7 Steps to Fix Toxic Resentment in Relationship
Updated: Sep 13
Resentment can be destructive in a relationship or other close relationship. It destroys trust, leaving both partners feeling bitter, angry and hopeless about their futures together. However, if resentment is addressed correctly, it can actually help partners identify and address important relationship issues before they lead to serious problems down the road.
If you or your partner feels resentment towards the other, this article offers a complete guide for healing your relationship.
What Is Resentment In relationship?
Resentment in a relationship can be identified as the accumulation of negative feelings toward your partner when you feel wronged, betrayed, neglected, poorly treated, or taken for granted. Resentment is toxic to a relationship and over time will erode the safety and trust necessary for a successful relationship.
Resentment toward your spouse is triggered when your partner knowingly or unknowingly breaks the agreements of your relationship. This can result in disappointment, anger, and frustration for both partners.
What Causes Resentment In Relationships?
The causes of resentment in relationship are many and varied, but common causes include:
Feeling like you contribute more to the relationship than your partner
A long-term lack of emotional intimacy and connection
Feeling unimportant or that you’re not a priority to your partner
An unfulfilling sex life
Toxic communication or unresolved arguments
Feeling unappreciated or like your partner doesn’t really ‘see’ you
Selfish or controlling behavior
Intense criticism or demeaning comments from your partner
Resentments often start small:
A careless remark, a forgotten commitment, or a lack of appreciation can cause resentment to grow if unresolved. If you ignore small hurts and don’t address them in a timely fashion, they can build upon one another until you find yourself carrying around a heart full of past grievances.
How To Fix Toxic Resentment in Relationship
The next section guides you through an exercise that will help you understand the hurt feelings you’re experiencing, uncover the valid needs underneath those feelings and communicate these needs to your partner in a way that will increase the likelihood of them being met. This process may be challenging due to resentment, which creates distorted narratives about your relationship and your partner that aren’t always accurate.
If you and your partner want to overcome anger and resentment in your relationship, you will need to evaluate the assumptions that lead to these feelings. Open your mind and consider different perspectives, but also trust that this process has the power to transform even the toughest resentments – if both of you are willing to try.
Look for the positive
List all of the positive traits and characteristics in your partner and relationship. This is not an attempt to gaslight or be all ‘toxic positivity’*. These positive attributes are not going to magically make negative ones disappear or instantly fix your resentment.
Before we discuss the more challenging aspects of healing resentment in a relationship, begin by recalling the positive qualities of your spouse and the reasons you have chosen to be in a relationship with them. Challenge yourself to write down at least 20 things. This is your ‘why?’ for working through resentment in your relationship.
Understanding Hurts & Complaints
Now list the ‘negatives’ and the things you’re feeling resentful about:
What are some of the complaints you have about your partner?
What have they done that’s hard to let go of?
Where do you feel disrespected, unloved, or wronged?
Then pick one resentment you want to focus on healing:
How do you feel when you think about this? (Hint – go beyond anger and frustration, and feel what other emotions are there)
What really hurts about this?
Why is this important to you?
What assumptions have you made about your partner and their actions? Why do you think they’re doing what they’re doing?
Communicate Your Needs
Now that you have a better understanding of your resentments, ask your partner to talk about his or her perspective on the issue. This can help you both determine how to proceed from here.
Be Sensitive To Their Triggers
When we approach a partner with a complaint or request about our needs, one of the most common responses is defensiveness or turning away. In most cases, this occurs because the other person is triggered; something you’ve said has brought up his or her insecurities and unresolved emotional wounds.
Get Curious About Their Perspective
Refer back to the interpretations and assumptions you were making about your resentments:
I’m not important to you.
You don’t respect me.
You don’t appreciate all of the things I do.
You’re not attracted to me anymore.
It’s time to practice curiosity and ask what else might be going on. To do this well you’ll need to summon all of the compassion and open-mindedness you can:
“I’m curious about why you’re working so late each evening? What’s going on for you at work? Is it actually possible for us to spend more time together now?”
“Why do you think we’re not having as much sex as we used to? Are you struggling with anything? How do you feel about our sex life? How do you feel about yourself sexually?”
“When that thing happened / when you said that thing – what was going on for you? What did you actually mean when you said that?”
This is a delicate step that can be difficult to master. Our communication course for couples equips you with proven tools to have more productive conversations.
Make An Action Plan
In as few words as possible, what actions would help you to get your needs met and resolve the situation? Is it:
A commitment to a regular date night?
A plan to re-distribute the chores?
A request for more affectionate touch or words of appreciation?
Or to have more sex dates?
The clearer you are on what you need, the more meaningful and effective this action plan becomes.
Change does not occur overnight, but rather step by step. To maintain positive momentum, it is important to appreciate and celebrate each other's efforts to change. This can help you build a stronger relationship.