It is important to know how to spot the signs of resentment in a relationship. Because resentment is not normal anger or frustration. Resentment 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: 10 big problems in a relationship and how to fix it]
How do the signs of resentment in a relationship look?
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.
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: Real signs that reveal if you’re not in love anymore]
What are the signs of resentment in a relationship?
As I 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: 12 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: How to stop feeling contempt in a relationship and overcome the anger]
#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.
#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 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.
I had a friend in a dysfunctional relationship that complained about her boyfriend every single time we hung out. She didn’t even realize it until I pointed it out to her.
#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: You should never tolerate these signs of a bad relationship]
How to deal with resentment in a relationship
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: These signs of a toxic relationship will only go from bad to worse]
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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