From Resentful to Radiant
For years I had a deep, committed relationship… to my resentment. It was there each night, carefully documenting all my husband’s mistakes: how he parented, the food he ate, how he worked and dressed, what he said, what he didn’t say. The list was always growing.
We had three small children: one starting school, one with complex needs that we were just coming to understand, and a newborn. While I loved family life, I was becoming depleted. I got through yet another appointment, another meltdown still smiling, but by the end of the day I was exhausted.
I remember evenings filled with toys, laundry and cleaning while my husband worked. I thought “I have to do everything; it’s all on me”. Living away from my family because of my husband’s work meant that every time I felt unsupported I knew who to blame.
Such conversations were frequent and it felt good releasing frustration. Finally, I would get the support I needed. My husband would listen and even apologise. Sometimes we felt like we got somewhere, but it never lasted.
Instead of the connection and resolution I hoped for, we were inching further apart.
My husband didn’t want to argue so instead he withdrew. He worked more and more. Some nights I would find him asleep on the couch and remind myself how alone I felt. If only he could just talk and face our problems head on, like me!
There were so many things we needed to discuss: the latest therapy advice, the house renovation that never left the planning stage, our kids’ behaviour (and his response to it).
But I couldn’t reach him anymore. I felt trapped.
At night I would feel a deep sense of foreboding that my marriage might not last the distance. I was committed to my family, but I wondered how long I could endure this.
He felt awful too. One night he said it felt like there was a chasm between us and he had no way to cross it. I felt so disheartened. He was trying, and it wasn’t working either.
My parents visited and on their last night shared their worry. We needed to do something differently, for the sake of our young family.
I began researching everything I could about improving relationships. Lots of trial and error led to shifts forwards–then backsliding. I wondered if anything would really help.
Then I heard a podcast interview with Laura Doyle.
A bolt went through me as she described my life. I had spent SO much time trying to get my husband to change, but it was pushing him away. I was the only person I could control.
I had been searching for answers in the wrong direction–and here was a map I could follow out of this pain.
I started to experiment with the Six Intimacy Skills™, beginning with self-care. I made time for myself every day and experimented with what made me feel good: early nights, nutritious food, books, yoga and baths. I removed suffering from my life any way I could. When I noticed that I needed something–food, sleep, silence, friendship, the toilet!–I would find a way to provide it.
I had tried self-care before and had felt no different. But this time I wasn’t allowing myself to stew in resentment. I began choosing my thoughts carefully, flipping my complaints into desires and my criticisms into gratitude. I was learning how to be deeply happy, regardless of circumstance.
Self-care gave me the energy to make other shifts. I tried to stop criticising, correcting and coaching. It took a lot of duct tape! When I wanted to disagree, I would try saying “whatever you think”. My intimacy became more important than most things and it got easier and easier to let go.
Conflict and tension began to fade.
One night our son was in deep distress having a meltdown. My husband went to him and was struggling to calm him down. I was nursing the baby and couldn’t easily get up. In the past I would have intervened but that night, as I felt the tension throughout my body, my urge to control, I chose to let go. Tears came flooding. I let the grief wash over me of having a problem I so badly wanted to fix but couldn’t.
I listened to my husband struggling, and for the first time I was able to see him alongside me. I didn’t have the answers either. We were both failing and flailing, trying to figure this out. I realised that he was the one other person in this universe who loves my son completely. He’ll never stop loving him, no matter how hard it gets.
My anger and frustration turned to gratitude and love right there in the darkness.
I finally let my real feelings come up. My sadness and pain had been masked by stress and anger. Now that I could release them, I could choose love instead of fear and stop trying to control the uncontrollable.
I became my husband’s equal instead of his coach. We were in this together.
I relinquished my control over how he parented. He was allowed to make mistakes and learn on his own. As I let go, he stepped up. I let him lead and accepted any help that was offered, and the help just kept coming.
Today my husband and I are an amazing team. We share everything: therapy appointments, drop-offs, homework, cooking, laundry, buying presents, planning holidays.
Our family life is full of connection. We spend weekends playing and making memories. The tension that used to follow me everywhere that we weren’t doing this right has gone. Our children are thriving, especially our son. Restoring emotional safety with my husband and with him has had a greater impact than any therapy or medicine.
On a family holiday my husband shared that it feels like we have a new relationship. It is a new beginning in so many ways. He takes me out on dates, even arranging the babysitter. He seeks me out throughout the day to connect. Our physical intimacy is so fulfilling, and there is a depth of kindness and trust that supports us both to reach for more in life.
Now at the end of each day, instead of feeling resentful I spend time thinking about my desires: “How do I feel? What do I want?” My happiness is within my control, and it is the greatest gift I can offer my family. Following my heart, connecting to my desires and enjoying everything I have–these have made me easy to love.
No matter how much resentment you feel right now, things can change. You have the power to change them, and things really can get as GOOD as you can stand.
Laura and I want to help you rediscover the intimacy, passion and peace in your marriage. Click here to apply for your FREE Discovery call.