Email Questions: Resentment, Postpartum Depression, & Happiness?

I received an email from a reader after writing the post containing my short notes on Sofia Tolstoy and her diary, expressing her conviction she felt when reading how she acted.

I read your post in my email the other day and felt like you were a fly on our wall.  I don’t want to feel angry at my husband for the little things in life, or be in what you called, “chronic unhappiness.”  You hit the nail on the head when you talked about someone wanting to play the victim.  I think part of why I feel so much resentment toward everyone in our house is because it’s harder to choose joy when things aren’t going as planned.  It feels good to complain and get sympathy, even though I don’t want to complain about my husband.  I think it can be an addiction because they give you attention if you have something to complain about, which then makes you feel good and you repeat the cycle.

It’s gotten to the point where he doesn’t even want to hear my complaints anymore, and we fight more than ever.  I’m always the killjoy, and I end up going into a rage at our kids.  

I know I’m hurting our family, but how can I stop this?  How can I be more joyful?

I already emailed back asking questions and such, but I thought this was a good starting point for a public discussion since maybe other women thought the same way but didn’t want to write in.  I think… and this really is just my opinion based on what has worked for me in my own life… that the real answer to this would be twofold: humility and gratitude.  I know that sounds so simple, but it is just profoundly true in almost every case.  Even if everything and nothing is working out, one can always choose to be grateful for something positive.

If your husband is basically a good man, a hard worker, etc. why not just choose to be grateful for each and every good thing in your life?  In other words, why allow yourself to dwell on resentful feelings?  Even if he tends toward being angry and grouchy (I’ve seen couples like this), you can still find your own happiness and joy in life that can positively affect your children.  Dennis Prager loves to say that unhappy people often find a happy person to latch themselves on to, and then they make them pretty miserable.  It’s best for happy people to marry other happy people, but because people are human and make BIG mistakes, that doesn’t always happen.  And unhappy people are usually smart enough not to marry another unhappy person lol.

I married another generally happy person, he’s easy to please and has the best demeanor I could have asked for.  Certain situations can make him more broody or annoyed, especially when tired or if our kids are really acting up, but personally I love he has an edge or, “dark,” side… it makes for more flirtation ❤

But if you married a man who is chronically unhappy, we’re not in the day and age where couples were kept carefully away from each other due to purity preservation, so there’s a big chance you saw the red flags but pursued them anyway.  Own your choice and try to make the best of it, knowing it may be harder.  I’m not saying it sounds easy, it looks like the cross someone may have to bear for life, but hopefully this helps with the question of, “well, what if my spouse just isn’t a happy person?”  To a large degree, you can still control your own happiness, something Stingray always brought up at her blog.

I bring this up because the reader pointed out that Leo Tolstoy sounded like a hard man to live with as an excuse to why Sofia was so crazy.  I don’t know what came first, the chicken or the egg!  Was he difficult because she was so awful to him from the get-go?  Would he not have been kinder to a more pleasant and simply happier wife?  Remember, he came to her open-hearted, with love and humility in wanting her to accept him as he was, sins and all, and then she chose to use his sexual past as a perpetual stick to beat him with!  I’ve seen men like that, who started out happy, and are happy around everyone else, but when around their wives they turn bitter, angry and hurtful in their comments… and the horrible thing is that those women often brought all that on themselves starting from very early on in their marriage.  It really is a thing, that you can destroy your husband’s love for you.

Sooner or later,

everyone will sit down to a banquet

of their own consequences.

***

And I should say that it’s important to understand feeling negative emotions is ok – it’s natural and normal and you can say to yourself, “Ok, I feel hurt/angry/upset/resentful/envious, but then work through those feelings and get to the bottom of why you’re feeling a certain way.  Ultimately, I believe one works through those feelings with God healing them over time, I don’t think there are any, “quick fixes,” to heart issues that have invaded one’s character to become who they are now.  And that’s what I think happens… negative emotions CAN become addicting, and if you continually give in to them, let them have their way dictating how you behave, then you allow them to shape your character.

Why Humility?

Because when you’re humble, you’re more gracious and understand no one deserves anything in life ❤ everything is a gift, and when you see things that way, everything about you changes.

Resentment can easily happen when a wife starts to feel self-righteous and more Christian in comparison with her husband.  It’s ironic because resentment toward someone else only shows that we have a problem in our *own* hearts, and really has very little to do with our husband.  In other words, resentment is the first sign that we’re NOT doing well spiritually, that we have a problem that only we can address.  But the only way someone will admit this to themselves is if they have humility.  Humility takes the focus off of the other person, and places it on what we can do to make things better, because it forces us to look at ourselves realistically, resentment included.

Sofia Tolstoy, for all her claiming she was a self-sacrificing Christian, didn’t have the humility to admit she was spiritually messed up!  Humility accepts a person’s imperfections or, “humanness,” as I’d call it – it allows a person to be grouchy or make mistakes and can handle it in a loving way.  And yes I’ve walked this walk, so I know it can be done 🙂 .  I’ve also failed at it with other people because I’m human.  Approaching your marriage with humility does a lot in the way of receiving back kindness and love in thanks for your being gracious and loving toward your husband.

This kind of self-righteousness stemming from resentment is especially true in women who play the martyr of the family, though.  The reader was right that it does feel good in a way to have people pity you, or pay attention to you when you are sick/ill/depressed, etc.  Wanting a pity party can be a daily or weekly addiction though.  There are some women out there who live for when they’re sick, because they like the attention it brings from their husband or children – that isn’t healthy!  It’s probably a mental illness to seek out being a victim just to receive attention.

However, if you have real grief over something valid, having what looks like a pity party where friends or family listen to you and support you through your grief is totally normal.  I know there are people out there who like to claim women like me don’t allow women to feel negative emotions or grieve properly, etc. but I’ve never advised that.  What I do promote is women doing what I do, and taking responsibility for their own health and happiness in life, and not staying in a victim mentality or depressive state.  Simply because you won’t heal that way, and no one wins.

I don’t believe depression is sinful or anything like that, but allowing yourself to stay there, especially for months (or decades in Sofia Tolstoy’s case), starts to become a choice, and actions (choosing not to get help for the sake of at least your children) have consequences you may not intend.  The reader also asked if I’ve ever felt like this, or felt depressed for long periods of time, and yes, I definitely have unfortunately experienced scary level depression a couple of times.

The one I’ll focus on just because it makes more sense with motherhood and being a wife and such, was when we had our firstborn.  It was a scary situation with our son coming a month early due to the work-related stress we were under.  We worked together for an apartment complex and our boss was very clear she wanted a different couple, which was totally her choice, but it left us feeling VERY worried we’d lose our job and apartment since the job came with a free apartment.  We were young so I admit this wasn’t the best or wisest set up – we should have stepped down when we realized she wanted a couple with more time.  But instead we stayed and just tried harder, going far above and beyond to try to keep her happy, something that wasn’t possible lol, and this, at least, is what my doctor believed may have caused my amniotic sac to start leaking fluid into my body.  It took a few days in the hospital for the doctors to figure out what was wrong and to start and stop induction, and it finally culminated in an emergency c-section.  It was a stressful time, and our son stayed in NICU for a short week, but even with all that, I felt positive and was settling in to motherhood as best I could.

A couple of months after I had our son, one of my husband’s relatives began harassing him through angry text messages for hours upon hours on one of his off-days when we were out spending time together with the baby.  It was about something minuscule and out of the blue, but it felt like a deluge of rage and anger poured out on us and we couldn’t believe it was happening.  We weren’t even getting any sleep at night, and we were about to start a full schedule of college again, and still working for our demanding boss (there was no maternity break), so to say we were even more stressed to be on the receiving end of her angry tirades all day is an understatement.  Looking back in hindsight, I see us being so naive and young, in our early twenties, and can’t believe a woman who was almost 50 was allowing herself to harass us for hours on end when we had a newborn to take care of.

It’s interesting how negative emotions are contagious, even though my husband was forced to set boundaries with his relative, it still affected both of us for awhile… and for me, knowing this relative had played the victim to the rest of his family and gotten more relatives angry at us for my husband setting boundaries with her, I think caused me to slip into what became postpartum depression.

Why Gratitude?

The postpartum depression was unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life.  And thank God, I’ve never experienced it with any of our other babies, which leads me to believe this one extremely hurtful and emotional event probably caused it somehow.  I’m a naturally optimistic and happy person, but it was the worst timing to be harassed for hours a day with angry, hurtful words when my hormones were still very out of whack.  The depression lasted for months and was overwhelming and very very dark.  It felt as if the sky was always, “gray,” so to speak.  The only thing, and I mean the ONLY thing that caused me to snap out of it was my husband confronting me when I was in a super negative self-pity mode (months later).  Somewhere in that timeframe, I had become settled into depression and complaining and only focusing on the bad things in the not so distant past… all the time.  He finally had enough, and was able to make me, “see,” and acknowledge all the good things that were still happening, and how even in a horrible situation, God took such great care with us and provided for us continually.  And it was true!!!  We ended up losing our apartment job (and our apartment), which was inevitable, and having to move with an infant, having to drop several college classes even though it was my last semester before graduating, which meant I’d have to postpone graduation (this felt like such a big deal at the time lol), and was too much for me psychologically.  I would go into this, “Woe is me,” drama when we were already well past it, and it thankfully came to a point where he just wouldn’t have it.

Everything was so bleak in my depressive state, I couldn’t see ANY goodness that had already come out of it, or God’s hand in it until my husband got me to stop wallowing in self-pity and to open my eyes.  And once he did open my eyes to all the goodness I wasn’t seeing, I was able to see that through it all, everything had worked out perfectly.  We were able to afford an apartment that was a two-story town-home with more room for the new baby, and closer to my husband’s job and to our school!  It felt like a beautiful little house and suddenly, after being snapped out of the self-pity mode, I enjoyed decorating it with our pictures.  We no longer worked for a woman who was so hard to please and who constantly held the threat of firing us over our heads 😀 and dropping some of the courses allowed me more time to bond with our baby.  It was almost as though we needed to go through those trials so that we could come to a place of peace and rest.

Gratitude was the cure, as well as being forced to admit I was acting ridiculous by still focusing on the terrible things lonnnng after they’d passed and God had already delivered us.  I wouldn’t have come to that place without him confronting and correcting my attitude of resentment and depression toward all that had happened.

Being consciously grateful for how God got us through those trials, how He was able to keep our marriage strong and together, gave me inspiration to live with happiness and joy.  I knew what it was like to feel depressed and anxious and not see anything good, and choosing to be thankful felt a million times more healthy and beneficial to everyone in our house!  Just being a thankful person makes one a joyful person… it’s mysterious in that way.

So to wrap this response up, I believe that no matter our circumstances, when we are Christian we are able to overcome things like depression, anxiety, loss of purpose, or resentment.

If you’re ever tempted to complain about your husband, when you know he’s really a great man and good father, try checking if your heart is coming from a place of humility first, and then gratitude for everything that IS going right.  I believe it will make a world of difference for you.

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Parenting… How Should Parents Deal with Adult Children

in-laws

I love listening to the musings and wisdom of Dennis Prager (Jewish talk-show host, columnist, and public speaker), especially his “Happy Hour” on Fridays where his topics focus on happiness & how to live a happy life.  Nothing else I’ve ever heard ever breaches this topic of realistic attitudes and actions that contribute overall to a person’s own happiness.

So this last Friday, the topic was on being a parent to adult children – how should you act towards or with them in order to have happiness in your relationship with them?

 

Let me start out by saying my own thoughts in how, to me, parenting is never really “done.”  You don’t just drop them once the child turns 18… a good parent that has worked to have a good relationship with their child, will cross over into the realm of trusted friend and advisor.  Obviously, this is something that a “bad” parent doesn’t have the privilege of, since they often did not deliberately work to build a good relationship with their child over the course of them being in their own house and under their rules; they are then often not someone whom that child turns to later on for advice and support.

I don’t ever plan on being out of my sons’ lives, even when they are adults.  I want to be there alongside them, having a good relationship, helping if I can in any way with their own children.  Therefore establishing a good relationship with them right now, in childhood, is among one of the most important tasks for me.

Prager started off by saying that parents, once their children are adults, should focus on being easy to deal with for their adult children.

When their kids are young, of course having rules and expectations are expected in order to produce healthy, productive members of society; however, once they are adults and living on their own, the job of the parent is to back off and avoid being “difficult.”

You want to be a “joy” to your adult children & their spouses (or family), you want to bring them joy in having a relationship with them – the last thing you would want to do is be someone they dread spending time with.  One would think this would be common sense, or easy to do for parents – but I suppose for many, it is FAR from easy….  When I was looking for an image on Google to go with this post, nearly everything I saw was inappropriate in-law humor and in-law bashing.

Clearly, relationships with one’s parents once you are an adult are not typically what anyone would describe as “easy.”

He mentioned that unsolicited advice is 95% of the time not going to be welcome… so as a parent of adult children, you should probably keep a lot of your opinions and well-meaning advice to yourself.  I’m not kidding… it sounds harsh, but really, if they aren’t asking you directly for your opinion on their life decisions, they probably don’t want to hear it.

My husband and I have many many examples of times when we had received very unsolicited advice from family members.  One in particular, really wasn’t so bad, and yet gives a perfect example of crossing a boundary in the relationship.  When we were about 7 or 8 months pregnant with our first son (now 4), one of my husband’s aunts decided to send an email to us telling us to get rid of our 2 cats… cats we had raised since we rescued their litter of 5 just the summer before.  We bottle-fed these cats, spent money taking them to vets for their shots, and greatly enjoyed them as almost part of our family.  She told us that we were choosing our cats over our baby, implied that we were selfish and irresponsible, and kept on pushing us in the email to get rid of them before the baby came.  She was not the only family member to bother us about having cats (there were a few others on my husband’s side), which led us to think that this was some kind of serious discussion among my husband’s family… whether or not we should have cats!

That was just a very minor interjection of unsolicited advice, one of many we received through either by email or relationship interaction, and yet it still was not something “pleasant” to see, if you caught what I said before, it was a “bother.”  She put us in the unwanted situation to have to defend our decision – no matter what we said, we were not going to be able to convince her that it was going to be ok if we kept our cats.  Fast forward 4 years, our son absolutely loves his cats – and they, especially our male cat, love him.  The male cat is so bonded to him that he actually follows our son everywhere he goes.  My son calls him his “baby.”

The point is to be easy on your adult children – to try to not be someone “difficult” to contend with – in order to have happiness in your life and in your relationship together as adults.

So why isn’t it easy to just be “easy?”  I think its just human nature to want to interject, intervene, or “help out” even when that help is expressly not wanted or even sometimes “needed.”  The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  We heard many times that certain things said or done were done in “good faith,” and only because the person involved wanted to be helpful, in which, we’ve had to explain: it is not “helpful” anymore if we don’t actually think it is, or if it is hindering the relationship.

This takes a certain amount of respect that the parent needs to have for their adult children… they have to respect that, as an adult, they can decide what is “helpful” to them or not.  When they are a child in your house, there are times when you do need to help them by setting boundaries, disciplining, etc. but once they are adults, there is no longer this need or parental responsibility for forced “helping” them in their adult decisions and adult life.

In order to do this, to be someone that brings “joy” to your adult children’s lives, one needs to be conscientious.  As a parent, you need to think about how your adult child is going to feel if you say this or do that… you need to be conscious of their feelings.  This also goes for a daughter-in-law or son-in-law… the goal should be to be a “joy” to them.  Joy is a powerful word… it means to be a delight, to bring immense pleasure and happiness to, glee, euphoria, bliss even.  You don’t want to be a pain or “bug them” about things, unless you don’t want happiness in your relationship.

 

I also need to add that parents of adult children shouldn’t be enablers – being “easy” does not coincide with being run-over or a doormat.  You shouldn’t be helping them pay bills, or giving them expensive gifts, or paying for vacations – all things that tend to give you a feeling that you may have a right to interject into their life decisions.  These are unhealthy practices and blur the lines of having a good, happy relationship.

Life is already full of hardship, crises, and difficulties… so why make it harder than it needs to be?  Decide to be easy parents to your adult children.  Decide to be careful in what comes out of your mouth, decide to be conscientious.