Whether you feel resentment or compassion is a simple matter of where you look.
Clients try to convince me that resentment naturally builds in relationships over time. They say so as if it’s a given.
George Pransky’s book The Relationship Handbook taught me the one, simple thing that leads to—and away from—resentment.
When you focus on yourself and how their behavior affected you, you feel resentment.
When your partner is away on a business trip and doesn’t call and you make it about you…
He’s so selfish to not call you and let you know he arrived
He never thinks about anyone but himself (meaning, he doesn’t think about you enough)
His failure to call left you worried or angry or distracted
…you feel resentment toward him.
I’ve said it many times before: making what they do all about you is not a smart idea. Their stuff is never personal and believing it is, sucks.
What’s the alternative? As George wisely points out, the flip side of resentment is compassion. Compassion comes from focusing on them rather than on yourself.
Specifically, compassion comes from looking past their behavior to the insecurity that must have motivated it.
Instead of “I can’t believe he wouldn’t make the time to call ME!” you wonder, “What must HE be going through that he couldn’t call?”
Maybe he doesn’t feel like talking to you. If he doesn’t feel like talking to you, what must he be feeling that he doesn’t want to speak with someone who loves him?
Compassion does not come from actually asking or answering these questions, per se. Compassion is more general; it’s about where your focus goes.
Does your focus go toward yourself and how you’ve been wronged? If so, then you have resentment.
Or does your focus go toward your partner with consideration for whatever feelings led to his behavior? In this case, you feel compassion.
Simple, isn’t it?
The next time someone does something you’re not crazy about, notice where your focus goes. If it’s all about you, see if you can make that shift, for purely selfish reasons.
Compassion is a much more fun than resentment.