Resentment In Relationships: Signs, Causes, And Tips To Deal

Learn what resentment looks like so you can heal the relationship and grow stronger together.

Reviewed by Dr Nancy B Irwin, PsyD Dr Nancy B Irwin Dr Nancy B IrwinPsyD facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , MA (English Literature) Madhumati Chowdhury MA (English Literature) linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , MA Gracia Odile MA linkedin_icon Experience: 3 years
Last Updated on

Resentment in relationships is a recipe for disaster. It is poisonous to any relationship as it usually stems from unresolved anger and develops as snarky statements, emotional retreat, and disagreements over trivial things. It may even end up destroying the relationship. Resentment can be sparked by a variety of reasons. Read this to understand the causes of resentment and how to keep it from destroying your relationship.

What Is Resentment In A Relationship?

Couple angry with each other
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Resentment in a relationship is when one person feels constantly angry at their partner because they think they are being treated unfairly. It happens if one partner ignores the other’s needs or does not pull their weight in the relationship. This can lead to silent anger and hurt that gets worse over time. It is harmful as it can make people distant or argue a lot without really fixing the main issue. Over time, resentment creates a barrier hard to break down and makes it tough to enjoy each other’s company. The best way to deal with resentment is to talk openly about what is bothering you and try to fix it together. Addressing the issues early on can prevent a buildup of negative feelings. If left unaddressed, resentment can slowly erode the love and trust in a relationship. Learn more in the following section.

What Causes Resentment In A Relationship?

What causes resentment in relationship
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When you are in a long-term relationship, it is common to experience rifts over various issues. While you may be able to resolve most of them, often, some issues may remain unresolved and give rise to a range of feelings inside you. This whirlwind of emotions can make you feel unrecognized and craving for your partner’s empathy. As a result, resentment may creep into your heart and the relationship. There are several factors over which you may develop resentment. They include:

protip_icon Pro Tip
If you suspect that you may have hurt your partner and caused resentment, taking the necessary steps to make things right is important. Try to empathize with your partner by imagining yourself in their shoes, understanding their emotions, and taking steps to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
  1. Always Insisting On Being Right: If you consistently insist that you are always the right one and your partner is wrong, it will lead them to believe that you are rigid and arrogant and do not consider their points of view. This may make them feel ignored and not valued, causing resentment.
  1. Mocking Your Partner: Passing thoughtless comments or mocking your partner may trigger resentful feelings in them. Mocking is an adolescent form of defensiveness and is condescending. Over time, you will learn the signs that trigger your partner.
  1. Setting Unrealistic Expectations: This is one of the most common causes of resentment in any relationship. This usually happens when you expect something from your partner, which is not fulfilled. As a result, you feel dejected and unvalued.
  1. Not Being Heard: When was the last time you had a heart-to-heart with your partner? Can’t remember? Are you able to share your deepest feelings with them? Do you feel that they do not have time to listen to you? If yes, you may be growing apart instead of closer emotionally, which may cause resentment.
  1. Feeling Overpowered: Unbalanced relationship dynamics can often make you feel overpowered. Be it small household factors or major life decisions – if your partner overpowers you most of the time, you may feel resentment growing inside you.
protip_icon Quick Tip
Although anger and resentment may seem the same, the former is a spontaneous reaction while the latter develops over time through multiple incidents. Learning to tell the difference is crucial for course correction in any relationship.

Often, you may be unable to identify the growing resentment inside you. It manifests itself in various forms, and that is when you realize what you have been harboring in your heart. Here are a few signs that resentment is eating up your relationship.

Signs Of Resentment In Relationships

1. Arguments

Arguments in relationships are common. However, if you argue with your partner over almost everything, it might be triggered by resentment. When issues are unresolved for longer, it is quite common that they will find a way into every argument you have. They will keep resurfacing, and you may end up blaming them for their actions.

According to a study on revenge dynamics in couple breakups, involving 2142 participants, emotional reactions prevail, driven by psychopathy as the primary predictor. The most common reason is communication problems that include arguments, disrespect, distancing, and isolation from the partner (33.0% of men and 30.0% of women).

2. Lack Of Physical Intimacy

Lack of physical intimacy may cause resentment in relationship
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You will feel emotionally distant from your partner when there is resentment in the relationship. As a result, there will be a lack of intimacy. You or your partner may feel a lack of attraction towards each other, which may fuel the fire and strain your relationship. If you think resentment is the reason affecting your intimacy, discuss with your partner and try to resolve the issue.

3. Criticism

Holding bitterness and resentment in a marriage can force either of you to voice your partner’s flaws and criticize them in an unforgiving way. You tend to point out flaws in your partner’s character or how they do things.

4. Retaliation

Retaliation may cause resentment in relationship
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Anger and resentment towards your partner can hurt their feelings. In such cases, they may retaliate even under normal circumstances. For instance, when you poke them about something, they may retaliate by shouting at you or just going silent and completely ignoring you. They know what will hurt you the most and retaliate in that way. If things have been tense between you two for quite a few days now, try to break the ice by initiating a discussion.

5. Overthinking

If you often find yourself rethinking or reliving the moments when you disliked something that your partner did, it is a sure sign that you are holding resentment towards them. It indicates that you are stuck on the matter emotionally and find it hard to move on. Such overthinking can increase the negative feeling inside you.

6. Regret

Regret may cause resentment in relationship
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Do you often regret the way you behaved with your partner? Do you blame yourself and wish you had acted in a better way? This feeling of regret is often caused by resentment. Anger and resentment often blind you and you do not know how much your behavior may hurt your partner. You realize it afterward and feel disappointed in your behavior.

If you are worried about the growing resentment between you and your partner, do not panic. You can still salvage your relationship. If both of you are ready to work on your relationship, overcoming resentment and moving forward is possible. Here is how.

Can A Relationship Recover From Resentment? How To Deal With It

1. Communicate

This is the best way to address the resentment in your relationship. Talk to your partner openly about the issues and explain how you feel about it. Try to understand their perspective. This way, both of you can identify the issues and understand what caused them.

Olivia Kissper shares her experience of anger bouts and resentment in relationships. She said, “I just remember I still was having that irritation deep inside which I wasn’t even aware of, but when we put up this mask that everything is okay, while we actually cannot deal with what is actually happening inside, we say no to things that actually would be yes and we way yes to things that are actually a no for us (i).” She explains that it is necessary to speak and not be silent rather than create judgments in your mind.

2. Accept Their Flaws

No one is perfect, and it is unfair to expect perfection from your partner all the time. A healthy relationship blooms where both partners accept each other with their flaws and do not want to mold them according to their idea of a “perfect partner.” Your partner may be forgetful or may act immature at times. Accept the flaws as a part of their character.

3. Forgive And Empathize

Forgive and empathize to prevent resentment in relationship
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We feel resentful when we think we are wronged. So, forgiveness is crucial to let resentment go. Do not seek revenge and try to retaliate. This will prevent the issue from escalating further.

Empathize with your partner and understand why they behaved in a particular way. Put yourself in their shoes to get closer to understanding their true intentions. This will help you heal emotionally and forgive them.

4. Have Realistic Expectations

Be reasonable and set realistic expectations. Expecting your partner to take out time for you, text you, remember important dates and anniversaries is normal. However, they might have their work and other commitments and a few things may often slip their mind..

Moreover, as the relationship progresses, the initial enthusiasm of dating often fades, and your partner may not often meet your expectations. This does not mean they are not prioritizing you. In such cases, be rational and talk to your partner as soon as possible to clear the air.

5. Focus On Their Positive Aspects

Instead of focusing on the negatives, divert your mind to the positive aspects of your partner. Often, your feelings about your partner are influenced by thoughts about them. When you think of their positive aspects and how they made a difference in your life, you will feel the negative feelings melting away. Set healthy boundaries if there is something unacceptable.

6. Seek Help From A Counselor

Seek help from a counselor if you feel resentment in relationship
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If you are unable to sort out the issues among yourselves and communicate calmly and positively, visit a relationship counselor. They can help take the pressure off, listen to both of you, and create a positive environment where you can sit and discuss. A counselor can help both understand each other’s perspectives.

7. Work On Yourself

Other than working on your relationship, divert your attention towards yourself. Control your emotions and do not let them influence your judgment. Your emotional well-being is crucial before you understand your partner’s emotions. Try to be emotionally independent and your own source of happiness. In this way, your happiness will not depend on your partner’s emotional availability.

Resentment in a relationship arises due to various reasons. It is a toxic emotion that will harm your relationship and can make you bitter. You will notice this feeling manifest through several signs and symptoms. The only way to deal with resentment is to speak up and work with your partner to resolve issues in your relationship. Harboring this feeling and not doing anything about it will only worsen the situation. We hope this article helps you understand the reasons behind such negativity and guides you through avoiding or dealing with them healthily.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is resentment and hate the same?

No. Resentment is a feeling of bitterness that the person experience (a result of unfair treatment), while hate is a strong feeling of displeasure.

Is resentment immature?

Resentment is generally considered both a mature and childish emotion.

What is the difference between bitterness and resentment?

Bitterness is a feeling of shame, guilt, or embarrassment. Resentment is a similar feeling targeted toward as a result of specific or series of acts.

Which is worse – anger or resentment?

Resentment is a complex emotion, which is worse than anger. This multilayered emotion is a mixture of disgust, guilt, disappointment, anger, and fear.

Key Takeaways

  • Resentments may develop in your relationship due to a lack of partner’s empathy, unacknowledged efforts, and unrealistic expectations.
  • To deal with rifts and unresolved issues, maintain transparency in your relationship by communicating effectively.
  • Focus on positive aspects of your partner because positive thoughts have a great impact on the relationship and the way you think about your partner.
  • Practice self-love and emotional independence.

Resentment can harm a relationship terminally. Watch this video to learn about some ways to begin the healing process and grow as an emotionally independent person. Tap to know more.

Personal Experience: Source

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Dr Nancy B Irwin
Originally from Atlanta, Dr. Nancy Irwin graduated from UWG in 1977 with a Bachelor of Music in Opera Performance. She moved to New York City in 1985 to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian. She worked all over the country and abroad and moved to Los Angeles in 1994 when she heard that Hollywood needed more blondes.

Read full bio of Dr Nancy B Irwin