I’m ashamed at how resentful I am. I pray to get over the little things my wife does that annoy me, but everyday there’s more of the same and my resentment grows. She says I overreact to her little actions and I suspect she’s right. What can I do to let the small stuff remain small and clean the slate so I can truly love her again?

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I’m impressed that you’re aware of your need to transform your heart of resentment into a heart of love. That’s the first step toward change.

Someone once said, “Resentment is re-sendment — re-sending the same rehearsed issues over and over again.” What are the patterns in your thought life? Are you rehearsing these annoyances so they become larger in your mind? Do you take little things personally so that any minor irritation becomes ammunition for World War III? Becoming mindful of the way you process issues may give you insight into why you’re so resentful.

Let’s consider the flip side of the coin — the possibility that these annoyances are NOT so small. Is it possible your wife may be making accusations or judgments that repeatedly poke at you?  While she may say you’re overreacting, there may be jabs hidden in those “little things.” If so, you need to deal with her about them.

You make no mention of talking to her about the things she does that annoy you. I suspect you may be an “internalizer,” one who stuffs his feelings. Unfortunately, there is really no good place to pack feelings away.

When it comes to feelings, many of us fail to understand how we are wired. The body and mind “keep score” if our feelings are not fully processed. While we can “stuff our feelings,” they do not simply disappear.

We all enter marriage with wounds from our earlier life. Whether these take the form of abandonment and rejection as a child, being sexually or emotionally traumatized earlier in life. or perhaps even experiencing neglect in our marriage, our minds record these events. We become sensitized to these issues later in life and are “triggered,” which leads to overreaction. This, in turn, leads to either fighting, flighting, or freezing, all of which can easily lead to brooding resentment.

What you can do to free yourself of your resentment?

Be mindful of your resentment. Change begins with a thorough understanding of what it is you’re trying to change. Spend time getting to understand your resentment. When do you feel it most acutely? Are there themes or patterns to it? Be aware of when and how your resentment manifests itself.

Take responsibility for your resentment. You are the one stockpiling resentful feelings. You are the one rehearsing wounds. You are the one taking words personally and holding grudges. As long as you blame your wife for your feelings, you cannot change them.

Identify reasons for your resentment. There may be issues in your marriage that need need to be addressed. Note sarcastic comments or offhanded “barbs” that injure you. Does your wife offer unsolicited opinions about you, violating boundaries that need to be stronger? Ensure that you tend to the issues at hand and that you interact responsibly with her. Maintain healthy boundaries and clearly express your needs.

Explore early triggers for current resentment. Much of our current wounding is exacerbated by earlier wounds. If we were rejected or neglected as a child, our bodies remember this and that leads to an increased sensitivity today. Meet with a professional to explore fully the possibility of early wounds that haven’t been processed effectively.

Pray for a healthier mindset. Scripture implores us to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). We often cannot simply will ourselves into a healthier mindset — this is best done through the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work. As you read Scripture and pray for a transformed attitude toward others, God will work in your heart and mind. Ask God to give you a greater sense of love and kindness for your wife and notice the change that takes place.

In summary, resentment takes work to maintain and likewise to replace with love. Following the steps I’ve outlined above, you’ll be able to do just that. Seek the best help possible to discover the origins of your resentment, heal past wounds that amplify current issues, and take responsibility for interacting with your wife in a way that establishes and maintains healthy boundaries and expectations. Soon you will rid yourself of unwanted resentment and replace these feelings with ones of love and kindness.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome reactions. Contact me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com. I encourage you to read about our programs at www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.

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