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19 Signs of Resentment in a Relationship that Hurts Both & How to Fix It

If you harbor resentment in a relationship, it’s going to slowly bubble up and rise to the top. Learn how to handle it before it goes any further. 

resentment in a relationship

It is important to know how to spot the signs of resentment in a relationship. Resentment is not normal anger or frustration; it builds over time. It is brought on by unfair treatment or neglect, and as it is swallowed down, it manifests in different ways.

Resentment can be minor. It can be caused by your partner leaving their dirty clothes on the floor continuously, or something much more serious like a lack of trust or infidelity.

Sometimes we try so hard to let things go and remain in an unhealthy relationship that we don’t even know where our resentment comes from or that it’s there.

Whether you have resentment or it is coming from your partner, it is important to be able to spot the signs of resentment in a relationship. Then, work through it as a couple. [Read: 20 relationship problems that push a couple apart or bring them closer together]

Relationships require work, but never overlook the red flags

It’s amazing how quickly people forget relationships are hard. Maintaining a healthy balance, actively keeping things lively, coping with change, and handling major issues all take a toll on a relationship. And handling resentment in a relationship takes hard work.

It’s similar to a magician’s trick of not letting any of the spinning plates fall. When one aspect of the relationship becomes strained, it affects the other aspects, just like if a magician focuses on one plate too much, the other ones start to tumble.

And it’s during those tumbles that people develop feelings of resentment. Perhaps your partner betrayed your trust, or maybe you did the trust-breaking. Whatever the case, the feeling of being betrayed by your partner is a strong one, especially if you’ve been together for years. [Read: 15 signs of a healthy relationship you should always look for]

What does resentment in a relationship look like?

Resentment can be seen in all sorts of ways. It can be obvious or extremely subtle.

But, because resentment is such a complicated emotion it can be confused with regular frustration or anger. For instance, if your partner is mad at you for bailing on dinner with their parents, they may not communicate it but get remarkably angry if you fold their socks the wrong way.

Others hold on to bitterness or distrust from infidelity after claiming to have moved on. They may be cold or petty because they resent your actions deep down. [Read: Emotionally stable – How to find your zone of perfect calmness]

Because so many of us struggle with communication, resentment easily builds up when we don’t release how we truly feel about a situation or behavior.

You may even feel a lack of intimacy in your relationship without nailing down a cause. Resentment could be buried under the surface and causes a rift. [Read: Contempt in a relationship and how to stop subtly disliking each other]

What are the signs of resentment in a relationship?

As we said, it can be difficult to spot the signs of resentment in a relationship. However, it is not impossible. If you know what to look for, you can see the signs of resentment, and hopefully get ahead of them so that your relationship can thrive, not wilt.

1. You never argue

You may think a relationship without arguing is going great. But every couple fights. You don’t need to scream and yell but everyone has disagreements and needs to sort through those. It is a healthy part of any relationship.

So, if you and your partner avoid any sort of conflict or disagreement, you may be dealing with resentment. When resentment is part of a relationship, it causes resistance. It can make one or both partners back away from communication. This is because resentment burrows itself deep down and can explode at any moment.

If you argue about something minor like where to go food shopping, resentment for something else can take over in that moment and make things worse. [Read: Why you need communication in a relationship]

2. The intimacy is gone

Intimacy and affection are a healthy and necessary part of a good relationship. We all go through dry spells and ruts when work gets crazy or schedules are overwhelming. When your relationship loses affection, resentment could be the root cause.

Look back to the earlier days of your relationship. Even if you fought, nothing could keep you apart physically. Resentment is powerful. It can subconsciously make you want to punish your partner for some behavior. [Read: 18 signs of indifference in a relationship that predict a real rift]

3. Explosive anger in minor situations

Resentment is often caused by something major that has been buried or forgotten. You may resent your partner for accepting a new job without discussing it with you or vice versa. But, instead of discussing how that made you feel, you tried to let it go.

Resentment doesn’t let go of things like that. Resentment feeds on that sort of disrespect but instead of forcing you to talk about it, it makes you irrationally angry in moments that don’t require that level of emotion.

4. Lack of respect

Resentment is often built on feelings of disrespect or unfairness. You feel like you weren’t treated right and you resent your partner for that. Because resentment hides beneath the surface you subconsciously retaliate by disrespecting your partner.

And this works both ways. If you didn’t tell your partner that you had lunch with your ex, they may resent you for that behavior and then ignore your calls on a night out in order to get back at you without actually saying they are upset. [Read: 15 signs of a lack of respect in a relationship you should never ignore]

5. The silent treatment

The silent treatment is not just something school children do. Married couples well into their 80s and beyond are guilty of using the silent treatment when resentful.

Cutting off your partner from affection, intimacy, and communication can make them feel lonely and rejected. When you resent your partner for something they’ve done, this feels like an acceptable move. [Read: Silent treatment abuse – How to take a stand and get back in control]

6. Passive-aggressive behavior

Many signs of resentment in a relationship can be considered passive-aggressive. This is an important sign because it is so common.

Passive-aggressive behavior is doing something to intentionally bother or irritate your partner but doing it indirectly to avoid an actual confrontation.

For instance, if it drives you crazy when your partner doesn’t dry their dishes they may purposely leave their wet dishes out because they know it annoys you. [Read: How to deal with passive-aggressive behavior calmly]

7. You want to punish each other

A major sign of resentment in a relationship, especially a resentment that has been building up for a long time, is punishment. Resentment that has been building for years can get ugly. It leads to small acts like purposely leaving the gas tank on empty. It can also lead to major issues like infidelity.

8. You complain about them a lot

This is a sign of resentment in a relationship that you may not notice. Ask your friends because they certainly will.

If you resent your partner, you may avoid those feelings when you are together. When you are with trusted friends, there is a good chance you constantly rant about them.

9. There is unspoken tension

The final sign of resentment in a relationship is tension. It may not be something you can describe or quantify. If you feel uneasy when you are together rather than the loving comfort you used to feel, there may be resentment brewing. [Read: 21 secret signs of a bad relationship that signal a bad future together]

How to deal with resentment in a relationship and grow closer instead

Now that you know the signs of resentment in a relationship, you can pinpoint which are prominent in yours. If you noticed one or more of these signs between you and your partner, all hope is not lost.

Come back from resentment with honest communication, openness, and if you are willing, couples therapy.

Working through resentment can be difficult because it usually is a feeling you’ve carried with you for a long time. It can be hard to part with. But with the help of a professional, you can come to terms with how you’ve felt and come to a compromise and get back into a healthy relationship. [Read: How to stop being angry – Free your mind and stop hurting yourself]

1. Get over what your partner said while angry

It’s true, there’s a line you simply don’t cross. It’s abusive, it’s mean, it’s damaging. And yet, there will be those random occasions where things get so heated, that it’s inevitable.

Even the best of couples have said terrible things to each other. It doesn’t mean that it’s okay. It means it happens.

If you focus too much on what anyone says while angry, you’ll never sleep at night. Whatever they said, chances are they don’t mean it. If they do, they don’t mean it in the way it came across. Letting go of those painful words is the first step to dealing with anger and resentment.

Just make sure this issue isn’t a reoccurring one, and that the line is clearly defined. Otherwise, you risk having an emotionally abusive relationship. [Read: 21 big signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking]

2. Give each other the floor to just explain your side, get feelings out, vent, etc

This is definitely one of the most important steps to take when learning to handle resentment in a relationship.

Venting may seem too much like complaining, but at the end of the day, you’re both just letting out the negative feelings, while explaining yourself to the other person. When people feel like they’ve explained themselves, and been heard, they tend to calm down, and think clearer.

3. Know when to give each other space

The other side of number two is to know when to back off. Just because you vent, and explain yourself, doesn’t mean you need to do it right away, all the time.

Depending on what occurred, sometimes you both need to back away, and let each other breathe. It’s not about putting things on hold, it’s about acknowledging when you both need time to think about the situation, so you can handle it correctly. [Read: How to give space in a relationship and not drift apart]

4. Avoid retaliation or revenge

Depending on what happened, you may feel very upset, and in dire need to retaliate. Nothing good comes out of this, just a worse issue or a breakup.

Retaliation is for teenagers, solutions are for adults. It doesn’t matter if your partner committed your version of the unpardonable sin, the point is, revenge is best when it’s not served at all. Let them cope with the storm they’ve stirred through their actions, that’s punishment enough alone. [Read: How to handle a complicated relationship and find success]

5. See the other side of the coin, because there always is one

Since you’re resentful at this point, the last thing you’ve considered is their side of the story.

However, it is equally as important as yours, and you might find that they didn’t commit their actions out of bad intentions. If they did hurt you intentionally, they still deserve for you to fully comprehend the issue. If not for them, do it so you see all sides of the issue. [Read: How to show empathy and learn to understand someone else’s feelings]

6. Make peace with the events

Look back at what happened, compare it to now. See the bigger picture if you want to truly handle resentment in a relationship the right way. If the issue occurred a while ago, and you’re still resentful, perhaps take a moment to look at the bigger picture.

Let your mind wander to the time the issue first presented itself. What did you do? And, what did your partner do? What happened? How are things different now? They’re always different, for better or worse. It helps to see how far, or low, you’ve come since then. On the other hand, if the issue just occurred, remember to do this in a month or two. [Read: 15 quick ways to fix a broken relationship and make it last]

7. Answer one main question

Is what happened forgivable, or is it worth more than what you and your partner have had up until this occurred? At the end of the day, you’re in a relationship with this person for a reason. If you’ve been together a long time, all the more reason to consider this.

You might find that the issue seems small when put into perspective. You could also find it seems even bigger than you previously thought. Depending on your particular circumstance, this might be the defining moment where you answer truthfully. [Read: 20 signs you should break up and throw in the towel]

8. Reach a compromise

If you made it past seven, congratulations, it means you’re ready to try and move on from this, because your relationship is more important to you than the issue. The only proper way to handle resentment in a relationship and find a solution is through a compromise.

Clearly, if your partner did something you disapprove of, then they feel differently about the issue. Find the common ground that works best for both of you. For instance, if your partner prefers more time by themselves, but you prefer more time bonding with them, find the amount of time you’re both comfortable with. [Read: How to compromise in a relationship without feeling like you’re losing]

If your partner has issues opening up, but you want them to be an open book, designate a time in which you both talk openly, but don’t force this outside of that time slot.

If the issue is more serious, like cheating, then think of it this way: they did it to fill a void. When people cheat, it’s because they’re missing something in their current romantic state. What is your partner missing that you haven’t been providing? And what do you expect from them in return? [Read: How to forgive a cheater: 8 questions to face the betrayal]

9. Do something ceremonial to let the past go

This may sound rather childish, but it’s actually quite helpful. For instance, if your partner kept a dark secret from you for a long time, betraying your trust, the ceremony serves as a way to throw away anything related to that secret.

It’s a form of both closure, and of saying “we’re leaving the past here, and moving forward together, because we’re serious about this.”

10. Accept the fact that you’ll have to do this a lot over the course of time

It sounds awful, but again, many people forget relationships are hard. While being in a relationship can be fun, exciting, hilarious, adventurous, or even motivating, nothing good comes easy.

More than that, we’re all human. Mistakes happen. The more you love someone, the more they can hurt you. It’s part of the package, there’s no way around it, no matter who you’re with.

[Read: The 25 best ways to let go of resentment, stop feeling bitter and start living happily instead]

Catching the signs of resentment in a relationship can be difficult. Once you identify them, together you can let go of past pains and move forward.

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