Coping And Overcoming Resentment in Relationships

What are resentment in relationships and how to deal with it

By Sylvia Epie
Coping And Overcoming Resentment in Relationships

Signs of Resentments in Relationships

Resentment is when we silently harbor feelings of anger, bitterness, and disappointment towards someone you feel has hurt or wronged us. It is very common in relationships especially marriages, where one or both partners feel deeply offended by the other partner and it is manifested in their day-to-day with conflicts over the most insignificant things such as taking out the trash, leaving dishes in the sink and lots of other petty stuff. Psychology Today holds that resentment is a process that builds up over time, it’s not caused by a single act or feeling but by ‘’a repetition of painful patterns’’ that go unaddressed. As complex as this may sound, it simply means you dislike and find your partner annoying because of something they always do that hurts your feelings.

Feeling resentful is more common than you think, some people do not even realize they resent their partner until it blows up in the face of their relationship. And it always does, resentment usually comes with a whole lot of other feelings that are bound to sink your relationship. However, being resentful does not mean you’re doomed, there are still things you can do to get back on track. The first step is to be able to identify feelings of resentment, then working towards resolving it and finally avoiding it altogether.  Let’s guide you through the process of coping with and overcoming resentment.

1. Your Partner Is Boiling With Anger But They Hide It

Resentment always manifests itself through anger, when your partner has a constant angry vibe around them, getting ticked off at the slightest thing, it’s a sure sign they’re resentful of you. They’re not happy with life in general and your relationship in particular, such feelings of disappointment turn to anger and frustration which they take out on you at every opportunity.

2. Your Partner Doesn’t Listen to You

You say things but you don’t feel heard, it’s like your partner is ignoring everything you say. You keep repeating yourself and they make the same mistakes or do the exact opposite of what you want them to. Your better half seems miles away when you’re talking to them about something important, they make you feel invisible and non-existent. This is resentment 2.0 and the feeling will increase as the days go by.

3. Increased Number and Intensity of Fights

Fights are inevitable in a relationship, heck it’s even healthy when it’s reasonable, but when you and your significant other fights about every little thing, all the time, then surely there’s a problem. An underlying issue that is causing resentment which is expressed through continuous outbursts and intense fights. When your partner is angry about how you press the toothpaste or the way you chew, know there’s more to it than that. 

4. Lack Of Affection And Empathy

Your partner used to show concern when you were worried, sad or sick when you’d cry they’ll comfort and reassure you but these days all they do is ignore you or just walk past you when you cry. There’s hardly any empathy in your relationship anymore, that’s resentment staring you in the face. When one person in the relationship is hurting, feels inferior or left out; they’ll try to hurt the other person in return. For example, they’ll make cutting remarks, jokes and try to downgrade your success and achievements just to ‘’get one on you’’.

5. Passive Aggressive Behavior

Provocation and passive aggressive behavior is a sign of a resentful person. Your partner does little things to make you lose your cool, they know what you hate but make it a point to do exactly those things you can’t stand. Instead of telling you how they feel your spouse will resort to baiting you and trying to pick a fight. When you forget to do something he/she won’t tell you or try to talk things out, instead they’ll opt for passive aggression techniques. People who are resentful; do this because they’re looking for an excuse to fight with you without it seeming like they started the fight. This is a tactic often used by abusers who are trying to establish a certain power dynamic with their victims.

What Causes Resentments in Relationships

As earlier mentioned resentment is not the result of a single act or mistake by your partner, it is a repetitive act that brings out feelings of anger, frustration, dislike and so on. It’s like a vicious cycle you can’t control, however, there’s usually a pattern. There are certain identifiable behaviors that lead to feelings of resentment such as:

6. Taking Advantage Of Your Partner

When one partner in a relationship is selfish and doesn’t take the other partners needs into account then there’s bound to be resentment. The other partner feels cheated and taken advantage of, be it intentional or not. In a healthy relationship, one person's needs do not trump over the other partner’s. It’s even better when you put your significant others needs before yours. 

7. Unfulfilled Desires And Expectations

We all have certain expectations as to what we want our lives and relationships to be. When such expectations are not met, we’re left disgruntled, maybe you expect your partner to buy you flowers, or be romantic and they don’t live up to it, you begin to feel resentful.  It could also be because your sexual reality falls short of your expectations and you don’t feel confident enough to come out and say it. All the frustration builds up to resentment. 

8. Not Being Listened To

Does your partner seem to be miles away when you’re talking to them?  This sucks and when done frequently, you feel shut out, dismissed, ignored and insignificant. Such a situation quickly adds up to feelings of resentment. No one likes to feel unheard or ignored especially by their partner.

9. Inability To Forgive 

Holding grudges eventually leads to resentment, when one partner makes a mistake, if it’s not dealt with properly, it could become a vicious cycle of resentment. One partner resents the other for their mistake while the partner who made the mistake resents their partner for being unforgiving and not letting go. This is very common in cases of infidelity and unfaithfulness. Everything usually goes downhill from here.

10. Taking Each Other For Granted

When you and Bae have been together for a long time it’s easy to start taking each other for granted. You no longer put in the work or treat your partner as you used to at the beginning of your romance. Not noticing or appreciating your partner's efforts, sacrifice and commitment lead to an accumulation of negative emotions that will turn into resentment.

Overcoming and Dealing with Resentment in Relationships

Dealing with resentment requires a great amount of work and determination, it is also a gradual process that takes time. In the same way feelings of resentment build up, they have to be stripped down layer by layer. Here’s the best way to go about it if you want to see lasting results and preserve your romance.

11. Express Anger Effectively

Heated and frequent arguments are signs of pent up anger, hidden feelings, pain, unmet needs, and guilt. The best way around this is to first of all acknowledge and recognize that you’re angry, then identify the physical signs of your anger, how it manifests for example outbursts, yelling, crying, silence, tantrums, blame, etc. Next, managing it by taking deep breaths, taking time to cool off and finally expressing it in a calm and assertive manner. Sometimes the problem is you and not your partner, in which case you have to overcome guilt and self-blame, find self-forgiveness, and identify what triggers our anger.  

12. Acknowledge Your Feelings

As the saying goes, the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging there’s a problem. This applies too to resentment, instead of letting it ‘’stew’’ and eat you up in silence, admit there’s a problem. Tell your partner how you feel ‘’ I am upset about…, I feel disappointed about…, I don’t like it when... Address the specific issue at hand and how it makes you feel, instead of piling it up until it becomes a major problem. 

13. Empathize With Your Partner

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and think of how you’ll feel if you were in their place.  Empathize with them and always put yourself in their shoes and try to feel their emotions and act accordingly. Give them a chance to make up for their mistakes instead of making them feel guilty. Share in their pain, worries and hurt.

14. Learn To Forgive

Holding a grudge is the fastest route to a toxic relationship, it’s normal for people to make mistakes, no one is perfect, especially your partner. Therefore, forgive instead of resenting, if the mistake isn’t that life shattering, let it go. Cut your partner some slack, keep your eye on the big picture.

15. Phrase Your Complaints Better

Communication is key in every form of human interaction, so address the reasons for your resentment in the appropriate manner. For example, instead of saying ‘’ You always leave the house untidy, you’re so messy and dirty’’ opt for ‘’ I feel flustered and can’t function properly when the house is messy. Can you please help me clean it up? 

Avoiding Resentment in Relationships

After overcoming resentment, you have to take the necessary precautions to keep it at bay or avoid it completely for those who are privileged enough to not have experienced it. This is what we recommend:

16. Apologize When Necessary

Misunderstandings in your relationship could build up to resentment, so good way to get ahead of this is to talk things over and apologize when your partner feels they have been wronged, hurt or offended. Sometimes apologize even when you’re right, you’ll be amazed by the impact of a simple ‘‘ I’m sorry’’. 

17. Do Not Bring Past Conflicts Into The Present 

Bringing up past mistakes, arguments and misunderstandings is never a good idea. The past should stay in the past, old conflicts have no business in current issues, they’ll only complicate things even more. Focus on the issue at hand and try to resolve it without saying things like ‘‘ You always do this ...or that’’, ‘’ last time you…’’. 
Don’t let past emotions, shortcomings, and mistakes get in the way.

18. Set Realistic Expectations and Boundaries

Resentment often grows when having unrealistic expectations regarding love, relationships, and your partner. Enter your relationship with an open mind, manage your expectations and discuss them with your partner. Compromise and share in the responsibility of the household and relationship.

19. Be Honest

Let your partner know exactly how you feel, tell them what you’re going through without being sarcastic, condescending or angry. Be straightforward, polite and frank. It’s healthier to confront him and get it over with than to beat about the bush or keep it hidden inside of you. Be clear as to why you’re upset and how their actions or inaction affect you. 

20. Maintain Physical Intimacy

Lack of physical intimacy and unmet sexual desires is a major cause of resentment in marriages. To avoid this, you should have regular sex, touch each other as often as you can, hold hands, share a kiss, practice recreational activities that require physical intimacy such as dancing and couples yoga.  Make some alone time for you and your partner no matter how busy your schedules are.

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It is inevitable that at some point in your relationship your partner will do something that makes you angry, feel offended or threatened physically or emotionally, that’s just human nature. But the way you choose to react determines the outcome, if you don’t say anything and keep it to yourself it will snowball into something bigger like resentment. If you address it, express your anger, disappointment, and feelings of hurt then you leave no room for hard feelings.

You and your partner need to make it a priority to get to the root of your relationship problems before anger and bitterness kicks in. Make it a habit of handling misunderstandings head on and not rehashing past conflicts. If you can manage these steps, then you have genuinely kicked resentment in your relationship to the curb. Good luck!