You love them, but you never expected to be quarantined together for over six months. Admittedly, this is a unique time, and there’s no handbook or applicable history to tell us how to navigate it.
People are more on-edge than usual, and emotions are running high, making it even more difficult to get along. On top of that, we’ve fallen into de-facto “pandemic pods,” leading us to over-rely on a select few people. Unfortunately, over-reliance can often lead to resentment.
So, what do you do when you start to resent the people around you?
First, it’s important to understand the signs of resentment and what to do if you find yourself experiencing resentment. Next, it’s crucial to start understanding the patterns that led you to resentment or over-reliance.
Then, you can start to break free and establish healthier patterns within your COVID pod. Round-the-clock exposure to each other does not have to breed resentment.
Signs of resentment
Sometimes, people act on resentment without fully understanding that they are, in fact, experiencing resentment. That’s common, but resentment left alone may lead to burnt bridges.
Here are some signs that you may resent someone around you:
- Getting frustrated or thinking: “Not again…”
- Feeling like one person is taking you away from other friends, family members, or endeavors
- Anger or hostility toward the person (or people!)
- Feeling irate over minor flaws in someone that you wouldn’t usually notice; or getting annoyed by small things that wouldn’t usually bother you
You may ruminate on the situation or situations that made you resent the person. If you resent someone, you may have a codependent dynamic, or they may have crossed your boundaries. Perhaps, you struggle to set boundaries in the first place, and that’s what led to the resentment.
Understanding of codependency, interdependency, and self-reliance is crucial to navigating over-reliance and the resentment it can cause.
What is codependency?
Codependency is an unhealthy reliance on or over-enmeshment with another person. Often, it pairs with enablement of some kind. Enablement doesn’t always occur in conjunction with the way that we think of the term classically; enablement or enabling behavior doesn’t always surround substance use disorder or similar concerns. It can also include letting someone rely on you for approval, emotion, self-esteem, identity, or decisions. If you feel like someone’s over-reliant on you to the extent that it drains you (or vice versa), you’re likely experiencing codependency.
What if I might be codependent?
If you’re the one who’s relying on someone else past the point that it’s healthy, you might experience anxiety about getting your needs met by the person you rely on, or you might experience a low mood when the person’s unable to provide.
A healthy relationship has give and take, sometimes a great deal of it, but all people involved are able to maintain their sense of identity and self-reliance. Codependency robs you of those things to a degree, which is why it is unhealthy.
You want to feel good about yourself and know that you can self-regulate your feelings, choices, actions, and confidence. That’s why it’s important to be able to recognize and work through codependency.
What is self-reliance?
No one can rely on themselves all the time, but self-reliance is when you have the capability to rely on yourself to get your needs met and utilize that capability. It is a fundamental and crucial skill for anyone to develop to avoid codependency and to be able to develop healthy interdependent (not codependent) relationships.
If you are self-reliant, and no one is there to respond or people are busy, you can get yourself through. You can take it upon yourself to find someone who can talk, whether it’s a volunteer, another friend, a chatroom, or a mental health professional.
The bottom line when it comes to self-reliance is that you don’t have a constant expectancy of a specific person to meet your needs and know that you can meet your own or reach out to another person on your own if that person isn’t there.
The balance between self reliance and codependency
It is a highly nuanced topic because social support is a crucial part of our emotional and physical well-being, but over-relying on one individual or being codependent toward friends, family members, or partners can grow extremely unhealthy both for you and the other person. It can lead to resentment, over-enmeshment, or lack of belief in your ability to help yourself, and no one wants to feel helpless.
Self-reliance is not isolation or keeping things to yourself in a way that’s unhealthy; it is confidence, the ability to establish your own sense of self, and the ability to determine your own emotions or actions. If your relationship with your pandemic pod balances self-reliance and interdependence, your relationships will allow you to:
- Determine your own emotions (instead of relying on the other person as your primary source of happiness or validation)
- Do what’s best for you and make your own decisions
- Feel comfortable spending time apart, without fear, or antsy indecision
- Set and keep healthy boundaries
- Maintain a strong sense of self
To visualize codependency or over-enmeshment, imagine two people glued together, both feeling each other’s feelings, unable to meet their own needs. On the other hand, interdependence or self-reliance looks like two people understanding and supporting one another as individual beings–without fusing into one.
8 steps to resolve resentment in close quarters
During COVID, resentment within the pod is likely just due to forced over-reliance. We can’t go out much, so we have to ask a smaller group of people to help us meet our pandemic-amplified needs.
1. Cool off
One of the best ways to resolve resentment, particularly if it is related to being a little bit too interconnected, is to spend some time apart. Now, this might be hard in the time of the coronavirus, but with some creativity, it is possible.
2. Consider the specifics
Think of when, how, and where you tend to clash with the person that you resent. Do you resent not having enough alone time? Do you resent an expectancy for you to do more than you can for this person?
3. Set boundaries
This is an excellent opportunity for boundary setting, compromise, and communication. For example, if a COVID pod member expects you to take complete responsibility for a chore or favor, you might realize there’s an unequal give and take. Even if you’ve been accepting it for months, you still have a right to set a boundary.
When you decide you’ve had enough, you can say something like: “I am so sorry, I’m not able to do that this week. I’m struggling with my mental health and need some time to focus on it. Can we make a deal where we take turns completing this chore every other week?”
Within COVID pods, you can also set similar boundaries for those who lean on you emotionally. In many relationships, one person relies on the other disproportionately, which can easily breed resentment. It can feel especially unfair when this happens outside of crisis situations, due to a relationship pattern that may have been established over time.
4. Avoid pouring from an empty cup
Supporting people in your life is excellent, and many of us are incredibly empathetic people who love being there for others, but the truth is that sometimes, you won’t have the bandwidth. It’s like the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”
As hard as it is to set boundaries at times, especially when you are someone’s go-to person, there are ways to navigate this situation while making sure that your friend gets what they need. That way, you can be sure that they’re okay even when you are struggling too much or are otherwise unable to be there.
5. Make room for pre-emptive alone time
If your resentment is due to the fact that you need more alone time in general and isn’t necessarily that someone’s asking you for something, make that alone time a priority. Take a walk or retreat to your own space, even if it is just your desk or your room.
Do something for yourself that is unique to you; something that feels like “you time.” This doesn’t need to be grandiose. Small pieces of joy can go a long way. For example, you can put your earbuds in and listen to a podcast you like. It’s free, and you can drown out the world around you. That time is yours.
6. Don’t neglect your needs in helping others
There are always cases where people have someone that’s dependent on them, whether that’s a child or someone else in their life. In that case, it’s best to let yourself feel your feelings, stick to your responsibilities, but still take that time for yourself. Being a guardian or caregiver doesn’t mean that you can’t take time for you.
7. Let it out
Sometimes, to deal with resentment (or even the painful emotions that come along with recognizing codependency), the best thing to do is to let it out.
Crying is a very healthy thing to do. It helps you to avoid internalizing or bottling up your feelings, both of which actually have negative health consequences. Some healthy ways of emotional release that might help you let what you’re feeling out are crying, asking a friend if you can call or FaceTime them, journaling, blogging, and going for a brisk walk outside.
All of us are going through a difficult time right now, and if world events, resentment, or being around the same people all of the time is getting to you, have compassion for yourself, and allow yourself to express and acknowledge your feelings. Experiencing a high level of stress is fully understandable, and you certainly aren’t alone.
8. Find outside support
Finding outside support is a great way to cope, whether you’re struggling with codependency or you just want to talk to someone new. If you find that you vent to the same person daily, it might be helpful to diversify who you vent to. Don’t go to the same family member or friend every time. This way, you avoid over-reliance and get to hear new opinions, if applicable.
To ask someone for help, you can simply say, “do you have time for me to vent right now?” Another thing you can do to get outside support is to use services like Supportiv where you can talk to someone 24 hours a day every day – whenever you need it. That way, you’re talking to someone objective, and while it’s not a replacement for therapy or counseling, it can be extremely helpful to talk to someone outside of your situation.
If you find that you need a higher level of support or frequent support, it’s a good idea to look for a counselor or therapist. Many counselors and therapists have switched to remote sessions or are offering them as an option as a result of COVID-19. To find a counselor, check with your insurance company, ask for a referral, or search the internet. Whether you seek peer support, support from volunteers, help from a counselor, or all three, take pride in yourself for getting through this difficult time.