What Does Resentment Mean For Your Relationship?

By Mary Elizabeth Dean|Updated April 28, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Karen Devlin, LPC

Resentment is a very complex feeling that can be incredibly detrimental to an otherwise healthy relationship. If you are experiencing resentment in your relationship, it may be time to address it and come up with a plan to rebuild your relationship so you can begin to overcome it. If you let the resentment built up, you may risk permanently damaging or ending your relationship.

What Is Resentment In A Relationship?

Resentment Can Be Difficult To Deal With - Don't Do It Alone
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Resentment in a relationship may result from one or both partners feeling unappreciated, taken advantage of, or forced to accept something unfair circumstances. Sometimes it may mean you aren’t feeling empathy from your partner. You may feel undervalued or unrecognized due to a situation or event, or a series of them that have built up.

Many things that make us feel resentful start out small. You might have said something about your needs not being met. After nothing changed for a while, the feelings may have started to snowball. You may become bitter or angry because you feel there was unfair treatment.

Having a child is one example of a major life change that can bring about resentment, but it is not necessarily always the case. However, when a major life change, such as having a child, comes into play, partners may compare the amount of work they are each doing and feel like there is a disparity. This can cause difficulties in the partnership such as arguing—or feelings of resentment.

However, an argument doesn’t necessarily need to take place for feelings of resentment to become apparent. Sometimes, a lack of communication, which can prevent arguments, may actually magnify feelings of resentment. You may begin to resent your partner for not knowing something was wrong or trying to fix it, even though you never spoke up about what has been bothering you.

The good news is, no matter the reasons for your feelings of resentment, with effort, empathy for your partner, and attention to your relationship, it is possible get past it.

What Does Resentment Mean In A Relationship?

Feelings of resentment can be incredibly damaging and toxic to a relationship. Here are some ways they may negatively impact a partnership:

  • Impaired communication
  • Lack of empathy
  • Reduced intimacy
  • Reduced interest in spending time together
  • Inability to understand one another’s feelings
  • Competing for the spotlight
  • Passive-aggressive behavior

Impaired Communication

When feelings of resentment occur in a relationship, it may affect communication. When you feel undervalued or unappreciated, it may deter you from wanting talk to your partner. Alternatively, you may have already attempted to start a conversation and found your feelings were minimized or unheard. This can further exacerbate your frustration and resentment for your partner, ultimately making problems worse.

Over time, this lack of communication can cause bigger issues in your relationship. If you aren’t talking to your partner, small issues are much more likely to snowball into larger problems. To ensure this doesn't happen, or to overcome issues before feelings of resentment arise, it may be important to practice healthy communication and active listening with your partner.

If you would like to improve or overcome your communication issues but aren’t sure where to start, therapy may be able to help. A trained couples therapist can identify your issues and provide advice and strategies that may help you get back on track and improve your relationship.

Lack Of Empathy

When resentment is present in a relationship, it may bring about a lack of empathy between partners. Many people find it difficult to understand—or have a lack of desire to understand—their partner’s emotions when they feel resentment. This may be because they feel they were treated unfairly, are being misunderstood, or have been ignored.

A lack of empathy may cause even further problems in a relationship if it is not addressed. It may affect communication, as well as hinder your ability to support your partner through good times and bad. This may make it difficult for couples to connect authentically.

Reduced Sex Drive

Feelings of resentment can negatively impact attraction and intimacy in a relationship. Both emotional and physical intimacy are very important aspects of most romantic relationships. Intimacy makes us feel loved and reminds us why we chose the partner we did. It can facilitate a strong bond and connection with our partner. A lack of intimacy may cause one or both partners to feel lonely—and to potentially seek intimacy outside the relationship. It’s important to mention that most relationships go through periods where the level of intimacy goes through highs and lows. Fortunately, with a bit of effort from both partners, it is completely possible to improve intimacy in a relationship.

Reduced Interest In Spending Time Together

Resentment is a complex emotion and can breed feelings of contempt for your partner. If you are experiencing a reduced interest in spending time together, it may be due to feelings of resentment. These feelings may make a partner feel a lack of desire to connect or share aspects of their life with their partner. Quality time in a relationship is important, and if resentment is causing you to spend less time together, it may be something that needs to be worked on.

Competing For The Spotlight

Couples who feel the need to compete for the spotlight, with the intention of being heard, may cause resentment in a relationship.

Resentment is often caused by feeling unappreciated or misunderstood in the relationship. Many times, if both people are feeling this way, they may compete to be right or to be understood. However, to improve the relationship and overcome the need to compete, communication can be key. Practicing active listening and empathy when your partner is talking or needs support may be crucial.

Passive-Aggressive Behaviors

Because of the lack of communication and empathy caused by feelings of resentment, couples may resort to passive-aggressive behaviors. The feelings you have inside may have been suppressed so long that you aren’t comfortable expressing them outright anymore.

This could be for a variety of reasons. Being passive-aggressive is often a sign that you are using defense mechanisms in your relationship to cope with any negative emotions or pain you may be experiencing. You may feel worried that if you do speak up, you will be misunderstood or go unheard. Alternatively, you may feel you don’t have the energy to start a conversation with someone you feel doesn’t listen to you. However, bottling up your feelings and not having an open, honest conversation may further bring up feelings of resentment and magnify them.

Seeking Professional Help

Resentment Can Be Difficult To Deal With - Don't Do It Alone

If you're experiencing feelings of resentment in your relationship, it’s important to know you are not alone. If you’d like to overcome these negative feelings and improve your relationship, a professional therapist may be able to help. ReGain is an online therapy platform specializing in relationship concerns. The platform makes it simple and convenient to get in touch with someone on your time, as soon as you are ready. They offer couples and individual therapy, and the interface makes it easy to connect with a licensed therapist who best suits your needs. They can provide guidance to get to the bottom of your relationship concerns and tools to overcome them.

If you are experiencing resentment in your relationship and want to overcome it, it’s vital that you address it. If you are willing to reach out and get the help you need, you can improve your relationship and strengthen your bond. Continue reading below for reviews of ReGain therapists from individuals who have experienced similar concerns and were able to overcome them.

Counselor Reviews

“Austa has been wonderful thus far. She has helped my partner and I during an unimaginably difficult time... She has also guided us in communicating effectively and setting appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I was hesitant to pursue counseling at the beginning, but I truly believe that it is making a difference for our relationship. Austa is easy to talk to and she is a great listener. I would wholeheartedly recommend her as a counselor.”

“Sessions with Natalie are very insightful and give practical advice on implementing new habits and changes. Be prepared to engage and be challenged to think in a different way. I know that my partner and I can already see improvements in our relationship and feel more positive about working through our issues together.”

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