How to Fight off Resentment in Your Marriage as a New Parent
All the adjustments of having a newborn can be extremely stressful: waking up frequently and lacking sleep, reduce the time for self and each other, being constantly on alert to your baby’s needs, not being sure how to soothe your baby, and having less freedom to do what you want.
There may be expectations that each parent has about what each person’s role and responsibilities are that are never discussed. When those expectations are not met there can be a feeling of unfairness.
A build-up of resentment and a sense of abandonment
Going deeper partner A may perceive that partner B is not helping as much as expected. Partner A may interpret that as Partner B doesn’t care about them and isn’t available to support them. Partner A feels resentful and may then get critical or say something mean to partner B. Partner B gets caught off guard and defends themselves or just backs up and withdraws from the situation because Partner B feels attacked and criticized.
Partner A feels like Partner B doesn’t care even more and feels abandoned and resentment builds. Partner B feels unfairly criticized, inadequate, and unappreciated and resentment builds.
It is in critical and trying times that we look to the people close to us for support and help.
We turn to the people that are closest to us to cope and survive
We are wired in such a way that when things that are essential to our survival and well-being pop up in our lives, like having a newborn, we turn to the people that are closest to us to cope and survive.
So when we perceive that the other person is unavailable and unresponsive to our needs at critical times we may feel bitter and resentful. These questions come up during trying times “Can I count on you to be there for me?, “Will be available and respond when I reach out to you?”, “Am I important enough that you would care about me and my needs?”, “Do you have my back and can I lean on you?”
Behind the resentment is the pain and terror of feeling that the person we count on is inaccessible, unresponsive, and unengaged at a critical time when they are needed.
Steps to take to address resentment
- Talk with each other about what you expect each of you will and will not do.
- In a gentle and soft way talk about the pain and hurt underneath the resentment, e.g. “inside I’m feeling resentment because I feel like I’m doing most of the work and I feel alone and I miss your help” or “inside I’m feeling resentment because I feel like what I do is not appreciated or noticed, I feel like I’m failing you here and that really hurts”
- Talk about your needs, e.g. “you’re so important to me, I need your support, your active engagement warms my heart and makes me feel so cared for” or “I care about you and want to help, sometimes I don’t know how to do it right, I need your patience and understanding and even some appreciation sometimes as that would really encourage me, I also need your support to do this as a team”
It may be scary to say some of those things when you feel unsafe
All this is easy to do in theory but in person it may be very scary to say some of those things especially when you feel unsafe and insecure in how the other person will respond for both people. Having these conversations may trigger each other.
I highly recommend you find a counselor or therapist that specializes in relationships to have these scary but important conversations that can bring healing and a new depth of closeness to your relationship.
Emotionally focused therapy is one of the most effective models
Emotionally Focused Therapy is one of the most effective models to help people in relationships connect and grow closer together amidst whatever strife or injury or disconnection they are experiencing.