Resolving Anger & Resentment in a Relationship

Take a deep breath before you blow your top.
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Becoming angry and then resenting the person you are angry with can create a continuous loop that leaves you fighting and not achieving what you really want, according to psychiatrist John O. Schairer, M.D., in his article “Finding Captain Kirk: Breaking the Cycle of Anger and Resentment in Personal Relationships,” published on his website. If you want out of the cycle, you must take control of your emotions and change your response.

1 Anger and Depression

Chronic anger in your relationship puts you at risk for depression, according to Richard P. Fitzgibbons, M.D., in his article, “The Angry Spouse/Relative” on Your anger might result from deep sadness, conflict with your parents or other family member, or losses you've experienced. Getting to the root of your anger can help you pinpoint ways to stop your anger cycle. If you're frequently sad and angry, anything your significant other does that you don’t like can set you off and cause your sweetheart to reciprocate with anger.

2 Acknowledge Your Feelings

Admitting that you’re angry is the first step to resolving anger and resentment. Saying “I’m not angry” through gritted teeth doesn’t fool anyone. Acknowledge your emotions and take a minute or two to look inward. The nature of anger is to look for an outside cause, but the cause might not be outside you, advises Dr. Schairer. Look past what set you off and see if something deeper is going on. Did you get a bad grade on a test you studied for? Did a friend snub you? Whether your anger is really toward the object of your affection or someone (or something) else, make sure to take it up at the source.

3 Moving Toward Forgiveness

Discuss the issues that triggered your anger and look for win-win solutions. You might have a frequent argument, such as who decides where you go on a date or how she flirts with the guys in her class. Attempt to see your boyfriend or girlfriend’s side of the situation, suggests Dr. Fitzgibbons. Employ empathy for hurt feelings. Apologize for your part in the conflict and ask for forgiveness even if you feel your significant other is partially at fault. If the person you're in a relationship with reaped misdirected anger, let it be known that you were really angry about something else.

4 You're Powerful

You have the power to diffuse anger and resentment, especially in recurring relationship tangles, suggests Dr. Schairer. Instead of waiting for your boyfriend or girlfriend to change or admit you’re right, decide that you can intercept the anger and head it off before you sink into resentment. Express appreciation and compassion, suggests Steven Stosny, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in anger management, in the "Psychology Today" article “Overcoming Chronic Resentment and the Abuse It Causes.” It’s hard to stay angry at someone for whom you feel grateful. Look for ways to inject gentle, mutual humor into the situation and get you laughing together.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.