jesus modeled honesty before God when He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 26:39). The Lord welcomes our cries of desperation, and when we turn to Him in our need, He responds with compassion and power by His Spirit. If you struggle to find the words to pray, explore the laments and petitions recorded in the Psalms and use them as a guide.
Then read through Colossians 3 and ask the Spirit to help you put on the “new self” described in that convicting and powerful passage.
Finally, as we look to Jesus, He transforms our hearts to possess the same joy in sacrifice that He possessed toward us on the cross. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2). Whether the division of labor in your household is 50/50 or 90/10, all of us are undeserving and non-contributing recipients of grace from the Savior. That gift of grace then becomes a catalyst for generous, jubilant love that keeps no score and holds no grudges.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8, ESV).
So sister, when the disappointment and anger well up, lean into the One who sees, hears, and understands you more than anyone else ever could or should; and watch in gratitude as His Spirit gently molds you into one who lays down her life in joy for the sake of another.
Julie Davis is a retired ballet dancer-turned-homeschool mom of 3 young daughters. Her passion is for walking alongside fellow believers and reminding them of the grace and power of the Gospel in their lives. She loves to ponder and laugh at the adventures of life and motherhood via her Instagram and blog. Julie and her husband George live in Richmond, Virginia and enjoy hosting friends, getting outside, and sipping on moderately priced bourbon.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/David Nunez