Resentment in the Time of Quarantine

There’s more to do (now that there’s nothing to do) than you ever imagined possible. I mean, you’ve always worn many hats – chauffeur, nurse, banker, conflict mediator, housekeeper, chef, chief acquisitions officer, etc. But now – you’re also Chief Entertainment Officer, Head Teacher and PE Teacher, Social Director, School Counselor, Physical Connector (hugger), study-buddy, surrogate best friend, and more. Your plate is over-flowing!

So, I want to ask you something, based on what I’ve been hearing from many of my clients in recent weeks:

Are you feeling resentful?

It would make sense if you do feel some resentment right now. After all, while everyone is going through this quarantine to different degrees, it doesn’t feel fair to any of us! But resentment isn’t just the feeling of being treated unfairly; it’s caused by a sense that you’ve been wronged by another person.

But – and bear with me here – what if the resentment is actually coming from you?

Another person doesn’t actually cause your resentment. When they don’t put away the dishes, or the shoes, or help the kids with school, they may very well be inconsiderate, or distracted, or overwhelmed, or whatever is causing or preventing their behaviors.

But the resentment? It’s all yours. More than likely they’re not ‘doing it’ to tick you off. But your interpretation of it is making you suffer with resentment.

Angie had a rough Mother’s Day this year. It’s not that she didn’t receive any acknowledgment, but she didn’t get it in the way that she wanted it, and since she was already resentful about a number of other things, it snowballed. She was hurt by the very people she loves the most, who had actually tried to celebrate her for Mother’s Day, though she hadn’t been able to receive it.

Sometimes, we create our own scenarios for resentment. We leave the shoes on the stairs and tell ourselves that they know we want them to move them, and if they loved us, they would. We announce loudly that we’re putting the dishes away again, hoping a little guilt will propel them to at least get up and help. But here’s the thing. They truly haven’t noticed the shoes on the stairs for the last week, and your announcement doesn’t exactly inspire them to want to get up and help.

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Is there a remedy for resentment?

Yes, actually. And it starts with you.

As my husband wrote in Parenting Together: Getting on the Same Page, "When one parent feels like s/he is doing it alone, resentment builds. Communication grinds to a halt. Marriages – or any co-parenting relationship – crumble because of what is unspoken, rather than because of what is spoken." In other words, if you’re noticing that you’re starting to feel resentment, it’s up to you to do something about it.

Instead of setting up ‘tests’ to see if family members love you enough to be helpful, or trying to prod them to action with guilt or shame – and remember, you’re not alone in doing these things, so no self-judgment allowed here – try this:

Three Steps to Curb Resentment

  1. Think about what you really want. Identify the things that are contributing to your resentment. (And remember: it’s your resentment). Make the list as long as you need to ‘get it all out.’
  2. Then, Take Aim on one thing that would lighten your load for starters.
  3. Think about how you might ask for what you want in a respectful way. Communicating from a place of love for yourself and your family member, use the A.C.E. Method to keep others from getting defensive (Acknowledgment + Compassion before you make your request).

Feeling resentment in the time of quarantine? You are NOT alone. Truly, if you want to wallow in a little self-pity for a day or two, that’s fine – this situation stinks. Though I’d encourage you to try not to take it out on anyone else, because the feelings are coming from you.

Then, when you’re ready for things to change, follow the three steps above. You might have to Take Aim on a few things over the course of a few days before your load starts to lighten. But truth be told, in all likelihood it will only take one gesture for your feelings to shift.

The Wednesday after Mother’s Day, Angie and I had a coaching conversation about resentment, and she resolved to try the steps above. Within hours, her daughter made her a Lego house that said “MOM” (pictured above!). To Angie, it said “thanks,” and that’s all she really needed.

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