Our lives and identities change immensely after having a child. Along with those changes, we also find that our roles and responsibilities change. Because emotions are running high and sleep is running very low, communication with your partner is critical during this new time with your new bundle of joy. Without effective communication, you can easily slip into feeling resentment toward your partner.
I will never forget when my husband, Bryan, went back to his daily grind of working after I had our baby, Milo. At first, Milo and I had a grand time together during the day. We would listen to lullaby versions of today’s hit songs, do tummy time, eat, change, go in the bouncy swing, and cycle through those a few more times. However, when Bryan started going to in-person meetings, not just zoom meetings, I noticed I was feeling something I had never felt towards him. It felt like my emotions were balled up and thrown into sticky black tar. My emotions were getting covered and stuck in the stickiness of this strange, new feeling.
I loved being with Milo yet missed the social interaction of having coworkers. I missed seeing other adults and spending time with them. Similar to the year 2020, I felt isolated. Now being a mom, things started to feel oddly similar. When I thought about it, I realized the tar that my ball of emotions was stuck in represented the complicated feeling of resentment. I felt resentment towards Bryan for going back to work, even though I didn’t wish to be anywhere else but with Milo.
How to Address Feelings of Resentment Toward Your Partner
Resentment can fester from one point in our lives to another and be taken out on other people if we do not reflect. When we dig deep and dissect this feeling of resentment and all of its many parts, it can look like a jumble of feelings meshed together and balled up. Unraveling that ball of feelings and understanding them is not an easy feat. However, acknowledging the larger feelings that create resentment can help us figure out the hidden emotions under the large feelings.
Much adjustment coincides with living the no-sleep, new-parent lifestyle. It can feel hard to put a finger on how you are feeling. With that said, I also want to normalize feelings of anger, isolation, sadness, grief, and any other feelings you have when you are a new parent. These feelings put together can create some challenging situations and have an outcome of even more feelings to throw into the feelings ball. However, there is a solution to this! The solution is not magic, and it takes some practice. But it is certainly doable.
1. Identify What You’re Feeling
Identifying the tricky emotions that we have balled up is an important piece of the puzzle. Knowing what is triggering to you and communicating with your partner can help negate lingering feelings. If you can do that in real-time, that is amazing. Most of us are not there yet, and that is okay, too!
Writing down your feelings in a journal can help you focus on what you want to bring up to your partner. Also, writing down your thoughts and feelings can help you physically see them. Sometimes when we see them, we can see what is rational and irrational. Once you see your thoughts on paper and get a better grasp of them, you can start to picture ways to tell your partner what’s going on.
2. Talk About It
You could use the thoughts you write down as an outline for what to say to your partner. Or you can use it as a checklist for yourself. You can check off the thoughts after talking with your partner and then reflect on those thoughts and feelings.
A sure-fire way to help explain your feelings to your partner is through the use of an “I-Statement.” An I-Statement is when you discuss how you feel in a non-judgmental way. For example, “I feel ___ when _____ because _____.” This may seem elementary. However, this is an effective way to communicate your needs. It’s also a way to resolve conflict—even sometimes before the conflict occurs. We tell children to do this all the time with their feelings. So we as adults can do it too!
3. Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries
One of the most common topics that I talk about as a therapist is boundaries. You can think of boundaries as a limit that helps keep your feelings in check. At the same time, boundaries allow you to be emotionally available to others but stop when you are feeling too vulnerable. When you are triggered by something someone did, reflecting on what upset you is a great start. Using your reflection and then communicating a resolution creates a great boundary for yourself.
Creating a boundary when feeling resentment towards your partner could look like utilizing an I-Statement and then allowing your partner to respond openly and honestly. Using good listening skills (like active listening) and showing respect for your partners’ side of things build on creating stronger boundaries that help you reflect and respond. By creating honest and respectful boundaries with each other, resentment will start to unravel.
4. Honesty is a Priority
Why keep things inside when you know they’re going to come out eventually? Resentment can worsen an already hard-to-understand emotion. It can sometimes come out as rage or another heightened emotion at an inappropriate time. When we are open and honest and make boundaries, it creates a respectful atmosphere where resentment cannot win. Don’t let resentment win. And especially when you have the choice to help yourself and your partner by being honest and creating good boundaries.
It is natural to feel resentment toward your partner after such a life-altering event as having a baby. Both of you are struggling to find a new normal as parents and as partners. Give each other grace, and hold space for one another. Use these tips to make sure you can understand how you feel, why you feel it, and how to effectively communicate your feelings with your partner before resentment can get a foothold.