If your marriage is fueled by anger and resentment, the underlying causes of the hostility you feel likely predate your relationship. Much of our current emotional landscape is shaped in our early years, when we are still children. Back then, we formed certain foundational ways of dealing with situations and people.
Although people evolve with age and maturity, some of the emotional responses and triggers remain deeply rooted in our childhood experiences and perceptions. The way resentment manifests in your marriage is largely dictated by your inner child. When you understand how your inner child continues to guide you in your relationships, you’ll be able to begin healing resentment in your marriage.
What Is The Inner Child?
Within the context of modern psychology, the inner child is an individual’s connection within your psyche to your childhood self and related memories. You may notice that some of your behaviors or reactions seem similar to what you experienced as a child. These childhood experiences and responses were so impactful that they still guide your emotions even now that you’re an adult. The little child that lives inside you still calls the shots. In doing so, the inner child holds the answer to understanding your triggers.
The Inner Child In Therapy
Inner child work aligns with John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory. Specifically, it highlights the influence that our relationship/attachment to parents (and particularly mothers) influences how we deal with relationships as adults. Are we secure? Avoidant? Anxious? Disorganized? More on that in a future blog.
Throughout my 40 year career, I’ve seen new therapies come and go in popularity. Today, many effective therapies from IFS (Internal Family Systems) to EFIT (Emotionally Focused Individual Therapy) to Imago all incorporate inner child concepts for healing.
Heal Resentment By Looking Inward
The 90/10 principle of marriage posits that 90% of your conflicts arise from your background, childhood, culture, and religion. Only 10% have to do with current dynamics between you and your partner. Understanding your inner child will allow you to identify the root of your triggers. When a persistent trigger manifests over a long period of time, it leads to resentment.
For example, when couples fight about household responsibilities, they’re not really fighting about the laundry or dishes. Dealing with chores likely stirs up tensions and triggers experienced in childhood and that’s what’s being acted out in conflicts between partners. Did your parents’ conflicts over responsibilities lead to their divorce? Did one parent devalue the other? Were you left to feel you were invisible or that your feelings didn’t matter? Were household responsibilities dumped on you from an early age such that you missed out on being able to play and just be a kid? It’s underlying issues like these which are usually behind resentment in marriage.
Suffice it to say, paying more attention to the inner child proves useful. It’s not necessarily that the inner child gets what they want as much as that they feel seen, heard, and valued. Like therapists in EFIT, the key is to give your inner child 110% empathy. In doing so, you’ll minimize angry outburst and escalations when dealing with your spouse. For that matter, try giving your spouse 110% empathy and see how well that works out.
Don’t confuse empathy with understanding or agreement. You can still have a different point of view even while being empathic. Remember, the goal is to be able to work through your conflicts and handle disagreements respectfully.
When To Seek Professional Support
Resentment in marriage builds up over months and years. If left unchecked it can push your relationship to a breaking point. The good news is that resentment and its underlying issues can be resolved fairly quickly with the right tools. Couples counseling is typically an effective way to repair the damage that resentment causes. Experienced therapists can help you identify the problem spots and equip you with tools and techniques for better communication. Here at Marriage Quest, we’ve helped hundreds of couples heal from anger and resentment to reclaim their lives and their marriages. If you’re ready to fix your marriage, learn more by clicking the button below.