- Resentment can stem from the perception that the relationship is unbalanced. If left unaddressed, it can lead to conflict or even a breakup.
- If your partner uses sarcasm in ways that are more hurtful than funny, doesn’t celebrate your successes, or increasingly starts arguments over little things, he or she may resent you.
- If you sense resentment in your partner, it can help to calmly confront them and tell them how you feel. Talking to a therapist together or on your own is a good option too.
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Resentment is a type of unspoken anger that can poison otherwise happy relationships. It can stem from the perception that one partner has been treated unfairly or that the relationship is unbalanced in some way. If left to fester, unresolved resentment can cause serious conflict or even the end of a relationship.
INSIDER spoke to relationship experts and psychologists to identify some of the warning signs that your partner may resent you.
They make hurtful comments disguised as “jokes”
No one likes to be mocked or criticised, especially by a loved one. A partner who is constantly cracking mean jokes at your expense or using sarcasm in a way that seems snide might be using humour to cloak their resentment.
“If your partner makes fun of you or says biting things that hurt your feelings, but then hides behind ‘it was just a joke,’ there might be something else going on – especially if you tell them how it makes you feel, but it keeps happening,” Lisa Marie Bobby, a psychologist and marriage and family therapist, told INSIDER.
People who struggle with direct confrontation may use mean jokes as a way of indirectly calling attention to their negative feelings. However, this kind of humour is not only unpleasant, it can be emotionally abusive. Talking to a mental health professional about your situation can help you figure out whether the relationship is worth salvaging.
You feel they no longer notice the nice things you do
Part of maintaining a loving relationship is appreciating the helpful and caring things your partner does. Appreciation can take many forms, but if you suddenly feel as if all your thoughtful gestures are being overlooked, it might be a sign that your partner resents you.
“The negative feelings they are harboring may make them more tuned in to your shortcomings and less interested in your positive attributes. You may feel like all your good efforts go unnoticed and that your partner only notices when you screw up,” clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Luke Carrangis told INSIDER.
Calmly confronting your partner about their perceived lack of appreciation for your efforts may help to initiate a conversation about how they’re feeling and if they’re dealing with any resentment.
They seem to secretly enjoy when bad things happen to you
Noticing that your partner seems to take pleasure in your pain or disappointment is a huge red flag.
“If your partner is holding grudges and resentment toward you, they will be pleased when you’re ‘punished.’ If your partner appears to be cavalier, uncaring, smug, or even a tiny bit gleeful when you are experiencing a setback or difficulty, you can be fairly certain they are angry with you,” Bobby said.
It’s natural to want your partner to be happy for you when good things come your way. Dealing with a partner who seems to delight in your misfortunate – or worse, sabotages your success – can be a huge relationship obstacle and may be a reason to rethink the partnership altogether.
Their behaviour doesn’t match their words
Behaviour is a form of communication that can be more revealing than spoken words. If your partner is assuring you that all is well but they’re acting in a passive-aggressive way, resentment might be to blame.
“Examples of passive aggression include when your partner agrees to do something but doesn’t, says ‘yes’ but then shows you ‘no,’ or ‘forgets’ things that are important to you. In these cases, they may be communicating that they have unspoken resentments,” Bobby said.
A healthy relationship shouldn’t involve constantly guessing at your partner’s true feelings. Having a discussion about why your partner’s behaviour doesn’t match their verbal communication is a good first step toward uncovering any hidden resentment.
They start arguments more often
If your formerly easy-going partner becomes more openly critical or starts to pick fights over seemingly insignificant issues, it might be a clue that they’re struggling with hidden resentment.
“One sign of resentment is arguing over inconsequential things. If you’re getting pushback or criticism for how you’re hanging the toilet paper or slicing the tomato, chances are your partner has bad feelings simmering under the surface that need to be aired,” Bobby said.
It can be hard to break patterns of destructive or negative communication once they start. Talking to a licensed therapist as a couple or on your own may help you figure out if resentment is at the root of your frequent fighting.
They seem less interested in physical affection
It’s common for a partner who feels resentful to lose interest in physical affection. They may make excuses to avoid intimacy, which may then create feelings of hurt and resentment on both sides of the relationship.
“For many people, desire is not possible when feeling resentment. Sex may be initiated less or not at all. Kissing may completely stop or become limited to a quick peck rather than a passionate exchange,” certified sex therapist Krista Jarvis told INSIDER.
Others may become more demanding around sex when they feel resentful, Javis said. For some, demanding more sex may be a way to feel a sense of control. If they are feeling resentful about one unmet need in the relationship, they may want their partner to “pay” by meeting another.
They stop doing little thoughtful things
A resentful partner may stop doing the small things they once did that made you feel special, such as picking up your favourite snack at the store, making sure you have clean socks, or clearing your windshield of ice on a cold morning.
“A partner who feels resentful will likely stop doing the little things they used to do to show they care. It can be difficult to bring ourselves to express thoughtfulness and kindness to someone we resent,” Jarvis said.
However, just because your partner stops making as many thoughtful gestures doesn’t mean they resent you. It could be that they’re dealing with additional stress or time constraints outside of your relationship. It’s worth talking to your partner about how you’re both feeling if you notice a change in their usual behaviour.
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