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Resentment in Marriage: 33 Subtle Signs, Causes & How to Get Rid of It

Marriage is never easy, but if you don’t put in the effort, then it’s going to crumble. And one of the reasons for that is resentment in marriage.

resentment in marriage

People like to think once you find someone you want to be with, it’s all easy and downhill from there. But the reality is marriage comes with constant challenges, regardless of how much you’re in love. Life throws curveballs, and even the closest of couples can end up with resentment in marriage.

Resentment in marriage occurs when feelings aren’t discussed. It’s easy to get comfortable with your partner and forget about communicating actual issues together.

What happens is these feelings build up inside of you until one day you wake up and feel resentment towards your partner.

Once you feel resentment, unless you address it, there’s a chance it can destroy your relationship. No one wants to see a marriage end over something that was completely preventable. [Read: Spotting the signs of resentment in your relationship early]

What causes resentment in marriage?

We know what resentment feels like, but what actually causes this negative emotion? Well, each marriage is different, but here is a list of some very common things that cause resentment in marriage.

1. Broken promises

No one likes it when someone promises to do something and then doesn’t follow through. The promises could be small like saying you’ll clean the kitchen to big ones like promising that you will get a job if you’re unemployed. Either way, if a promise is broken, it creates resentment in marriage.

2. Cheating 

This is an obvious cause of resentment in marriage. When you say your vows during your marriage ceremony, you promise to “forsake all others.” In other words, you promise to stay faithful to your spouse. So any kind of cheating – from emotional to sexual – can be toxic to a relationship. [Read: How to rebuild trust after cheating – 11 things an ex-cheater must do]

3. Lying

When someone cheats, they are also lying. But lying goes beyond cheating. It could be lying about an addiction or what they did after work last night.

Whether it is a white lie or something major like gambling away your life savings, a lie is a lie. And lies never create a good emotional environment for a marriage.

4. Selfishness

When one person is selfish in the marriage, it definitely creates resentment. Both people have needs and desires that should be met by their partners.

So, if one *or both* people are selfish, the resentment builds over time and it’s hard to move past it after a while. [Read: How to stop being selfish – 20 ways to stop using and hurting others]

5. Laziness

Laziness comes in many shapes and forms. If someone is just laying on the couch all weekend without showering or leaving the house, this might make their spouse mad. Or, if they never help with finances or household duties, then it’s not fair to the other person. The person who has to do all the work will get angry and resentful. [Read: Lazy people – 50 wily ways they manipulate others to work for them]

6. Finances

Money is a huge source of resentment for many couples. Maybe one person works and the other one doesn’t.

The one who works could be resentful toward the one who doesn’t if it wasn’t mutually agreed upon. Or if one person is a spender and one is a saver, those spending habits can also create a lot of problems in the marriage.

7. Lack of intimacy

Intimacy comes in a couple of different forms – emotional and physical/sexual.

When one person wants to have conversations to connect and to hold hands, cuddle, hug, and have sex, that means it’s important to them. So, if their spouse ignores these needs, the other one will definitely get angry and resentful.

8. Neglect

When we get married, some people think that’s where all the work ends. In other words, they think, “Great! I’m married! Now I don’t have to put any more effort into the relationship.”

Well, that is where the work really begins. So, if one or both people are neglecting their partner and the marriage, it will eventually fall apart. [Read: Feeling neglected in a relationship – 20 signs, fixes, and why it hurts]

9. Abuse

Abuse also comes in different forms – emotional, mental, and physical. So, you don’t have to get slapped around and beaten up in order to be abused.

If your partner is calling you bad names, criticizing you, and making you feel bad about yourself, then you are being abused. And obviously, if you are being physically hit, then that is unacceptable. [Read: 21 big signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking in your relationship]

10. Child rearing

Raising children is very stressful. From crying babies in the middle of the night to driving them around to friends’ houses and sports practices, it is a lot of effort.

Plus, there are different parenting styles too. So, if the responsibilities are unequal or the spouses have different approaches to parenting, then that will create some resentment.

11. Expectations

Sometimes, expectations of your spouse are reasonable like they share household duties. But some other expectations might not be that reasonable.

For example, if you expect your spouse to go to the gym to maintain the body they had when they were 18, that might be unrealistic. [Read: 19 unrealistic expectations in love we want to believe but shouldn’t]

12. Unequal responsibilities

It takes a lot of effort to run a household. Someone needs to cook, clean, do the laundry, pay bills, mow the grass, and take care of the children.

So, if one person is doing almost all of these things and the other one is just relaxing while they do it, that will create a lot of resentment in a marriage. [Read: Why people take you for granted – 16 signs and firm ways to stop them]

The biggest signs of resentment in marriage

Now that you know what causes resentment in a marriage, let’s look at how this resentment manifests in real life.

1. Fighting

Everyone fights, but if you are having an unusual number of fights, then that is a bad sign. Additionally, if you can’t ever resolve your problems, then resentment will linger and grow. [Read: How to stop fighting in a relationship and 16 steps to really talk]

2. Criticizing

If one or both partners are constantly nit-picking at the other one and criticizing their every behavior and quality, then that is toxic.

3. Withholding intimacy

When someone is resentful, they don’t feel like holding hands, cuddling, hugging, having sex, or having deep conversations with their spouse.

4. Emotional detachment

If someone seems indifferent to their spouse and to the marriage as a whole, then they have emotionally detached. Resentment and detachment are a bad combination. [Read: Emotionally detached? 15 clear signs they don’t even care about your feelings]

5. Can’t let things go

When problems never get resolved and they are constantly brought up so the person can be reminded of all the things they did wrong, then that is a sign of a resentful marriage.

6. Comparing your spouse

If a wife says things like, “Jane’s husband always cooks dinner and does the laundry… and you can’t even take out the trash!” then you know she is resentful of her husband. Of course, the husband could say similar things to her too.

15 ways to keep out any resentment in marriage

If you have feelings of resentment in your marriage, you’re not alone. But you can overcome it and have a happier marriage. Isn’t that what everyone wants? Here are all the ways you can keep resentment out of your marriage. [Read: How to let go of resentment, stop feeding the hate and start living]

By working on it, you’ll be able to move forward with your partner and feel genuinely glad you’re married.

1. There’s a difference between anger and resentment

See, there is a big difference, and knowing it may change things for you. Anger is an emotion that lets you know something needs to be addressed. And this emotion can be used to solve problems.

Resentment, on the other hand, is when anger is unaddressed. It’s anger that’s been piled up inside of you for a long time. [Read: Contempt in a relationship and how to stop subtly disliking each other]

2. Trust your feelings

Sometimes we doubt our feelings and emotions because we don’t think they are necessarily valid. But if you’re feeling a certain way, it doesn’t mean you’re too sensitive, or you’re overreacting. Your feelings matter, trust them.

3. Put your marriage first

If you want to let go of resentment, focus on putting your marriage first.

Letting go of resentment will take a lot of work; you’ll need to give your partner your full attention. This doesn’t mean you should quit your job, but make your marriage a priority. [Read: 25 must-follow relationship rules for successful love]

4. Therapy isn’t a bad thing

This doesn’t mean your relationship is on the brink of ending, and you don’t know what to do. Therapy is about finding the real problems in your marriage and looking at solutions. Having an unbiased observer look into your marriage will help you discover things you probably didn’t see yourself.

5. Bring back communication

We cannot emphasize this enough. You need to communicate about your problems. If you’re feeling hurt about something they did or said, talk to them about it. If you feel resentment, tell them. 

Your partner wants to be in a happy marriage too; they need to hear your feelings and concerns. That’s the only way you two can work on improving the relationship. [Read: 16 little steps to better communication in your relationship]

6. Go on date nights

When we’re in long-term relationships, it’s easy to get lazy and slack on communication and connection. Date nights are, first of all, a cheaper alternative to therapy, and push you two to spend time with each other in a different setting than your home. 

Whether it’s going to see a play, a concert, or trying out a new restaurant, it’ll give you time to reconnect. [Read: The secrets to reconnect with your spouse and reignite a flickering flame]

7. Your partner can’t read your mind

Even though your partner knows you like the back of their hand, don’t assume they can read your mind.

You always need to remember this and focus on communicating clearly with your partner. Life is busy and full of changes; your partner is not always going to be able to identify and deliver your needs.

8. Bring out the “I” statements

Oh, yes. The “I” statement. Though you may be rolling your eyes, using “I” at the beginning of a sentence changes everything. If you’re addressing an issue to your partner, use “I” statements. This will avoid any petty arguments and will prevent you from shifting blame onto your partner.

9. Learn to let go

This doesn’t mean you should ignore your feelings of anger or sadness; you shouldn’t.

But let go of past situations that have become toxic for you. Resentment sits inside of you and festers. If you want to progress in your marriage, let those feelings go. [Read: How to release the anger and resentment you’re holding inside]

10. Identify the resentment triggers

You need to look at what causes you to feel resentment. Does your partner rely on you to do all the chores? If so, this could very well be a reason why you feel resentment towards them.

Really break down your relationship and identify the triggers. It’ll bring you one step closer to resolving the issue. [Read: The 80/20 rule in relationships and why it’s so important for happy love]

11. Look at solutions

Sit down with your partner and communicate your feelings to them, and have them talk about their feelings. Once all the cards are on the table, think about effective solutions. What can you both do to let go of resentment in marriage?

12. Physically connect with your partner

When you feel resentment, you push your partner away from you. It’s easy to shut them out, but that won’t solve the problem.

Though you may be hurt, connect with your partner physically. Hold their hand, hug, kiss, whatever you feel comfortable doing. Having sex is also important for connecting with your partner. [Read: 16 non-sexual touches that’ll help you connect and feel loved]

13. Make it a two-way street

You can’t be the only one working towards letting go of resentment. If there are things your partner does that hurt you, they need to be aware of it and work on their communication as well.

As you know, marriage is a two-way street, and you need to be met halfway.

14. Forgive

Resentment in marriage happens when you don’t forgive your partner for what they’ve done. Yes, you argued last week, but if you want to live resentment-free, forgive your partner and move forward. You can tell them what they did that hurt you, and give them the space to apologize. [Read: Here’s where to start if you want to improve your marriage]

15. Remember, it takes work

When reading these suggestions, you easily read through them. But, remember these tips take constant work on both sides.

So, communicating your feelings one day and then not doing it the next isn’t going to help your marriage in the long run. If you want to let go of resentment in marriage, it’s going to take work.

[Read: The 13 secrets of a happy marriage that can make or break your relationship]

Like any married couple, you desire a happy marriage. Though no marriage comes without ups and downs, use these tips to keep resentment in marriage out of yours.

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...