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10 Signs of Resentment in Relationships and How to Heal

Have you ever felt a simmering frustration toward your partner but couldn’t quite put your finger on why? That strong negative feeling might be resentment.

Resentment is an unspoken poison that can take root in any relationship – whether you’ve been together for years or just starting out. The good news is that resentment can be uprooted by spotting the signs and facing the situation head-on. 

Caroline Becker, a licensed professional counselor with Banner Health, helps explain the causes and signs of resentment and shares ways you can pave the way for a happier, healthier relationship.

What is resentment in a relationship?

Resentment often happens when you feel upset because your needs or desires in a relationship aren’t being met. It can stem from repeated disappointments, unmet needs or unresolved conflicts. 

“When our needs and wants aren’t met in a relationship, we tend to feel disconnected, disrespected or unimportant,” said Caroline Becker. “This lack of communication lays the groundwork for resentment to take root, building like bricks in a wall over time.”

The causes of resentment are different in every relationship but may be due to:

  • Poor communication: Partners don’t talk openly or listen to each other.
  • Neglected needs: Ignoring or dismissing each other’s physical or emotional needs.
  • Past hurts: Lingering feelings from past arguments or betrayals.
  • Unhealthy boundaries: Boundaries are crossed or not respected.
  • Financial problems: Different views on financial matters, such as spending or debt.
  • Lack of appreciation:  Feeling unappreciated or undervalued.
  • Contribution imbalance: One partner feels like they’re doing more than their fair share of work in the relationship.
  • Unmet expectations: One person expects something from the other and it doesn’t happen.
  • Power struggles: Constant battles for control or dominance in the relationship.
  • Emotional distance: Partners become emotionally distant or disconnected from each other, whether from stress, schedules or prior conflicts.

Signs of resentment in your relationship

When resentment is not addressed, things in your relationship can go from bad to worse. 

“Arguments may boil over and you find yourself saying or doing things you wouldn’t normally do, like name calling or yelling,” Becker said. “This can make one or both partners feel lonelier and spend less time together. Eventually, resentment can push people apart.”

If you or your partner are feeling resentment toward one another, it’s important to try and spot signs before they affect your future together. Becker shared six signs resentment has taken root in your relationship:

  1. Silence: You stop talking about problems or expressing what you want or need from your partner.
  2. Passive-aggressive behavior: You make subtle jabs, eye rolls and sarcastic or indirect comments under your breath.
  3. Threats: You threaten to leave or stop supporting or communicating with your partner to express resentment.
  4. Lack of involvement: You withdraw from shared activities or physical closeness, like hugging or being intimate. You may also dismiss your partner’s opinions or voice in the relationship. 
  5. Criticism or fault-finding: You constantly find fault with or nitpick even small things your partner does, like how they dress or who they hang out with. You might even resent simple things like how they sound when they eat or breathe.
  6. Lack of empathy: You lack understanding and compassion for your partner’s feelings and needs. You can’t see things from their perspective.

Strategies for coping with resentment 

If resentment is growing in your relationship, consider these strategies to overcome it:

  • Decide to do things differently: This step involves recognizing that what you’ve been doing may not be working and being willing to explore other options. 
  • Educate yourself: Learning more about conflict, resentment, recovery and addiction, mental health and communication can give you more insight into the dynamics of your relationship. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch videos or join support groups that offer different perspectives and strategies. 
  • Communicate openly: Share your concerns with your partner calmly and constructively. Use “I” statements to express how you feel.
  • Listen actively: Give your partner a chance to share their perspective without interrupting or getting defensive. 
  • Practice empathy: Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective. Empathy can help build compassion and understanding.
  • Deal with conflict: Addressing conflict can be challenging, especially if you or your partner struggle with conflict avoidance. You may want to speak with a therapist to process your feelings and needs and to develop skills and confidence to work through conflict better.

Knowing when to seek help

Every relationship goes through a rough patch from time to time. Individual and couples therapy can help prevent a further breakdown in your relationship and promote healing and growth. Consider seeing a licensed behavioral health specialist when:

  • Nothing seems to work: If you’ve tried many strategies to resolve issues in your relationship but haven’t seen improvement.
  • You feel consumed with negative emotions: Feeling constantly angry, anxious or depressed about your relationship.
  • Everyday activities are affected: If your involvement in work, family time, hobbies or social activities decreases, or you find yourself withdrawing from others. 


Resentment in relationships can be toxic. When we hold onto anger and bitterness towards our partner, it creates a divide between us. 

To help keep your relationship healthy, address resentments openly and work through them together. Consider speaking with a behavioral health specialist if you are still hitting a brick wall. Therapy or counseling can provide guidance, support and tools to help you navigate challenges and nurture a healthier relationship.  

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Relationships Behavioral Health