Resentment In Marriage

Resentment in marriage usually builds up over time from unresolved conflicts. Failure to develop closure around disagreements, traumatic experiences, and other tense moments in your relationship tend to fester and become worse with time. Healing from resentment is difficult because after years of conflict or avoidance, the issues tend to become a web related to many other struggles in the relationship. Any single event can trigger other memories and emotions that make it a challenge to heal.

There is so much expected of marriage today that it’s no surprise there is some backlash. Couples are expected to be best friends and lovers, great parents, business partners in some cases, and confidants. The pressure grows for couples to be exclusive, monogamous, and transparent. Much of the mystery is gone and many resent having to be so perfect in a world that is so imperfect. Tension, arguing, withdrawing from your partner, as well as classic anxiety and depression, can always be signs of that resentment.

What Are The Signs Of Resentment In Marriage?

Resentment can be displayed in a number of ways between a couple. Some of the most common signs of resentment in a marriage are:

  • Rumination on negative events
  • Avoiding time with your spouse
  • Decrease in sexual activities together
  • Feelings of anger
  • Inability to forgive

Can You Love And Resent Someone At The Same Time?

Yes. Emotions are complicated and usually not logical. You can love someone who has hurt you even thought you don’t like them in the moment. This is often a helpful concept to explore because that love can create renewed connection and help motivate couples through the process of healing resentment as they move towards forgiveness.

Can My Marriage Survive Resentment?

Sometimes. If the resentment builds too much overtime it can be come irreparable. This often happens when on partner blames and judges the other for the state of the marriage. If the couple can see their relationship with humility and offer genuine empathy, then many couples are able to survive.

What Is The Root Cause Of Resentment In Marriage?

Sometimes the root cause has nothing to do with the marriage. In other words, it’s not the marriage’s fault. Some spouses are struggling with long time challenges either from childhood wounds or unresolved traumas that get triggered by specific behaviors or words. Even body language like eye rolling can trigger a combative response. There are examples of when the non-triggered spouse feels blind-sided and then they might get triggered. Up until then they were okay. It’s what they will say came out of the nowhere. So, at times what we are calling resentment here can be something only one person is experiencing at first but then their reaction to it pulls the other into a negative spiral. Other times, it could be about something that happened or repeatedly happens in the marriage.

The root cause of resentment is usually when a spouse struggles for often a long time to receive closure regarding past hurts or missteps in the relationship. This often leads to blaming and judging the accused spouse for issues in the marriage, which causes further resentment. It is a toxic cycle than start with small events, but builds up and festers sometimes over many years.

How Do You Break The Cycle Of Resentment?

In order to break the cycle, both partners must have an open and honest conversation about the state of the marriage, what led to it, and how they can resolve it. Both partners are responsible for the dynamic within their marriage, and while one of them might have made a mistake, they can both participate in the repair process.

We call this “getting a reality check”: differentiating what is my trigger from what is your trigger, and what came from my childhood from what manifested in the marriage, what baggage is mine and what is yours, and how do we trigger each other? Better yet is how can we heal ourselves and each other? That is of course the goal of Marriage Quest: to transform the old ways of thinking and feeling that have not served you well into thoughts and behaviors that get you to your goals.

Other Marital Conflicts

If you are experiencing resentment in your marriage, there are most likely other conflicts that are either currently taking place or that might have lead to the situation you’re in now. Below are some examples of marital conflict that we have helped many couples overcome:

Emotional Distance

One of the most common goals in couples therapy is to increase emotional intimacy. Couples who have struggled to stay connected or are dealing with frequent conflict often start to feel emotionally distant from each other.

Contempt In Marriage

Contempt in a marriage is rooted in a lack of positive attachment in  to your spouse often as a result as a divide and conquer lifestyle  (i.e. splitting responsibilities such as raising kids, career development, etc) and not enough quality time together. As a result, neither partner will feel acknowledged or appreciated, and the desire and romance suffers as a result.


Jealousy is such a powerful emotion that it can make you feel paranoid, anxious, depressed, or withdrawn. It can make you behave in ways that you are ashamed to admit, and it can create intrusive thoughts or images that are extremely difficult to manage. Jealousy has ruined many relationships.

Family Influences

Parents and extended family can cause many problems for a married couple. It’s wonderful when everyone gets along and supports each other, but unfortunately it’s very common for outside family members to interfere with the couples marriage. This can be even more complicated with a blended family.

Lifestyle Choices

They say that opposites attract, but there are limits. As couples age, it’s normal to explore different hobbies and interests, however sometimes this can cause a divide in the relationship. If you both used to enjoy an activity, it might challenge your connection if someone decides they no longer enjoy it.


Children are challenging. Parenting is difficult. Many couples get married with the best ideals of themselves as parents, and that vision is quickly altered when the first baby arrives. Parenting together is a test of how well you can maintain boundaries, manage your emotional triggers, and find some way to stay connected while the demands of these little people take up much of your valuable time.

At Marriage Quest parenting is a popular bonus conversation. Spouses who have different views on what is okay and what is not okay offer their children a real-life lesson. When couples are able to maturely communicate their differing opinions, children learn to negotiate as well, and if children have a voice in decision making they begin to develop good critical thinking and healthy decision making. Children and teens can have a voice, though parents ultimately get to make the decisions. When children have a say in decision making, they are more likely to honor those decisions. Kids decision making, problem solving, and relationship skills catapult forward when they witness and engage in respectful family discourse and decision making.


Gaslighting is when you feel manipulated by your partner because of a perceived attempt to undermine your confidence in your beliefs and experiences. This often leads to self doubt, confusion, or increased emotional distress. It’s easy to blame your partner as intentionally trying to sabotage you, however the truth is usually more complex. Gaslighting can be conscious or unconscious, and fixing it requires clear communication as well as an understanding of what is being triggered between the couple.

Sexual Challenges

Sex usually becomes more complicated as a couple ages. Children, careers, and factors related to aging can become barriers to a satisfying romantic life. Many couples also have different levels of desire or libido that adds stress to negotiating a healthy sex life. 

Frequently Asked Questions

While it is normal for couples to have conflict and not get along from time to time, continuous conflict is not normal and not healthy for them and the family, if there are children involved. Couples who have more days of arguing than not, should seek help to get to the bottom of it all.

Try to understand what is the deeper issue for you. What are you thinking and feeling, and more importantly, what do you really want? It’s useful to understand what is bothering you, and it’s even more important to understand what is missing for you and what do you really want. For some people it is to feel closer and more loved, for others it is to feel safer and more at peace.

True contempt is difficult, if not impossible, to repair. If your spouse truly sees you as worthless and unworthy of their love and respect, there’s not much to work on. Sometimes it seems like someone has contempt, is condescending, or appears to hate you, but in reality, they are just hurt and angry themselves and are lashing out or shutting down. It’s useful to explore what their true feeling might be to determine if this is fixable.

Consider A Marriage Counseling Retreat

If you have been struggling with resentment in your marriage, it might feel hopeless. Many couples seek help years later when the stress has festered in other areas of their lives. If you have been stuck for a long time, then a Marriage Counseling Retreat is the best solution. While it took a long time to get where you are, it can take only days to start undoing it.

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