Resentment in a relationship has roots.
When such strong negative feelings are allowed to stew, it’s no wonder that they can have such a detrimental effect. Bitterness can make you blind to all the positive aspects of your relationship — with only your issues left on display.
Even though it takes work, resentment can be uprooted by spotting the signs of these strong feelings and facing the situation head-on.
Resentment in a relationship refers to strong feelings of anger, bitterness, or displeasure that arise from unresolved issues, unmet needs, or perceived injustices.
These feelings of resentment can build up and fester over time to taint an otherwise healthy relationship. This can lead to a growing emotional distance between partners, with these wounds taking some time to heal.
Even though it can take time, resolving resentment in a relationship is crucial for its health and longevity. This process requires both partners to want to move past these negative emotions and start a new chapter together — which is not as easily said as done.
Resentment can be very damaging in a relationship, as it tends to build up slowly, creating a chasm between partners that can be difficult to breach.
Every relationship dynamic has different issues, with causes of resentment differing greatly from couple to couple. However, there are a few underlying causes that commonly lead to the build-up of resentment in romantic relationships.
“Resentment happens when you have an issue that you feel stuck in with your partner and even after craving to change the stuck spot in the relationship, change has not happened. You might turn to feelings of resentment over feeling connected with your partner,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.
Harboring feelings of resentment wreaks havoc on relationships — destroying communication, intimacy, and connection.
Research shows that resentment can impact the well-being of marriages, and is proven to be especially damaging when experienced by both partners in the early years of a relationship.
"Relationships are not perfect, and neither are you, and that is normal,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“To have a healthy relationship, it's important to be willing to create a life with your partner where you both feel valued. If resentment builds early on and is not addressed, it's like building a house with a faulty foundation. So, when you go through hard or significant events together, you may experience a deeper pain due to the underlying disconnection.”
If there are underlying issues in the relationship, it’s normal to feel discontent and bitterness toward the situation. However, it’s easy for this to snowball into animosity, hard feelings, and potentially even hatred.
With such emotions in play, resentment can easily erase any clarity about your connection — making it seem like there is nothing good left in the relationship. Even though that’s likely just those negative feelings talking.
If you’re in a relationship with a person who is feeling resentment towards you, it’s important to try and spot signs before it contaminates your future together.
Or, if you start to taste bitterness for your partner, it’s not something to be ignored. For the sake of your relationship, look out for these signs of resentment in your relationship — before they take root.
Even though it may seem obvious, arguments should not define your relationship. While every relationship has rough patches, communication shouldn’t always escalate to conflict. If even the smallest conversations trigger arguments, it could be a sign of resentment bubbling beneath the surface.
Your partner may be within physical proximity, but emotionally — they couldn’t feel further away. Without communication, relationships can quickly become defined by all the things you don’t say to each other. This emotional distancing could be a sign that your partner is resentful of a previous unresolved issue, and is guarding themselves from you as a result.
Passive-aggressive comments may be your partner’s way of hinting at the bigger issues in the relationship. This kind of communication can set an unsettling tone, making it even harder to address the real problems under the surface.
Physical intimacy is an important part of any romantic relationship. When resentment builds, it becomes more difficult to engage in sex or intimacy with your partner — with the trust needed damaged by negative feelings.
As humans, we make mistakes. However, for the sake of a healthy relationship, it’s important to try and forgive in order to move on. If your partner is holding a grudge against you, or you find yourself keeping score on their own failings — it’s a clear sign that resentment has gotten the better of your relationship.
The build-up of resentment always comes back to one root cause — communication breakdown. If you have lost the ability to communicate openly and honestly, resentment is allowed to run riot in your relationship.
In a healthy relationship, both partners should be able to communicate honestly without feeling attacked or judged. However, if resentment is present in the relationship, the smallest critique can lead to defensiveness and hostility.
"Defensiveness often creates a major obstacle to connection and communication in relationships," says Seeger DeGeare.
"We often focus on our partner's actions that trigger this response in us, but it is crucial to focus on what is happening internally that feels vulnerable in these moments.”
Walking on eggshells in a relationship is a very emotionally draining place to be. Resentment can manifest as tension, with these emotions manifesting as anger or discontent. Even if it doesn’t always cause conflict, it feels like the tiniest thing could lead to an eruption.
You shouldn’t have to ask your partner to pay attention to you. If your partner has grown resentful of the relationship, they may come across as uninterested or flippant about your life — signaling that their negative feelings have caused them to mentally check out.
When you start to feel resentment towards your partner, it’s not something to feel guilty about. Getting upset or angry about issues in your relationship is completely justifiable — it’s how you choose to move forward that makes all the difference.
If you feel that resentment has made communication impossible, it’s a good idea to get professional help. These therapeutic interventions may be just the thing you need to banish resentment from your relationship for good.
When you resent someone, it’s hard to imagine a scenario whereby you feel differently. However, if you’re truly open to forgiveness, resentment can fade.
If both individuals are ready to tackle their feelings of resentment, there is no reason why you can’t move forward.
"When resentment builds, we often feel unseen, uncared for, and misunderstood,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“However, if your partner is willing to be open, see your point of view, and work on the behavior that is leading to the disconnection, you can move past it together.”
“Resentment is built from a place that feels stuck and hopeless, but if you can move towards hopefulness with your partner as you progress forward, resentment is an emotion that can be overcome.”
After all, seeds of resentment can’t grow on a clean slate.