relationships - dating - love - intimacy - health
The way you think about your relationships, the skills and attitudes you bring to them and the time and effort you put in can make all the difference. People are social creatures and relationships matter to us. We enjoy them, we cry over them and we're curious about how to get our relationships to be the way we want them. How well your relationships work can have a big impact on how satisfied you feel with life. Stimulating, resilient, satisfying relationships with partners, friends and family rank high on many people's wish list for a happy life.
COUPLES - 9. Letting Go of Resentment
Holding onto anger, bitterness and resentment, can damage your relationship, your self-esteem and even your health. A relationship psychotherapist looks at the importance of letting go.

Why we get angry
Disagreements and tension are bound to arise when we live with someone. The key to a successful relationship is learning to express our feelings and resolve such conflicts, and most of us develop our own ways of coping with these minor frustrations.

Sometimes, however, overwhelming feelings of anger can consume us. These may be caused by a single major event, such as the discovery of an affair, or can be the result of something that leaves us feeling let down on a regular basis, such as lack of attention.

Causes of anger
Some situations are more likely to leave us struggling with strong feelings of anger than others.

When it's a shock - when a partner does something unexpected it can take a long time for feelings of anger to recede. You may also feel confused and betrayed.

When it's deliberate - it's much easier to let go of anger when the person who caused it never meant it to happen in the first place. If it was done deliberately or maliciously it's much harder to forgive.

When it's happened before - if someone repeatedly hurts or frustrates us, anger often builds up. You may also feel powerless and exhausted.

When we're vulnerable - at certain times in our lives, during pregnancy or illness for example, we expect more of our partners and can feel particularly let down by them.

When it brings back memories - if we've been hurt in the past, we're more likely to react badly to a similar event later in life. Often the old hurt is reignited, doubling the amount of anger.

When they're not sorry - if a partner refuses to accept they were responsible for the hurt or that you've even got a right to feel aggrieved, it can be difficult to let go of such feelings.

The impact on a relationship
Ongoing anger causes serious damage to relationships. For some couples it can mean almost daily arguments; others are better at suppressing the anger, but this nearly always means other feelings are suppressed too. If discussing the problem seems too difficult, but talking about something else seems too trivial, conversation can cease completely.

Unresolved anger often leads to physical distance and sexual problems. For some couples, the event that caused the anger might become less important, but the rift it caused may be impossible to bridge.

The impact on our health
When we get angry, our bodies automatically go into 'flight or fight' mode and are flooded with chemicals that put us on high alert. The heart rate and breathing quickens, muscles become tense and senses become heightened.

This state of high alert is perfectly natural - but only for short periods. Living with permanent feelings of anger means the body is forced to stay in this acute state, which in time can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, stomach problems and a lowered immune system.

The impact on our emotions
When we're angry about someone's actions, we can become trapped in the past, replaying the event or events over and over again in our minds.

They may also imagine or even seek out opportunities for revenge. This can help to increase feelings of power and control in a relationship, but offers only temporary relief.

Anger can damage self-esteem too. Many of us are taught that anger is wrong, so you may feel bad about your feelings, even if they're justified. Or you may try to excuse the other person's actions and decide that you in some way deserved what happened. When anger is turned inwards in this way it often leads to depression.

Learning to let go
Choosing to let go of anger is something only you can do for yourself, not for your partner. It's never a guarantee that the relationship will improve, but it's a guarantee that - in time - you'll start feeling better.

It's important to remind yourself that you're not necessarily letting your partner off the hook or forgetting what happened. You're letting go of the anger for your benefit, no one else's.

Once the process has started, you may feel clearer about what you want to do about your relationship. You may have renewed energy to work at it, or you might decide that too much has happened and it's time to call it a day.

No one's pretending that letting go of anger is quick or easy, but as you gradually feel the resentment slipping away you'll find it easier to enjoy other aspects of your life and begin to see the future in a new light.