Aesthetic Realism & Resentment in Marriage

Reprinted from the San Antonio Register
San Antonio, Texas
October  19, 2000

Photo of Barbara Allen, Aesthetic Realism consultant

Part 1 

One of the most pernicious emotions in marriage is that of resentment. Along with wanting to care for each other, wives and husbands have also gathered complaints, angers, slights and have felt, sometimes, agonizingly, "What happened to us? Why are we so angry with each other? Where are the tender feelings we once had? Why don't we talk anymore?" 
Women came to a recent Aesthetic Realism and Marriage class from throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to speak about this subject, and to learn about the cause of resentment in marriage, so that it can change and not be the debilitating thing it so often is. 

Eli Siegel, in his lecture The Furious Aesthetics of Marriage, describes how a husband can look at his wife and think, "[Dear], you worry more about me than anybody else in the world, perhaps more than my immediate family; but at the same time, your ways, with all their devotion, are not a means of my coming to authentic terms with the world." 

Devotion is not enough, praise is not enough. What is needed, we have learned, is a deep, critical, kind desire to know another person--to want him to know you, and together to try to come "to authentic terms with the world" which includes caring for other people, and what they deserve. 

Resentment Is a Subject

"We are so glad to be able to tell you," we said to the class, "that because of Aesthetic Realism, and the understanding of the self of every person which Eli Siegel came to--resentment is a subject! It can be studied like any other subject." "To resent a thing," writes Mr. Siegel in Self and World, "because it is strictly ugly, hurtful, unjust, will not make for nervousness." But most often resentment comes from a feeling that we have been hurt, he continues, "Somebody has won a point over us. If we could we would make things even or get revenge. While we can't, we resent." 

In the over 28 years There Are Wives has had the honor to teach what we know to be the kindest, most needed, most respectful and useful way of seeing marriage, we have seen hundreds of marriages become kinder, more passionate, more honest, including our own, and we feel intensely this education should be general knowledge throughout America. 

We are very proud that there is a fundamental difference between the approach of Aesthetic Realism and what is said elsewhere. We told the class: "Rather than say as many panel shows today would--'Yes, you're misseen; look at men, they're all no good'--we will be asking: 'Ladies, is there something in us that is against our very lives: that prefers resentment to being pleased, that gets a satisfaction feeling that we are more sensitive, superior, and even that we are wrong caring for the man we married and that we should care only for ourselves?'" 

At this point, we asked the women present to state resentments they have had so that we could look at them. Very shortly we had a list of 21! These are a representative number: 

    1. He doesn't pay enough attention to me.   

    2. He says he is going to do something and he doesn't do it.   

    3. He is not sensitive enough or thoughtful enough in the way I should be thought of.   

    4. He doesn't care as much about our home as I do.   

    5. Forgetting my known likes. I've said I like something consistently and he forgets it.   

    6. He doesn't talk and doesn't want to.   

    7. There is a double standard--if he wants to buy something it's fine, but if I do, there has to be a  discussion.   

    8. When we were dating he would buy me more things. And he was nicer then.   

    9. He takes things personally--if I'm upset about something else, instead of trying to understand, he'll get hurt.   

    10. He values his mother's opinion more than mine!  

    11. He  assumes that I don't know certain things.   

    12. Selfishness--he is more interested in his projects and mine are secondary.

"So," we asked, "what does one do with these resentments? They're here." At this point I told the class that I was tremendously fortunate to have had an Aesthetic Realism lesson at the time of my first marriage and Mr. Siegel spoke to me about the crucial choice both my husband and I had. He said: 
Usually a man, as married life goes on, and a woman too, gets to some enmity towards a person he's close to....The thing then is: what do we hope for as to the enmity? To hope that enmity goes on is ill will; it's also contempt.
And he continued: 
This is the thing: Aesthetic Realism says ill will on any of the twenty subjects that matter to human beings is a mistake. Criticism, which is not ill will, should take the place of ill will.
This and other discussions enabled me to question myself and I am tremendously grateful that thinking about this has made possible a marriage now with my husband Arnold Perey which I feel is so much kinder and deeper than ever could have been. I love my husband for his criticism of me, and for the fact that he wants mine. 

I know from deep experience we need to ask about any resentment we have: 1) Is it exact? and 2) If there is something we object to in another person, does it have to fester or can it become useful, change into criticism which is kind, so that we can respect our husbands and both of us can be stronger, closer, fairer to the whole world? 

When a woman gathers resentments, triumphantly polishes and cherishes them like filthy jewels--her purpose, Aesthetic Realism makes very clear, is to have contempt, to justify having a case against her husband, and the whole world he represents. 

Copyright © 2000-2015 Barbara Allen, Aesthetic Realism Consultant