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When Saying ‘Yes’ Causes Resentment in Your Relationship

This needs to stop — for both of your sakes.

How many of you have ended up in a relationship where you find yourself furious at your partner, after which resentment keeps bubbling up and boiling over for a good stretch of time? You can go ahead and raise your hand if that’s happened to you. I’m going to raise my hand, too.

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What I’ve found in my work with couples is that this problem most often arises when we answer “Yes” to something we really want to say “No” to. An inauthentic “yes” for the sake of short term peace almost always ends up breeding resentment in the long run.

We’ve all been there, right? We’ve all gotten to that space where we feel like our partner overstepped our boundaries in some way or our partner is somehow not fulfilling their end of an agreement we made based on our expectation that they would also follow-through.

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In other words, there was a boundary you didn’t set up front, and not you are feeling the results of that invisible boundary’s violation over and over and over again.

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So for instance, let’s say my partner comes to me and says, “Hey, I’m really busy at work this week. Can you make sure that you cook dinner for both of us all week?”

If I’m under the impression that this arrangement will last for the one week that they’re going to be really busy and that afterward we’re going back to our more equitable division of labor, then I might say, “Yeah, sure. I can do that for one week,” even if it feels a little bit off-putting or like a bit of a sacrifice.

I might say yes because I’m going under the assumption that I’m saying yes to a short term thing.

But what happens when the following week is super busy too? And the week after that? And the week after that?

I’ve kind of set up this situation where I agreed to cook when they’re busy. Now I feel really shitty because I don’t feel like I can tell them that I want out of it, but I also don’t feel happy about continuing to do it.

How many of you have been in a situation like that?

Negotiation Begins with Honesty

When you’re agreeing to things in relationships, meaning, when you’re negotiating out how things are going to look, make sure that you’re being super honest with yourself and with your partner about what the parameters are for your answer.

Here are some things to be sure you consider together:

  • If you’re saying yes to something, are you saying yes to it forever and always?
  • Are you saying yes to it only under very specific circumstances?
  • What are those circumstances?

Make sure you negotiate this all in advance. If you notice yourself starting to feel resentment, that resentment is your cue that it’s time to talk about something.

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The thing about feelings is people often work under this misconception that there are good feelings and bad feelings. I don’t believe that there are any inherently bad feelings necessarily.

There are feelings that make us uncomfortable. There are feelings that don’t feel good. But all of our feelings give us really useful information.

Resentment tells us that we have moved into a space that crosses past our boundaries, and that we need to figure out what it is that’s happening that’s not working for us and renegotiate.

Look for that resentment and renegotiate.

The best relationship advice I can give you in these situations if to figure out what that cue is for you to renegotiate and make sure that you get back on even terms.

It doesn’t do either of you any good if one of your partners is holding on to resentment. While you may think that talking about it is going to be really hard and make your partner upset, trust me, they’re upset already. Everyone can tell when you’re holding resentment, no matter how well you try to hide it. So make sure that when you feel it, you’re open and you talk about it.

This guest article originally appeared on Why Saying ‘Yes’ Might Actually Be KILLING Your Relationships.

When Saying ‘Yes’ Causes Resentment in Your Relationship

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). When Saying ‘Yes’ Causes Resentment in Your Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 24 Jun 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.