How do you define a happy and healthy relationship? One definition may be that a healthy relationship involves honesty, trust, respect, and open communication between two people who put in effort and make compromises in an atmosphere of mutual respect and love without resentment.

To create a relationship with these characteristics, communication must be the primary factor within it. Without good and healthy communication, the seeds of resentment in relationships can quickly germinate.

Resentment can threaten to put down its roots in almost any type of relationship. In obviously toxic relationships such as abusive relationships, it happens far quicker. It may also occur when one or both partners act or speak in a way that causes anger or hurt in the other. Further, there are times when you cannot tell where the resentment has come from or how it got into the relationship, but its presence is acknowledged.

It is certainly good to understand how your relationship can be attacked by resentment, and what to do about it when you find resentment in relationships. If left untreated, resentment can grow and poison a relationship, so it is best dealt with quickly.

Common causes of resentment in relationships

Feeling ignored.

A significant warning that there is resentment in relationships is that you or your partner feels ignored. There may be several instances where either of you has explained your point of view and emotions to the other, but the topic is not taken seriously and often the person refers to his or her own experience. This is a sure way to build resentment.

Being heard by your partner is a vital aspect of a relationship. However, it is also necessary for them to be spoken to in a way that does not feel like unfair targeting.

If either of you often lambasts the other on certain points of character, you cannot expect your partner to be receptive to the hurt you are experiencing if it is framed in blame and anger on the topic of often-mentioned imperfections.

Feeling ignored means that we start to feel like we are not seen, or important in the relationship. This is particularly dangerous to unity as then we start to question the state of the relationship.

Arguing more often than not.

If you find yourself having arguments about the same seemingly unresolved issue or many arguments about new issues, this can quickly foster resentment. When your fights veer to unresolved hurts and disappointments, you may find yourself repeating the pattern in the next argument.

Not only does it open the relationship up to the vulnerability caused by regular arguing, but it can make you feel unheard and that your partner is not listening. If your partner is listening, he or she is not taking the required action to change the result and fix the issue. You can understand the healing and important role that effective communication can play.

Fertile ground for the roots of resentment in relationships is created when we feel we do not receive what we deserve. The unresolved but often repeated arguments can bring you to a point where you feel like nothing you say or do will be taken seriously by your partner.

Keep in mind that hearing what your partner is saying and listening to him or her – which results in action – are two different skills. A healthy relationship needs both people to possess both skills. Fortunately, these skills can be taught and learned.

Fault-finding is too easy.

When a couple begins to focus on the other’s faults, and what divides them rather than celebrating what unites them and their commonality, it grows negative feelings between them. As hurtful words, momentary slights, frustrations, and anger become more common, they create a barrier to the good of the relationship. These feelings stay unless they are addressed and resolved.

Passive-aggressive behavior.

One way to define passive-aggressive behavior is as a pattern of indirectly expressed negative feelings. In other words, they are not openly addressed. This means there is a difference between what a person who shows passive-aggressive behavior says and what they do.

An example of this which shows why being passive-aggressive so easily leads to resentment in relationships is that the behavior delivered often comes in the form of off-hand cutting vocal remarks or body language changes that show disapproval.

Silence, ignoring, sarcasm, and avoidance are methods often used as communication methods with passive-aggressive people. The rub is that these communication methods are extremely ineffective and even counterproductive.

The unfortunate result is that the underlying rage, fear, or grief held by this person is not effectively handled. Indirect expression of negative feelings brings disagreements and frustration rather than airing the issues out so that they can be resolved. An atmosphere of opaque communication is an easy place for resentment to grow.

Weaponizing intimacy.

Withdrawing emotionally or physically from your partner through refusing or simply ignoring him or her when you know it is in his or her best interest to experience communication or connection is not only unhealthy but manipulative. By giving your partner the cold shoulder, you are putting up far more barriers to a healthy relationship.

If you were affected by this type of behavior from your partner in the past or present, then you may identify with its common results: feelings of inadequacy or inferiority. These emotions also give rise to resentment in relationships.

Intimacy involves more than sex, but also emotional closeness and mutual support of one another. By withholding support from you, your partner may well make you feel rejected.

This withdrawal also prevents the building up of love in the relationship. There are many ways that couples show and experience love, such as through acts of service, words of affirmation, giving and gifts, and quality time. These can be given and received through doing household chores together, having conversations with plenty of eye contact, or pleasantly surprising the other.

Not knowing how to fix the problem.

When one or both partners feel hopeless to solve their relationship problems, it is a very vulnerable time. The causes of this discouragement can be multiple, perhaps feeling ignored, irrelevant, abandoned, being taken for granted, or apathetic.

When you try to do everything from your side, such making regular deposits into their love account but getting nothing in return, this may result in you running on empty. When one feels emotionally unnourished and exhausted, it is unfortunately another very fertile environment for resentment in relationships to grow. Part of the problem is that you feel like you just cannot fix the issue.

Expectations are unfulfilled or unspoken.

In every relationship, there is an element of giving and receiving. It is a sign of a healthy relationship. Underneath our thoughts and actions often lies an expectation from the relationship. You expect to practice kindness and generosity in your relationship, but then you also expect the same from your partner toward you.

But what happens when these expectations are unrealistic or simply unattainable? Expectations need to be discussed and communicated, because if they are not, the disappointment will leave the door open for bitter resentment to enter.

Disappointment is shown through blaming, shaming, and criticizing your partner. However, should these unspoken and unmet expectations not be clarified and dealt with, then the anger that results will further weaken the relationship.

Christian counseling for relationship issues

If you’re looking for additional help to better understand resentment in relationships, browse our online counselor directory or contact our office to schedule an appointment. We would be honored to walk with you on this journey and provide the specialized help you may need.

“Wordless”, Courtesy of Alice Donovan Rouse,, CC0 License; “Sitting on the Dock”, Courtesy of Krists Luhaers,, CC0 License; “Going for a Walk”, Courtesy of Jason Leung,, CC0 License; “Sitting by the Docks”, Courtesy of Christian Lue,, CC0 License


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