Have you ever felt disconnected from your partner due to anger or feeling like things are unfair? Have you found yourself distancing because you feel overloaded with things while it doesn’t seem like your partner is? Do you find yourself scoffing or saying things like “Well at least you get to___” or “Wouldn’t it be nice to ___.”? Do you ever feel it in your gut- a pit or a punch feeling? If this feels familiar, you may be dealing with resentment in relationship. As a coach and expert in relationships after baby, I hear about and speak about resentment often.
What it doesn’t mean:
-You and your partner don’t make a great team anymore
-You don’t like your partner (Okay, sometimes you might not and that’s okay too 😉 )
-You aren’t capable
What it does mean:
-You are overwhelmed
-You need new tools to communicate
-You have thoughts and feelings that are asking for your attention to understand and address
Signs of Resentment
Some non-relationship examples of resentment are:
-A coworker getting a promotion that you feel you were more fit for.
-Someone seeming to naturally have a skill you struggle to develop
-Taking care of an ailing parent or family member while your sibling doesn’t.
Sigs of resentment are:
-Replaying a situation in your head over and over
-Physical discomfort (pit in stomach, clenched muscles)
We will talk through how to handle resentment in relationships after baby and ways you can express your needs and desires to your partner.
Resentment in Relationship Definition
There are a couple of different definitions of resentment out there, and it is interesting to think through these definitions.
According to Oxford Languages, resentment is: “bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.”
Merriam-Webster defines resentment as: “a feeling of anger or displeasure about someone or something unfair.”
And, Dictonary.com states the definition of resentment as: “the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.”
When we think of resentment in a relationship, consider the things that may feel unfair or uneven. Sometimes we feel resentment even about things that are out of our control but feel unfair.
Related: Invisible Load of a Stay at Home Mom
What is Resentment for New Parents?
When it comes to new parents, the top areas I hear about resentment are:
-Who wakes up with the baby (and in result, gets minimal sleep)
-Feeling the loss of body autonomy when being constantly needed (especially if breastfeeding)
-Noting how mom’s body has changed in so many ways, but partners has not (This includes hormonally, mentally, and physically).
-Other people’s assumptions about the “default parent.”
Common Examples of Resentment in Relationship After Having a Baby
If you are feeling like you are the only one getting up with the baby, evaluate your patterns and communication. Are you saying things like “I’ll just do it” when you actually would like more support?
Have you discussed and identified ways you can both pitch in?
Are there times that each of you can have a “sacred sleep window by taking shifts?
You can be obsessed with baby snuggles while mourning how your body doesn’t feel like your own right now. This may be something your partner hasn’t considered.
If this is a struggle for you, start by giving yourself some grace and realize you’ve not been through this before. Allow your partner to step up and take care of things that open up more time and space for you to have a breather.
It’s easy to hate our partner’s “damn unchanged body!” I’ve been there and felt that. It’s okay to love and appreciate your body AND mourn that it has changed at the same time.
The goal here is not to make your partner gain weight or change their body. It’s also not to force your body into a change or “snap back” that isn’t healthy.
You get to redefine your relationship with your body and that takes inner work!
Related: Body Image After Baby (GUIDE)
There is still a general assumption that mom is the default parent, and this can be maddening. Just because it’s how society operates doesn’t mean it has to be how you and your family operate.
Find the things you love to own and the things your partner loves to own.
Don’t be afraid to respond to family, friends, or strangers with a kind but direct response that reminds them that your partner is a parent too.
How to Let Go of Resentment in Your Relationship
Resentment, whether it shows up as anger, sadness, or another emotion, can cause stress on our mind and body. It is a signal that we are feeling unseen, unheard, unappreciated, or in an unfair situation.
For many couples, this is not intentional, it is the result of a gap in communication and expectations. (It can be hard to know what to expect before things come up, so communication is ongoing!)
If you TRULY want to let go of resentment and enter healthier patterns with your partner, it takes work, but it gets to be fun. Instead of seeing this as a challenge, see it as an opportunity to level up your partnership and challenge some of the patterns you’ve fallen into. Each time you upgrade patterns and mindsets, it is a win for now and the future!
First, ask yourself these questions
1. How does this feeling serve or protect me?
This is where we get into a little shadow work. Sometimes we hold onto negative emotions because it serves something in us.
Ex: Feeling insecure about your own friendships changing? You MIGHT resent your husband for talking about his friends at work. If I am resentful towards HIM I don’t have to look at the ways I’m actually feeling lonely and displaced as a new mom.
(This is normal, but in order to break the cycle and have a healthier partnership, we need to see what we are ACTUALLY frustrated about and how we may be projecting that onto a “safer” situation.)
2. Evaluate where, how, and why you are judging yourself
This is where we look at the expectations you have of yourself and the inner-critic that may be showing up.
Ex: I am judging myself for not being able to keep up with friends more. My friends aren’t showing up like they used to, is it because I am no longer fun or enjoyable?
(Again, normal. However, we don’t want to stay in self-critic patterns. When we see how we are judging ourselves, we can remove ourselves from that and see the reality more clearly.)
This is a tough season to be a friend. I am changing, and that is exciting. I will prioritize the connections that are most valuable to me right now.
3. Look at the intention and understanding, aside from the feeling it gives you.
Sometimes we have to remove ourselves from the feeling we are having in order to see the bigger, clearer picture.
Ex: Is your partner intending to not show up as a partner? (If so, that’s a different conversation and I’m happy to have it with you.) Or is your partner seeing their role as something different from how you see it? Is your partner spending time talking to the guys at work because he is going through so many changes and needs to feel “safe” and “normal” in some ways so that he can show up better for your family?
4. Shift to gratitude
Note this does not mean writing off anything that is bothering you and leaving it unaddressed. When we shift to gratitude we rewire our minds to see the life-giving things, which opens us up to have the conversations and practices needed to grow together as an individual and a couple.
Ex: I am thankful my partner has friends to talk about his changes with so that when he gets home, he can have more energy and attention to give us.
5. Utilize a coach to guide you through your growth
If you are looking to develop stronger communication skills, connection points, and personal and relational confidence, working with a coach can be a life-changing step. Coaches are able to help provide a third-party view, connect with both parents, and help you to level up your partnership. I work with power couples to get super clear on communication, be intentional about connection points, and grow confidence in order to be a kick@ss team as parents. If you can see that for yourself, book a free 15 min uncovering call with me here.
Working through resentment is a normal part of being a parent. As you are met with new roles, responsibilities, and challenges, it takes time and intention to build your teamwork. When you recognize your areas of resentment, you get to decide whether you want to stay there or whether you want to understand and move through it.