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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

He says: I am being offered a promotion at work

I would really like to take this position but it will involve a great deal of travel.


She says: I don’t want him to be gone all the time.

But I don’t want him to resent me if I’m not enthusiastic.


Resentment can poison a marriage, and there are several possibilities for it here. In addition to him resenting her lack of enthusiasm, it’s also possible she will resent him if he accepts the offer or that he will resent her if, under her pressure, he turns it down. It’s even feasible they will each be resentful because it’s possible to resent someone because they resent you. What to do?

For starters, if you’re not feeling enthusiastic about his offer, that’s fine. Likewise, if her lack of enthusiasm makes you feel resentful, that’s fine, too. Feelings are just feelings. What’s important is not staying stuck at that surface level of feelings but getting to the underlying level of perceptions and expectations. They are what give rise to your feelings. If you can each understand yourselves at that level, then you can have a respectful conversation that leads to a shared solution. Here’s how it could go.

He says he feels enthusiastic because he sees in the offer that his manager appreciates his work. Plus it will mean more income, which he expects will relieve some of their stress. He also feels resentful because he expected her to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom 12:15a), but instead he encountered flatness.

She hears him that this offer indeed does say something very good about him. She apologizes for letting her own anxieties overwhelm her so that she fails to affirm and congratulate him. She then explains that she feels flat about this offer because she expects his being away will mean losing his help at home. She resents that he hasn’t appreciated what this would mean to her. In other words, she expected him to “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15b), but he didn’t.

He apologizes for being so caught up in his own jubilation that he overlooked the negative repercussions for her.

Real-world interactions are more complex and messier, but the principles are the same: Acknowledge and respect one another’s feelings, but don’t be mastered by them. Be open and honest about what’s really going on inside, and then be ready to understand, to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, and to work together toward what’s best for your marriage.

Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.

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