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Resentments: Getting Rid of Them — 21 Comments

  1. Hello Al,
    I stumbled upon your website several days ago and I couldn’t stop reading (first evening I read till 5 in the morning, my eyes red with sleep and cry, and my soul calming down with understanding myself and feeling understood).
    My story, I think, is governed by huge and long resentment. I am 37, together with my husband for 16 years, we have a 6 year old son. Almost four years ago I started to realize that I avoid the company of my husband, that I can’t stand him (didn’t know the reasons) and I found myself in the middle of an emotional affair; I fell in love crazy, became friends, talked at least daily via email, for 3 years, and also in person, weekly. A few month into this affair I couldn’t bear the tension in my house anymore and I confessed to my husband what was going on. He was shocked and sad and angry, and disappointed in me, but he wanted us to go on with our family, me having to stop talking to the other man. I think I was confused, didn’t know what I wanted, so I tried to follow my husband’s lead into this recovery. For a short time; because somehow I managed to go back endlessly talking with the other man. We fooled ourselves we were going to be just friend. My husband realized what’s going on, I said I can’t let go of this “friendship”, and we struggled continuously since then (more than 3 years).
    My husband seems to me very.. composed, and pretty forgiving and patient about my behavior, but not actually curious to go deep and understand “WHY” all this happened to me? He blamed me first, then also blamed himself a little, after I said that I am unhappy from almost the beginning of our life together and the affair is just the consequence; but ended blaming me completely after 3 years of me not being able to let go of the affair.
    I must say about myself, that all the years together with my husband, I think I was in a “slave” position and my husband was the “master” (sometimes more like the passive master). I lived my life following his guidance, adopting his thinking, not revealing my own thoughts. Ever. We never fought – why would we, if our thinking was identical (thanks to me) And when the affair struck, I realized I don’t know who I am, what I want, where am I going? And couldn’t shake the feeling that I hate my husband.
    On the other side, with my affair “friend” I exploded. We shared about each other a lot, talked every possible subject on earth, I wasn’t afraid to tell my feelings, opinions, everything. I felt I was discovering myself, I was growing. It was amazing. I felt free to be myself.
    But somewhere down the road, this passion overwhelmed us both eventually. Meaning that I was sharing too much, too quickly, too passionate (like a rebellion from not sharing my inner-self all my life). And he began to withdraw from the emotional side of our conversations, saying that we can only be friends, share our common interests and stuff and that’s all what he wants (but slipped subtle romantic messages from time to time, which threw me through the roof.) I became clingy when he withdrew and we played this game on and off. Until 3 month ago when we stopped writing to each other (we both agreed this was destroying us), and now we only see each other weekly, brief (the unavoidable(?) circumstances), and we are calm with each other.
    So, I have to say my affair was very addictive. Was very hard to stop writing (we actually tried this many times, but always fell back).
    Now that we stopped, it is better in a way (not so much adrenaline and excitement), but … back to my husband, it feels worse.
    My guess is that the affair kept me from facing my problems with my husband, so I could drag it through this 3+ years.
    I recently experienced some kind of panic, or hopelessness, when my husband announced me that he would work from home one day a week (I am stay at home mom, some kind of homesteader). I felt I couldn’t bear to see him more that I already do. It was very scary for me.
    When I think about spending my whole life with my husband … it goes dark in my mind, I panic, it feels like dying.
    When my husband is home from work, I feel lost, like needing him to tell me what to do. I also feel suffocated if he does tell me.
    We sleep together, I wake up nights with back pain: changed the mattress, still in pain; my husband went on work trip, I slept alone – no pain. I figured it may be psychological pain.
    I am tense when he is home, I relax when he’s gone.
    I also changed my slave behavior of submitting and agreeing on everything, since my affair rebellion – unfortunately I now argue and feel attacked and triggered very often by every opinion my husband shares. I feel he tries to persuade me, something he did very often in the past, but now I just (over)react strongly if I think he tries.
    I started noticing and understanding some physical warnings inside my body, since I read about the lizard and other stuff from this wonderful page. Thank you for it.
    Question is:
    If we didn’t have a child I would have chosen door 3 in this situation. But when I think of this child…I just cannot divorce. My heart breaks. And I know I am dragging everything in swamps and going nowhere. I feel stuck.
    You wrote somewhere that you can reach vintage love with everyone person. That there is no such thing as “I picked the wrong person”. Yet I am thinking that maybe I picked the wrong one. I feel paralyzed as an individual, like I cannot grow in my husband’s presence. I need to brake free from his overwhelming all reaching tentacles.
    I don’t think he is willing to go deep into introspection and figure out he is not so faultless as he believes. He said he thinks he has no bad childhood experience to influence his behavior, everything was fine in his childhood. He is how he is. But he thinks that I have some mental problems and that I’d better resolve them.
    I resent him for every time I obeyed him in the past.
    I’m very sad because I fear that I cannot raise my child appropriately and healthy without being myself a developed and growing person. How can I be this while struggling to keep afloat with a man I want to divorce?

    (another long comment. Sorry for it.)

    • Maybe a long story, Vera, but it read very easily and clearly. Thanks. I like being able to grasp what people are into and going through.

      Yes, I can certainly see the situation and imagine how confusing things must be and how much pain you feel. How to fit together your 16 years with your husband, along with your side journey into what you call an emotional affair, looks at where you are now, considering that 6 year old boy, and planning for the future?! And then you stumble onto my site! Well welcome.

      I, of course, go further and include my guesses about what your husband is/has been going through, and add to that my guesses about what it was like for you as a kid learning the lessons of tension, hiding yourself, and adapting/submitting to other people’s needs. Through all that I see the questions on the back of your hand, “When is it my turn? and Who am I, anyway?” Wow. Big stuff. Thank you for honoring me by sharing this.

      My first reaction is to feel very optimistic. A whole series of bad patterns is coming to an end, and should. But the new way has not been written.

      I’m glad you’ve read my stuff on Master/Slave. I was teaching that material to a group of men last night and stressed that I believe Masters are the easiest to “fix”, Passive Masters are the next easiest, but Slaves are the toughest by far. The guys groaned, and you might also. I could have been anticipating your letter. The good news is it sounds as if you’ve started. (Old wisdom, “It’s the journey as is not begun that is the longest.”) The length of this journey seems to me related to how your background/childhood/youth/marriage did not help you in the process of discovering “who Vera is.”

      This process takes time for all kids, but some are distracted during childhood. Instead of self-discovery, self-flowering, they take care of others. OK! So they get to do it later in life. It’s not optional. You’ll do it, faster or slower, but you’ll do it, I believe. I think your time with your “affair” partner was a bit of a taste of that process. Ideally you’ll get to teach your husband to assist in that process. However he learned to not be a help is his loss and he has a right to be able to learn better. And your kid needs both of you helping him to grow.

      To speed this process up for you, go find a great counselor for yourself – someone who understands Co-dependence and who is willing to walk with you for a while as you discover yourself. Do not pass GO, just do it. Now. An interesting shortcut I’ve found can be to join Alanon or ACOA. If alcohol was not part of your life, don’t worry, the processes of addiction probably were. Read anything you can on Codependency. You’ll probably find yourself in my short essay (the third on Master/Slave) called Passivity in the Foundations.

      I once was taught a simple formula about life: Up until around age 11, a human child has one drive – Survival. Following that drive the child will even gnaw off a foot (parts of self) it that helps. Beginning at 11 another drive comes online – Wholeness. Now the child who used to submit, will get clumsy and start… oh rebelling. Putting that foot back on. That clumsy behavior is the beginning of the journey to Integrity.

      I think the future for the three of you, and others you meet, will be better. If I can help, let me know. (Of course, all my guesses could be wrong.)

      Good luck.

      • Thank you. It has such a calming effect reading you. I think you are a kind man (a kind man WITH boundaries 🙂 – strangely, I think I had the impression that kind men just let everyone in their castle. But I am starting to change my mind 🙂
        Boundaries are a big issue for me, first on my list. I have difficulties saying “no” to people. If someone asked for my toothbrush, I might say “here is my toothbrush, use it”. I am working on this, but many times I just feel awful when I refuse some people.
        Alcohol was part of my life: my father drank sometimes (not often), but when he did, he became a different man (angry, arguing); my mother feared him, so did we, the kids. When I look back now, I believe I married my husband mostly for the reason that he despises alcohol.
        I read all you wrote on master/slave subject and I am searching deeper into understanding codependency, because it really got me.
        But about the journey to my integrity – it seems to me that this (wonderful) process it’s not gonna fix resentment (as long as my husband thinks it’s my own problem from childhood = my responsibility; I feel so unheard, abandoned). I can’t see vintage love in this, I have difficulties seeing us through the day.

        And one more question: do you have any articles/suggestions on raising healthy children when we are not heading toward vintage love (at least not together, as parents)? Either divorced or together out of responsibility for the kids.

        Thanks again. You are a mine of gold.

        • Hi Vera, I write here from time to time when I think I might have an experience to share that could be helpful. I suggest that you go to an Al Anon meeting. I started going 7 months ago and I’ve experienced it as a wonderful community of people working on cleaning up their boundaries. I’ve also found the groups I’ve attended to be supportive and nonjudgmental, regardless of where I am in my growth. There are hundreds of meetings around the world, every night of the week. I hope if it piques your curiosity at all, that you’ll try out some meetings. Best, Craig

        • Thanks Craig for the encouragement. I am trying to push myself to attend such a meeting (online). It’s kind of hard the first time…

        • Really great going, Vera. This kind of thinking helps you focus on what areas to work on. So let’s look at your four areas of questioning.

          “Saying ‘No'” tis to me a pretty important trait and being unable to say “no” tends to be a disaster all by itself. Healthy kids start saying “no” naturally during the 2-4 stage. It’s part of preparing for having boundaries and self-esteem. I believe there are lots of forms of child-abuse out there, and one of the worst is punishing a child from learning to say “no”. I used to teach that high self-esteem means “you like yourself, when others hate you;” and lo-self-esteem or what I called “other esteem,” was “when you liked yourself only if others liked you.” Not being allowed/trained to say “no” seems to wrap into always trying to get others to like you – a hopeless journey. And Boundaries are partially about clarity about “who you are” as different from “them.” Keep working on this, I suggest.

          The nightmare of living with an alcoholic, or an alcoholic-clone, sure is a problem. My guess is part of why you chose your husband had to do with the traits he had that were similar to dad’s. That’s all about the Imago selection process, picking someone who “feels familiar” to one’s caretakers at their worst, but hoping they’ll learn their lessons and be good. Well, here you are facing those traits and seeking what to do about it. Good for you. Remember you don’t have to drink to have all those nightmare alcoholic traits.

          Now, let’s look at that journey to integrity. First I think you should have all that resentment – all that “submitting” will do that. I just Googled “Al Turtle Can’t Submit Resentment” and immediately got the Lizard paper and the one on Noticing the Lizard. Here’s the central quote, “Resentment/revenge seems part and parcel of being human, having a Lizard and having a Cortex that never forgets. If I were just a Lizard, I would submit and forget it. But I am a human and I can’t forget. Therefore in humans I believe Submitting equals Resentment, and there seems no way out of this. And so I firmly believe it is best to avoid agreement so that you can avoid submitting so that you can avoid having to eventually face the resentment.”

          Now it’s probably true that your hubby could use a lot of learning about boundaries and about respect and about Master/Slave. But my guess is when you learn about not letting others define you, get good at defining yourself, and let him know he can’t get away without learning, then he’ll get close to being able to Validate you. That’s quite a process. As you get better saying “no” and not buying into his MasterTalk and learning to Validate him, you’ll also be learning to Validate yourself and even teach him how to validate you. To get rid of that resentment, that’s the journey. You can always start by putting up a sign that says, “Hi hon. I make sense, always have and always will. And so do you.” or “I am working hard on my problems. When are you gonna start working on yours?” or “This is what I did today to work on my troubles. What did you do to work on yours.”

          As far as your kids – this is the best gift you can give them, methinks. E.g. Today I give you a mother who is learning to say “no” when she wants to.

          I’m kind of out of date on books. Here’s what I have.

          Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear by Pam Leo
          Love & Logic by Foster W. Cline and Jim Fay
          Giving The Love That Heals By Harville Hendrix & Helen Hunt

          What are you doing about getting a counselor (professional) to walk with you?

        • Dear Al,
          I feel more optimistic (but I won’t pay attention to that, because I fell many times from my optimistic peak).
          I just see more clearly that I have to work on myself first, no deviations; even if the world crumbles around me. Like when you start to dig a garden but you haven’t eaten all day, and you are hungry, then everything goes messy (seems like the shovel is to heavy, the soil is too wet and the sun too hot).
          Thanks for the book titles and the wonderful quote about resentment from lizard/cortex point of view (I sure wouldn’t like to have a cortex without a lizard; or a lizard without a cortex, …though the latter would probably suit me better 🙂
          “..it is best to avoid agreement” – I like that idea very much. I think I’ll put in on the wall.
          About the counselor, that’s a bit tricky in the part of the world where I live (east Europe), because recently, a whole bunch of psychologist, counselors and similar emerged, but the vast majority of them are poor trained, young (my age or younger) – I see that as a lack of experience and understanding (I think is a waste of time and a big frustration for me to talk to somebody who wasn’t even married yet – with or without papers; just knows the theory. I don’t trust theory only.) I would probably end helping them more with their experience than they would help me (and if I got it right, it is time to be about me now).
          I will still search for the rare counselor that has some “palm calluses”.
          Alanon has some online meeting (once a week) about codependency and I will join to see if it helps somehow. Live meetings from Alanon are not available near me.
          In the meantime I’m working on a list/plan of recovery for me, to present it to my husband (this evening I hope), with steps I intend to take, what I think helps me in my journey and what brings me down (including his way of communicating to me). I also planed a physical “castle”, some sort of rest room for me, where I could go and recover when I need to “escape” tension, even sleep there nights if I feel like. I feel it will calm me to arrange a room for this purpose (maybe just knowing that this place exists will be assuring for me).
          That’s my plan for now. Hope it works.
          (I have to say it scares me to talk to my husband, I don’t feel like telling him anything, ANYTHING. I expect him to criticize me and give his opinions in an oppressing and depreciating manner. I also know that part of feeling this, has to do with my sensitivity to criticism or any form of even slight bullying).
          Thank you.

        • Good for you, Vera!! I hope you feel as welcomed by the on-line group as I have by the in-person groups. Great that you’re trying!

  2. Hi Al,
    Me and this guy have been having an on again off again relationship for over 4 years. Every time we broke up is when i needed more commitment, while he was uncertain. We caught up 6, 7 weeks ago after we broke up for about 6 months with the intention to see how we felt about each other as we were still missing each other a lot, and having trouble to move on. Prior to the meeting he told me that he had been having a few dates with someone else, but nothing seriously yet. I said i didn’t mind. If we weren’t together, he was free to see anyone he wanted to.

    As soon as we met, we started seeing each other again. I tried not to get in touch as I knew he was seeing someone else. But he has been calling me more and more, and we have been spending more and more time together. He acted nicer and much steadier and more certain than ever. I could tell he was making effort, but not ready to be exclusive. I didn’t push him, didn’t ask him where he was when he disappeared every now and then for a few days. I was determined to give him space, as that was his biggest complain about me.

    A week ago, he had been inviting me to stay over at his place most of the nights, we got on really well. Again, he disappeared on the weekend, he told me he was going out with friends and will talk to me later, when I tried to call next day, his phone was off. Which was strange, as he had been pretty attentive with my calls lately. He didn’t call back until really late. I knew something was going on, but i tried not to say anything and wait for him to talk to me. Eventually i couldn’t help myself and thought i needed to clear the air even if there wasn’t anything. Bit by bit, he admitted to me that he slept over at the other girl’s place the previous night…

    He apologised and said it was a mistake, he hadn’t been seeing her much lately. Just felt hard to say no to her when she invited him over etc. i felt very hurt. I want to forgive him and see if we could get somewhere this time. It has been a long time…I’ve felt we were getting closer and closer each day in the past 2 months. But this really hurts. I went mad and blamed him for being irresponsible. Then he went mad and wanted to break up because he was sick of fighting. I told him if he didn’t do what he did, we wouldn’t have been fighting. But he seems to think that wasn’t the problem. The real problem is that he is not sure about me..it kind of makes sense. But i feel stupid to let it go after he has ended (he said he has) with the other girl as he realised he enjoys spending time with me more than her.

    I feel hurt, angry and betrayed, and sad, and very lost. What should i do?

    • Ouch. Sure sounds like lots of chaos, and reminds me of the confusion of 9th grade dating. What can you hang on to? Quite sad. Everything I write is for those people who are trying to get “that reliable relationship”, but I fear many are not taught to even look for long-term – let alone be determined to build it. 4 years seems like a long time to be in an off-and-on relationship. But then I am 72 now, and value each day. When I was 18 I was more ….. “foolish”.

      If I were you, I would stop, breathe, think and consider what it is you deeply want in life and then go for it. (Not a small task.)

      • Thanks For your quick reply, Al. It is a very sad situation. I can’t believe myself that it has been going on for so long, and still a mess..
        I’m not sure if I’m being obsessive, but I kept feeling there is some things special between me and this guy to be going on and on. I feel we could work things out if we want to. But the problem is I seem to be the only one that holds the hope and willing to make effort. On one hand he seemed to enjoy my company and liked to see me most of the days prior to this, on the other hand He has a lot of doubts towards me and our relationship. He wanted someone that gets his jokes, someone more independent etc etc. I’m working on myself, but i fear he would never be content with me anyway. It’s very sad really, he likes me and feels good to around people that like him. But in a more intimate level, he doesn’t like himself, hence doesn’t like people who like him..
        I would like to make it work. But it seems so hard..

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