Your relationship has been going great for the last couple of months or years, then suddenly your partner becomes cold toward you. If there’s been a sudden change in behavior and your partner is acting like he or she is sleeping with the enemy, there could be some unresolved hurt and anger that needs to be addressed. Once resentment sets in, it can seriously impact the health of a relationship. Psychologist Jeanette Raymond, author of Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! told The Cheat Sheet resentment often arises when a couple’s relationship expectations are not being met.
Resentment comes from deeply held wishes and expectations of one’s partner that are never explicitly discussed and agreed on. Resentment builds when these wishes, often magical child-like wishes for your partner to “know” how you feel or what you want from them, but without ever telling them formally and directly, go unaddressed. Each time the wish or expectation goes unmet, a layer of disappointment, hurt, and hate builds up until it becomes a stack of wounds in a relationship called resentment.
Is your partner acting differently? If things have suddenly taken a downward turn, engage in a bit of reflection to see if there’s anything you might have said or done that could have caused resentment. Here are the relationship mistakes that will make your partner resent you.
1. Lack of appreciation
When is the last time you took a moment to let your partner know how grateful you are for his or her presence in your life? Demonstrating appreciation is a key ingredient to making sure your partner feels seen and heard. Saying “I love you,” is great, but expressing gratitude is another meaningful way to show love and provide encouragement.
Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship Therapist, says failure to show appreciation can make your partner feel taken advantage of. “This leads to a negative attitude and a disconnect. If it goes on too long, it can lead one to emotionally ‘check out’ of the relationship,” Slatkin told The Cheat Sheet.
2. Breaking promises
Another source of relationship strain is chronic promise breaking. You might have good intentions but then something comes up and you decide not to go through with a promise you made to your partner. He or she might let this behavior slide a few times, but if it becomes constant, it could cause a rift in your relationship. Attorney Regina A. DeMeo says problems could arise even if the offense seems minor. “Maybe you promised to end a relationship or quit a bad habit, but you continue to do so behind your partner’s back. The bottom line is, when you break promises, your partner will resent you because he or she can’t trust you,” she said.
3. Making unilateral decisions
If you really want to get under your partner’s skin and cause resentment, make decisions without his or her input. This is one of the most common ways to hinder the flow of communication. When decisions are settled in the absence of your partner, this sends the message that his or her opinions don’t matter. Dating and Relationship Coach Hunt Ethridge says unilateral decisions can make a partner feel disrespected.
One of the parties usually feels left out or overlooked when it comes to communication, as if their opinion was worthless. Also, it can signify a lack of respect. Especially for a man, respect is needed. In a study [by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs], 83% of men said they’d rather have lots of respect and no love rather than the opposite. Resentment also magnifies each slight, real or imagined. What could be a humorous situation (dropping pasta on the kitchen floor, for example) can escalate quickly if there’s festering resentment.
4. Putting other people (and things) first
Make your partner one of your top priorities. Other people, things, and activities shouldn’t come before your relationship. “If one person always puts other people first — either work deadlines/engagements, a child from a previous relationship, his or her mom, or buddies, then eventually the other person will resent the fact that they don’t seem to rank high enough as a priority. As a result, they will probably start to readjust their own priorities, and make other interests or people come first. This is how couples can easily drift apart,” said DeMeo.
5. Sharing intimate secrets with others
One of the benefits of being in a committed relationship is you have someone you can share your deepest, darkest secrets with. However, when trust is broken because intimate details are shared with others, this can cause resentment to spring up. Betraying your partner’s trust not only elicits feelings of hurt and anger, but could also signal the end of your relationship.
6. Holding grudges
We all get angry with our partner from time to time. However, it’s not healthy to hold on to that anger indefinitely. While you’re stewing about something that happened two years ago, your partner is likely going on with his or her life. Unload the burden of your anger and set yourself free. Your partner won’t even know what you’re angry about if you keep it inside and don’t talk about it. Instead of snapping at your partner and expecting him or her to know what’s bothering you, talk it out.
7. Avoiding conflict
Conflict can be uncomfortable, but it’s important to talk to your partner about what’s concerning you. Avoid blocking the lines of communication in an attempt to avoid conflict. Barbi Pecenco, Marriage and Family Therapist, says bottling up emotions will eventually poison the relationship. For all you know, the problem could be quickly and easily resolved if you just speak up. Have a discussion with your partner instead of risking the health of your relationship — and your emotional well-being. Here’s what Pecenco had to say in her column for Good Therapy:
We are inadvertently doing our relationship a huge disservice, because not only will our partner feel like a stranger because we are not openly sharing our thoughts and feelings, we will also accumulate resentment because we will feel taken advantage of and not cared about. So, the bottom line is to really get the fact that if you neglect to bring up your relationship concerns to your partner and pretend that you have a conflict-free relationship, the issues won’t go away. Instead they go underground and begin to pollute the very foundation that your relationship is built on.
8. Uneven housework distribution
Something as seemingly innocuous as the distribution of household chores could wreck your relationship. If you come home and relax after work while your partner labors in the kitchen, it’s just a matter of time before all hell breaks loose. “If you don’t do your part to keep the household functioning smoothly, this smacks of unfairness. Why should someone else have to pick up for your slack?” DeMeo said.
If household chores are often a point of contention, one tool that might help you and your partner keep the peace is the HoneyDo app, which helps couples manage chores. “When one partner is consistently completing more chores than their significant other, it causes animosity and partners tend to use this behavior as fuel for the fire,” said Erin Macdonald, a marketing manager with FamilyTech, a company that creates tech tools to help make families’ lives easier.
The road to healing
Left unaddressed, resentment leads to real issues. “It causes people to focus on a negative feeling between them, so until that’s processed and dissolved, that negative remains part of the relationship. Resentment causes people to lash out because they’re unhappy and they feel like they need to blame others,” said relationship expert April Masini.
So, how can partners heal from the strain of anger and resentment? Once you and your partner have identified the problem leading up to these feelings, it will be important for you to offer a sincere apology. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to make some behavioral changes. Here are two steps you can take today:
- Practice daily appreciation. If lack of appreciation is a big issue, make an effort to be more aware of your partner. Offer daily praise and show genuine gratitude for all he or she does. “Practicing daily appreciations is a great way to curb resentment because it allows each person to show what they are grateful for. In this way, they notice their partner’s efforts and their partner no longer feels taken for granted,” said Slatkin.
- Communication is key. If you sense something isn’t right, carve out time so you and your partner can discuss what is bothering him or her. “If you have a partner who is resentful, then something is going on. You can’t believe the, ‘oh its nothing,’ statement. It is something and you must find a way to talk in the right setting and be straight with each other. Don’t live in denial and illusion. Sit down and find out what is really going on! Your relationship will be better in the truth and the resentment will disappear,” said Audrey Hope, relationship expert, host of weekly YouTube advice show “Hope For Relationships,” and addictions specialist at Seasons in Malibu.
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[Editor’s note: This story was originally published June 16, 2017.]