When we think of intimacy, we think of passion and romance. It all seems so natural and easy. I mean, just watch the movies, all you have to do is wear a nice outfit and smell nice, and instantly you'll have romance. It all appears, so, easy. We have learned a lot about relationship stability from Dr's. John and Julie Gottman. We have found that relationships are built on trust and commitment. When you have trust and commitment you have a strong friendship. Friendship builds intimacy. We have also found, that in relationships there can be resentments and grudges. These can be damaging to the relationship. When you learn to mange them well, this can lead to increased intimacy. We can think of them as falling into three different categories:

  1. "Maybe this really isn't that important, on second thought and I can let this go."
  2. "This really is irritating to me, I'm feeling resentful here, this really is important to me, (but not particularly meaningful)."
  3. "This is painful and serious, this really has meaning to me related to an important belief, value, or strong feeling.
When there is meaning given to the incident or behavior this can drive the resentment to a level of great distress. The resentment is experienced as painful and can be seen as a fundamental flaw in your partner. When these resentments aren't managed, they can lead to emotional disengagement in the relationship. This is when you are left feeling lonely in the relationship. This can also create gridlock in the relationship. Often times, couples are left feeling confused and they avoid having the conversation they need to have. It's important that these resentments are understood and that you have a conversation without blaming your partner. It's important that you ask for your partner to understand. Here are four questions this listener can ask to help deepen understanding in the relationship:
  1. "Here is the incident and the feelings I have about the incident ____________."
  2. "What I really would of wanted to happen instead was _________________."
  3. Check to see if this is an old familiar feeling that has roots in your history. "I have a sensitivity to criticism because that's what my family did best."
  4. It really helps if you can share what beliefs and core values you have about what this incident means to you. For example, "I want to feel heard when I express my feelings and perceptions. This is important to me in our relationship.".
At first this may sound difficult or unnatural. This is the conversation you need to have when you are having a difficult time managing a resentment.

Lianne Avila is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and is dedicated to helping couples by using The Gottman Method for Couples. For more help please visit, www.LessonsforLove.com.

 

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