Do You Secretly Resent Your Spouse?

One writer reflects on the object of resentment in her marriage—which saved her husband's life.


My husband joined a gym.

He lost ten pounds.

In a matter of months, he started to look like Popeye. And I resented it.

It's a rather embarrassing thing to confess that you resent your husband for getting in shape. Afterall, isn't that something every wife desires in her marriage? To see her husband taking care of himself physically?

My husband Terry has always been active. He is a builder/contracter, so he is accustomed to physical labor. I do sporadic walking on our home treadmill along with daily stretching. Our son, however, has been after us for several years to join a gym  to work on cardio and strength training. Terry did feel he was losing some strength and was experiencing more joint pain. He was also self-conscious about his abdomen, an area he never seemed to  be able to lose weight. But his dad always had a big stomach. 


So last January my husband joined a local gym where some of our friends are members. Suddenly our morning routine changed. Instead of me rising first for work, he was gone to meet his trainer before my alarm even sounded. Instead of him sleepily handing me my morning coffee-to-go, I was heading out the door with no goodbye kiss. I felt a little lonely and a bit neglected.

Then the gym talk started. His trainer said this, his trainer said that.

Then his diet changed. Cannot eat that, can only eat this.

I was handling all of that until the comments came from the sidelines. "Terry, you look great...You've lost weight...Look at your muscle definition..." Our friends and Terry had a new common ground that I did not share. 


Then the clincher. Looking at Terry, then at me, the admonition came: "Luann, you should join the gym!"

But when my Popeye told me I needed to lose fifteen pounds, well, that didn't set too nicely with me either. I have never looked like Olive Oil, nor do I believe I ever could. So as the winter months went by and the commentaries continued, I went from irritation to resentment. I started to secretly stew about things, other than the gym issue. 

I started to resent that my job is housed in a building with no windows.(It was built in the 1970s during the energy crisis.) I rarely see the light of day. My husband, on the other hand, has flexibility in his schedule as his own boss. I have a usual schedule of ten-hour work days. So how can I possibly find time or energy to join a gym? Early morning workouts are out of the question, and then finding time after work is difficult. One, I am exhausted, and two, I have household chores to attend. I was suffering from the working woman's dilemma and saw no way out.

It was just easier to silently carry a grudge rather than address the issue with myself and my husband. Also, I didn't want to be a Debbie Downer. My husband was doing something really positive for himself. He was feeling stronger and looking fit and fabulous.But as the busy months went by, I knew I needed to talk with my husband about it. I wasn't always begrudging his newfound health regimen, but enough to know I needed to deal with my feelings. 


More juicy content from YourTango:

Christians often feel a sense of guilt for housing negative emotions, especially toward someone else. At least, I do. I Corinthinans 13 reminds us that love is not resentful or irritable or envious. But if we read the Psalms, we see that David experienced a wide range of adverse emotions, such as fear, sorrow, and anger. God graciously allowed David to express himself in prayer as a part of self-examination. 

I think that is why we enjoy watching sitcoms. Actors interact and say things that we would love to say to others, but know we shouldn't. One of my favorite shows is Everybody Loves Raymond. I still watch the reruns over and over. One memorable episode deals with Amy and Robert hosting Ray and Debra, and Frank and Marie, for dinner to celebrate three months of marriage. Amy and Robert are so affectionately in love, much to Ray and Debra's disgust. To top off the evening, Amy gives Debra a marriage book, and plans to give one to Marie, too, because of "all the fighting" she has observed in their relationships. This sets off Marie to tell what real marriage is: "you love him, you hate him..." Amy is astounded that Marie uses the word "hate." "How can there be hate in a marriage," she asks. "You make room," Marie says, because "hate is real, marriage is real."

In other words, in our marriage relationships we all are going to experience negative emotions. And that's OK. It's what we do with those emotions that is the crux of the matter. So when I am feeling hurt or resentful, I need to biblically deal with that feeling so it does not turn into a root of bitterness. Bitterness can poison a marriage and ruin the sweetness of the relationship. As I reflect back, my feelings actually seem so silly right now, but when we experience negative thoughts and feelings, we usually don't see the rhyme or reason why. We just feel. Negative emotions can stem from fatigue, low self-esteem, or unfulfilled expectations. They can also be stimulated by outside sources. Maybe your husband works too much, or he doesn't help around the house. Everyday occurrences can build up and lead to feelings of resentment. Once again, it's what we do with those feelings that makes the difference. 


One of my favorite books is Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. This narrative is the true story of writer Mitch Albom's relationship with his former college professor, Morrie Schwartz. Morrie is dying of ALS. Mitch records his Tuesday sessions with Morrie as the teacher shares the meaning of life with his former student. One of Morrie's lessons deals with the concept of detachment. While Morrie possesses an incredibly positive attitude, he acknowledges he cries and mourns over the fact that he has a short time to live. He tells Mitch that it is OK to feel those emotions, but that he does not dwell on them. He lets them go. He detaches. 

As for me, it was time to let go as well.

So one evening I honestly shared with my husband all that I had been feeling about his new and improved lifestyle, how it made me feel a bit left out. He listened and readily acknowledged his lack of sensitivity, and I apologized to him for my resentment, and even feelings of jealousy and envy. After that time of talking and forgiveness, I created a different mindset. I became happy and proud of my husband, and I also set about taking time for myself to add more exercise into my schedule and to be more aware of my eating choices. 


It was about this time that Terry went to the doctor about a lump in his side. He thought maybe he had developed a hernia from the workouts at the gym or from his lifting at work. But the doctor said it was no hernia. Then the doctor ordered an x-ray, then a CT scan. Next came an appointment with a nephrologist, then with a surgeon. My husband had a tumor located on his adrenal gland. It was massive, and it needed to be removed soon.

If he had not lost the ten pounds, several more months could have transpired before he found the mass. 

Thank God, he had joined the gym.

(Stay tuned to Traditional Love for the rest of Luann's story.)