Breaking the cycle of resentment in an abusive relationship

I am a lesbian in a committed relationship. We have been together for almost 16 years.

We have had many ups and downs but I feel I am holding resentment that I just can't shake and I fear it is going to destroy our relationship.

She has been dealing with issues related to physical and emotional abuse mainly from her father since childhood. The physical abuse ended in her 20s. Since then, her father has "mellowed" somewhat and she has worked to try to forgive him. He is an alcoholic so her wounds get reopened quite frequently.

She tries to deal with the repercussions of reopened wounds but because I'm the one that lives with her, I feel I get the brunt of her anger. She has a VERY short fuse. When I enter the room, I never know what is waiting for me. She has angry outbursts, is distrustful and she is overly stressed a lot of the time.

Of course there are times when she is very loving, calm, funny, generous, fun, outgoing...etc. This is her core. This is who I fell in love with. I know this core is always there. but she has build this protective shell around her. When it is up, anyone who touches it (good or bad) will be "zapped". The problem is, lately, this shell has been up more often than not.

My problem is, I keep getting hurt. She speaks to me with such a harsh tone a lot of the time. This tone comes out when she is overwhelmed inside. I must admit, I am overly sensitive. These harsh words get under my skin and I resent her for it. I try to forgive but she re-offends before I am able to fully forgive her so I feel I have layers of resentment.

This is a vicious cycle. We have discussed this many times. I told her how I feel. I know she is trying to stop. I can see that she is making an effort. She is not as aggressive as she used to be but I am SO resentful still.


Ben's Answer:

The problem here has more to do with her than with you. You're asking how you can break the cycle of your resentment, yet you are being treated abusively, over and over again. It's very hard to let go of past hurts, when you're being hurt all over again in the present.

As important as it is to have empathy and compassion for her struggles around her own childhood abuse, it doesn't serve you or her to allow yourself to be subjected to continued abuse. It builds more resentment and hurt for you, and it will build guilt, and shame for your girlfriend, as I'm sure she doesn't feel good about the way she keeps treating you.

It clearly sounds like she has Post Traumatic Stress from her abuse (PTSD). Until she really heals those past traumas, she will continue to feel powerless against her rage and her stress when things build up, or she becomes overwhelmed.

I highly recommend Meridian Tapping/EFT as one of the absolute best methods of healing trauma - and in a fraction of the time that other therapies take. You can learn to use it on your own, or see a therapist or coach who is trained in EFT/Meridian Tapping. You can find more info about it on this site. I will also have a 75 page eBook on "Meridian Tapping for Depression" available next week.

Meridian Tapping would be good for you too, to help overcome your own trauma and resentment about all the times you've been treated badly by your girlfriend. But unless she's sincerely working out her issues, you may have an uphill battle.

You could also try meditating together as a daily routine as a way to create a different emotional tone in the relationship and de-stress on a regular basis. My guided meditation for depression , anxiety and stress would be a good place to start.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist and Coach

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