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The relationship red flag that means it’s time to have a talk with your spouse

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This is like a homing beacon ... it helps to pinpoint where the problem is.

My husband just started working second shift, which means our entire routine is turned on his head. Now he’s home all morning, instead of all evening, and I knew we were going to need a lot of trial and error to figure out how to balance the rest he needs, the breaks I need, and the kids’ schedules.

I felt really prepared, though, when I remembered some of the best marriage advice I’d ever been given: Resentment, my friend said, is a huge red flag in a relationship. It’s a homing beacon — it pinpoints where the problem is. If you feel resentful, that’s your cue to sit down and have a conversation.

Every new couple gets told to talk, talk, talk. If you communicate well, they say, you’ll head off all sorts of problems. That advice is a start, but it’s never helped me, because, honestly, sometimes you just have to let stuff go. You can’t talk about everything. When I’m overtired, my husband puts up with a lot more from me, I think, without saying a word. I do the same for him when he’s hungry. We both know that it’s only temporary, and if we made a Big Thing about it every time we felt slighted, it would be exhausting for everybody.

So you don’t have to air all your grievances; a lot of them will go away on their own. Resentment is special, though. That’s because when you resent your partner, it’s pretty much always because of some kind of unspoken and unmet expectation.

I’m always happy to see my husband lie down and take a break, except when I’m tired, too. Doesn’t he know that I’m trying to get three other things done? Well, usually he doesn’t know that — not if I haven’t told him. So my resentment isn’t because the poor guy is taking a break, it’s because I expected to get a break myself, but I also expected him to figure it out on his own.

I’m learning to recognize that specific feeling of resentment, and ask myself “Wait a sec, did we even talk about this?” It’s helpful because usually we didn’t talk about it and hadn’t realized we needed to.

Even after the talk, even if I haven’t gotten what I wanted, it still frees me from the awful feeling of being sulky towards my husband. Maybe my expectation was fair, and he just needed the reminder. Or maybe what I was expecting wasn’t really fair, and he can let me in on his own perspective. At least at the end of it, we’re on the same page, and neither of us has to stew in anything (or wonder what the heck is eating the other person).

Resentment comes from a sense of injury or indignation. It’s not surprising then, that it’s our knee-jerk response to unmet expectations. So if you’re feel resentment, like your spouse owes you something and didn’t deliver, that’s a good time to check yourself, and check in with your spouse. These conversations will clear the air, build communication and understanding, and bring greater harmony to your relationship. 

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