fixing+resentment+in+a+marriage

What Causes Resentment In A Marriage (Plus How You Can Heal Resentment In Yours)

You may ask yourself, “What causes resentment?” or “Why am I feeling resentful?”.  No one likes to be taken for granted, feel unappreciated or devalued, but if your partner does something that causes you to feel that way,  you may feel resentful.

You expect that your spouse will cherish and care for you, but when you find instead you are unintentionally or intentionally taken for granted this can lead to many negative emotions.

You might start out feeling disappointed, frustrated or hurt that you are not being thought of or cared for.  Over time this quickly can turn into anger and resentment.

Many times people know they are upset at their partner, but they do not see how their feelings are impacting the relationship. Here’s a list of the most common signs you should look for:

21 Signs You Feel Resentful:

  1. You feel your partner is being dismissive or not listening to you.
  2. You think about the situation constantly throughout the day.
  3. Fighting becomes more frequent and intense.
  4. You avoid talking with your partner.
  5. You avoid spending time with your partner.
  6. You feel helpless, hopeless, indifferent and/or sad about the relationship.
  7. You refuse or withhold sex or intimacy as a bargaining tool.
  8. You are having difficulty letting go of what happened with your partner.
  9. You discuss only facts or logistics (take out the trash).
  10. Your sentences are brief and short (yes/no answers or I don’t know).
  11. You do not use romantic or loving language.
  12. No physical signs of affection, such as a hug, snuggle or hand-holding.
  13. You do not look at your partner or you avoid eye contact.
  14. You refuse to talk about anything meaningful.
  15. You start to label your partner’s behavior, such as stupid or crazy.
  16. You start to call your partner names, such as lazy and worthless.
  17. You ruminate about your partner’s behaviors that you don’t like or disgust you.
  18. You run negative narratives in your mind about your partner’s true intentions.
  19. You run negative narratives about your partner’s character or personality.
  20. You cannot think of anything positive about your partner.
  21. You discuss anger about chores not being done.

What Causes Resentment In A Relationship?

Resentment can occur in a relationship when a partner feels unheard, not seen and not listened to. You might feel like you are invisible and what you have to say or how you feel doesn’t matter. 

Sometimes you may feel like you might as well speak to the wall or the dog because your partner is not paying attention.

Sometimes you are tired of walking on eggshells and feeling like the only one in the relationship who is trying so hard. It may feel one-sided and unfair to be doing everything to have a happy marriage. 

You may feel resentful that the relationship feels lopsided and unjust. You may feel frustrated that you are not both working on improving the relationship.  

Usually resentment doesn’t begin after one incident, but it happens after each episode of disconnection and miscommunication which erodes more and more of the love between you. 

Each time you feel invisible, burdened and frustrated by a lack of enthusiasm and a willingness to make the relationship stronger, you lose more connection. Your connection in your relationship is like a rope, as each thread breaks, the strength of the relationship becomes less secure and safe. 

Is Resentment Normal In A Marriage Or Long Term Partnership?

Resentment is normal if you haven’t had healthy role models, haven’t learned the skills to create a loving and enduring relationship or never experienced a healthy relationship or marriage. 

Many couples have a false belief that relationships should be fun and exciting and not hard work. 

A long term partnership should be fun and exciting, but it’s hard work too. You need to be prepared for the commitment, energy and time it takes to create the loving relationship you desire. 

Wanting or desiring to have a partnership isn’t enough to have a healthy relationship. 

You need to learn what to do to take care of and protect each other, how to develop healthy boundaries and communication and resolve conflict. 

You will need to roll up your sleeves when the going gets tough, pull your weight and your partner’s weight (at times) because life happens and not everything is vacations and fun. 

As a couple’s counselor for more than 10 years, I’ll ask a couple, “So you feel resentful, now what? Will you continue to try the old tools that have only created more resentment or step up and try something new and that is sometimes difficult but ultimately rewarding ?”

For some people it’s easier to stay unhappy and keep repeating the old patterns, but that is not your only choice. 

Resentment does not have to be the norm.

Can Your Marriage Survive Resentment?

If couples figure out a way to talk about their perspective, feel listened to, and changes are made in the relationship, the couple will have a greater likelihood to make their relationship work. On the other hand, if they can not find a way to navigate and discuss their feelings and issues, they should seek counseling to address their feelings.

Depending on how long a couple has felt resentful will determine and impact whether or not the relationship can survive. When couples address these issues before resentment builds to a devastating level of hurt, pain and anger, then the marriage can be saved, and even improve.

Your marriage can only survive if you both want it to survive and if you are both willing to forgive each other.

How Can I Stop Feeling Resentful?

If you are someone who likes to avoid issues and not address how you feel, then resentment will boil up inside of you unless you take care of the situation. As difficult as it is to talk about the conflicts, resentment does not disappear or go away on its own.

The most effective method to stop what causes resentment is to be aware of the resentment, discuss the issue with your partner and work to resolve it.

What To Do When Your Spouse Shows Signs Of Resenting You?

When you notice the 20 signs above or other signs that your partner resents you, you need to stop immediately and figure out how you will change the direction of your marriage. 

Resentment is a red flag that your relationship is moving toward separation or divorce unless you do something differently.

Sometimes couples tell me they thought resentment would go away or dissipate over time.

Resentment never goes away unless you do something actively to change the direction of your marriage. 

Resentment actually gets worse if left unattended. It’s like a sore. If you don’t wash out the sore and put ointment on it to heal, it will not get better on its own. 

I believe that relationships are about empowerment and choices. Therefore, if your marriage shows signs that it’s in trouble, you need to take action and learn how to work together differently.

Sometimes, friends, books, videos and podcasts can help you learn what you need to do to create a warm and loving marriage, and sometimes your relationship needs more specific and trained help to coach, guide, support and counsel you.

Steps To Stop Feeling Resentment

Couples can stop feeling resentful when they begin to have an open conversation with their spouse about what causes resentment. They need to state that they are feeling resentful, discuss what has caused that feeling, and give suggestions about how to change these situations. Usually, if one partner is feeling resentful, the other partner is feeling resentful too.

If your spouse does not want to change or denies feeling resentful, then you can continue working on the steps by yourself.

Press The Replay Button

Ideally, if you as a  couple can press the “replay button” and decide to restart the relationship, then you can truly create a new beginning.

You may only be able to restart the relationship though if you both apologize and ask for forgiveness for what’s happened in the past.

If you believe that you partner has the best intentions, but like all of us, your partner and you both made mistakes when communicating about issues, then hit the replay button and move forward.

I always say to couples, “When you know better, you can do better”. Make today a new day and discuss how you want to remove resentment and create the relationship you dreamed of.

Awareness

Next, in order to resolve not to repeat this pattern of building resentment,  you need to recognize the situations that cause resentment. You will need to make a conscious decision to be aware of those situations and signs in your relationship.

Awareness begins with learning how you feel in your body when you start to feel upset and irritated. 

In addition, you need to be aware of the conversation and narrative you begin to tell yourself about your partner when you start feeling negative towards him/her.

Signs

Couples can make their own list of signs of what causes resentment and daily or weekly review the list to see whether or not signs have appeared. If so, then the couple (or individual) will move to the next step. If not, then continue to check your list for the next month or two to ensure resentment has not begun again.

Repair

Finally, if resentment starts to occur again, couples need to apologize to each other for what happened and make a plan on how it won’t happen again.

Repair is essential to remove the hurt and pain in the relationship. 

Make sure you are more specific than just “I’m sorry”.  Also, if this issue has happened several times, you may need more than an apology. For example, you will need to provide your partner with a plan of how it won’t happen again, so you are credible. 

How Therapy Can Help Your Marriage/Relationship Especially When Resentful Feelings Are Ongoing

No one likes having the same arguments over and over because it’s exhausting, frustrating and tiring. The resentful feelings build up walls between the two of you which may be hard to remove after ongoing fights. 

Therapy can help your marriage when resentful feelings continue to plague your relationship. Some couples can discover ways to discuss things differently and it helps decrease resentment, but other couples find themselves in the same conversation leading to a dead end. 

If you have reached a dead end and you don’t know how to stop the ongoing resentment, then a skilled and trained therapist can teach you the necessary skills to repair the negative situations, forgive each other and move forward.

The trained therapist will be able to assess what needs to be fixed and repaired and will know how to teach you how to work together as team players, instead of feeling like you are on opposing teams. 

Therapy is an important resource for couples when you feel like you have been spinning your wheels, going nowhere or stuck and uncertain on how to move forward. 

Since resentment takes time to develop and build up, if you have resentful feelings toward your partner, it will take time to resolve and heal. 

If you are willing to learn how to work together and have each other’s back, then therapy will teach how to move forward and nourish your relationship. 

Your Relationship Can Thrive After Resentment

Resentment in a marriage increases when a partner feels unappreciated, uncared for and neglected.

When you ignore the warning signs and don’t identify your resentful feelings,  problems will build up and need to be addressed. 

Your marriage can survive when you recognize what causes resentment and follow the steps to stop this pattern. 

When you take care of your partner and your partner takes care of you this bond will allow for your relationships to thrive.  Even after ongoing resentment, you can thrive with the help of therapy and other resources. 

You will want to know what causes resentment, so you can remove it quickly. You can look for the signs, be aware, and work on removing it now.  It’s when couples leave the resentment in the relationship and don’t actively repair the situation that issues develop for them.

Don’t push off learning how to heal from resentment and create an enduring relationship. 

Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing:

How To Discuss Relationship Problems Without Fighting

Stuck In A One-Sided Relationship? Here’s How To Talk About It So Resentment Doesn’t Take Over

Why Do We Keep Having The Same Arguments?

ADHD & Relationships

How To Let Go Of Resentment So You Stop Focusing On Old Hurts & Past Pain

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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Annapolis, MD 21401

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