Coach Kim: The real truth about resentment in your marriage
Posted May 31
In this edition of LIFEadvice, coach Kim Giles shares a different perspective on self-sacrifice and self-care that could help you have a happier marriage.
My husband has a lot of hobbies and friends, and he stays very busy. How do I help him balance that better and let go of my resentment when he is having his "me" time? Should I always be number one (like I feel I should) or do I need to be more flexible and let him have his time? I build up a lot of resentment that I can't let go of and I feel like he doesn't want to be with me. He says he does, but he has a lot going on and is always busy. How do I communicate my feelings out of love, instead of resentment, nagging and bitterness?
Before saying anything to him about this, you must figure out what it is you really want. Do you want to spend more time having fun with your spouse? Do you want more time to go have fun with your friends? Do you want him to help out and stay home more? Or do you want your spouse to feel guilty and bad for being selfish?
If you don’t get clear about what you really want, your subconscious programming and your ego may drive behavior that will create something you don’t want. So, take a minute and decide what you really want.
Then, understand resentment around your spouse’s “me time” can be a sign that you aren’t taking care of yourself and getting the “me time” you need. And I hate to tell you this, but you are the one to blame for that.
You are the one who is in charge of taking care of your needs. If you need something more or different in your life to feel happy and fulfilled or supported, you must ask for it and make it happen.
You cannot make your spouse responsible for your self-esteem, happiness and fulfillment. You are in charge of those. If you have trouble doing self-care, you may want to get some coaching to help you get past the guilt issues that prevent you from taking care of your own needs.
It is not selfish to take care of yourself and ask for what you want and need. It’s healthy, and when you realize this and start getting yours, you will also stop seeing your husband's self-care as selfish and you will resent him less.
Also, remember there is a difference between being his first priority and you being all he needs to have a fulfilled life. We are all very different and some of us need friends, hobbies and outside interests to feel fulfilled, while others are totally happy with just their spouse and children. The question isn’t what is right or wrong, but what is right for each of you.
It sounds like your husband may be what we call an “Affectionate” Psychological Inclination. Affectionates have a huge need for friendship, connection, variety, travel and being social. They can’t be happy without it. They thrive on connection and socializing. If your husband is like this, you must decide if you can love him as he is, because it is the way he is wired.
The good news is he also loves his family and spouse a lot and values time with them too. So, if you start planning activities, trips or fun adventures with him, he would love that. If you need to get baby sitters more often so you can go out with friends or have more time away, he would also understand that.
Before you approach him to talk about your feelings about his activities, do these three things:
- Get accurate about your feelings of resentment and own the fact that you are responsible for your own self-care and have not been doing it. Make sure you mention this in the conversation you have with him. Own that you are not good at asking for what you need, and that’s why you resent him for doing it. Tell him that you could honestly learn from his example and tell him what you need so you can feel happier, supported and more fulfilled too. Then, without any guilt around it, start taking care of yourself: plan activities with friends, take a class or take up a hobby yourself or plan some fun things with your spouse and make sure your bucket is full every week. Then you will have more to give your family every day.
- Don’t attack or make him feel like a failure, bad or wrong. If you try to make him feel guilty for being the way he is, you are bringing fear, not love, into your marriage and your problems will get worse. This doesn’t mean you don’t have a serious talk about your needs. Just do it from a place of love, remembering that you aren’t perfect either. Come to him without judgment and figure out what you want and need and ask him if (moving forward) he would be willing to support you and help you have what you need.
- Change your sacrifice mentality. You probably have a subconscious rule (that you may have learned from your parents) that “good people sacrifice what they want and unselfishly give to others and that only selfish people focus on themselves.” Just because this has been your belief doesn’t make it truth. The truth is that being overly selfish and being overly selfless are both a problem. You will not create happiness being either one. What you need is a healthy balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of those you love. An equal balance is what you must create if you want a fulfilled life and good relationships.
When you are overly selfless and sacrifice yourself all the time, even a little self-care looks selfish. So, be open to the possibility that you are the one who is actually out of balance, not your husband. I could be wrong though (maybe he is a tad too selfish) and if that’s true, you definitely need to speak up and ask him to get more centered.
Just handle the conversation right by not casting him as the bad guy, and own your issues around not asking for what you need. Then, find a solution to this problem together as a “WE,” not against each other as two “I”s. Whenever you are overly focused on protecting yourself, you are focused on the marriage. This is true because fear and love cannot happen at the same time in the same place.
In each interaction with your spouse, you are either putting more fear or more love into the relationship. If you are feeling taken from, mistreated, defensive and resentful and you are seeing your spouse as the bad guy, you aren’t bringing love, you are bringing fear.
So see your husband as the same as you, as a struggling student in the classroom of life trying to figure this whole thing out the best he can. Let him be the same as you in value and talk to him as a peer, equal and partner. As a team you can figure out how both of you can have a healthier balance between selfish and selfless. If you approach it this way, you both win.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.