Dealing With Resentment in Your Marriage

One of the most difficult issues to face in your marriage is the realization that one of you resents the other. This can be a devastating revelation, but it doesn’t mean you can’t overcome these intimacy-killing emotions.

Resentment tends to arise in marriage when one spouse is either knowingly or unknowingly taking advantage of the other–or taking the other for granted. Habitual poor behaviors or unhealthy patterns feed resentment. Some common issues that cause resentment between spouses include:

  • Habitual selfish behaviors
  • Being “married” to a job
  • Favoring one of your children over the other(s)
  • Spending too much time with one side of the family
  • Not being fully present at home or with the kids
  • Expecting too much out of your spouse (or vice versa)
  • Not carrying your weight at home or stepping up to responsibility
  • Failing to celebrate your spouse on holidays or special occasions

One or both spouses can contribute to this environment in a marriage; it’s important to pinpoint what’s happening, address it, and work together to find a solution. The good news is that it is possible to set things right and overcome the hard feelings between you.

Today, we’re sharing a few tips for how to tackle and deal with feelings of resentment–whether it’s resentment toward your spouse, or your spouse’s resentment toward you.

If you resent your spouse…

If you’re resentful of your spouse, chances are, you’ve been holding in some unpleasant feelings for a long time. The issue could be as simple as your spouse neglecting to take out the trash every day; on the other hand, it could be a more complicated issue like him or her spending all their free time with your in-laws.

First, write down everything you’re feeling. Writing can help you gain clarity in an upsetting situation, and it can help you drill down and pinpoint what’s going on inside you that’s causing you to feel such intense resentment. Most likely, you’re feeling the pile-on of many events over a long period of time–maybe even over the span of your entire marriage.

Through your writing, do some serious self-reflection to become more aware of the root of the problem. Is it something that happened in the past that you’ve been carrying around all these years? Is it a theme or pattern that has never resolved itself?

Next, explore whether there’s some positive perspective you can take from what you’re dealing with. Are you holding onto unrealistic expectations you can lower or let go of? Is there an alternative viewpoint you can take once you’ve pinpointed the source of your resentment? We know that while there are situations that don’t warrant simply taking a positive point of view, asking that question of yourself can be helpful as you move toward a solution. Remember, though, that positive perspective doesn’t give your spouse license to continue in their unhealthy patterns. You’ll still need to address the issue head-on.

The most difficult step in this process is approaching your spouse with the problem. Keep in mind that right now, your spouse isn’t feeling any pain. Whatever behaviors or patterns are creating this resentment in you, as long as they’re allowed to continue, you’ll be the one feeling all the pain. And nothing is going to change until you let your spouse know how you feel.

There are multiple ways to go about solving a resentment issue. You may be able to offer your spouse a positive solution or compromise that works for you both; for example, if your spouse wants to use vacation time to spend with his family, ask that he reserve a portion of that time for you. You might choose to set boundaries instead; for example, if your spouse is a workaholic, ask her not to answer the phone during dinner or date nights.

It’s important to note that you won’t experience a truly positive change if you make unreasonable demands. Can you meet in the middle to make things work more smoothly? Think about small adjustments your spouse can make to his or her habits that would make a big difference in your life.

If your spouse resents you…

When your spouse feels resentment toward you, you might not notice it in the beginning. But sooner or later, it’s going to become noticeable…and uncomfortable. While it’s easy to blame your spouse’s shifting attitude on them, what you may be perceiving could actually be a building resentment toward a habit or behavior you’re displaying.

If you think your spouse might resent you for some reason, try to dig deep as to why. You might not be able to pinpoint it right away–or even on your own. Sometimes it takes another perspective to be able to see your own flaws.

Approach your spouse with vulnerability and care, and ask them if there’s something you’re doing that is bothering them or if you’ve done something hurtful. It may be difficult for you to hear their answer, but be receptive to their answers. Don’t let yourself become defensive. Instead, listen to what your spouse has to say and echo it back to show your understanding.

Once you know what’s triggering your spouse’s resentment toward you, it’s time to act. Because you’re taking on an emotional burden your spouse has been carrying for a long time, it’s going to be painful. Change is difficult, but we promise you the results will be worth the effort.

Have you and your spouse overcome resentment in your marriage? Share how you did it in the comments section below.


  • Judy says:

    What do you do when your spouse doesn’t respond or actively put effort into the problems, even after many conversations and requests? He remeains indifferent to my feelings and the failure of our marriage of 25 years

    • Jacki says:

      I know and feel this same pain. I will be sharing this article with my husband in the upcoming days as I continue to pray that his eyes, heart, and mind will be opened to know and understand how he makes me feel and what I need and desire from him. Until that happens, I will continue to be the strength my family needs with the help of my Saviour.

  • Shannon says:

    I don’t know how to begin to talk to my husband about the resentment I hold. Would you suggest a letter? How would I format said letter?

    • Anthony DeBerry says:

      Judy, talk to your husband as your feelings happen, don’t wait and let them build until you dump them on him in a book long letter. If your husband is anything like every other man, which I know he is, I’m sure he has tried asking what is going on, but you may not have the words or haven’t processed it to tell him right then, so you wait and let it build bigger and bigger. Once it finnally comes out, it is a freight train, unloading on him. The amount is overwhelming, hard to swallow, and probably builds even more resentment towards him because he doesn’t react the way you think he should. On the same hand his resentment build towards you for not being able to just talk about things as they come up. I experience this with my wife now and am so completely frustrated. I ask her what’s up, something wrong, she responds with nope, while still her brain is running rampant. I ask again and finnally quit asking because I have opened the line of conversation numerous times and she refused to speak about it. When she builds up enough and decides to unload, I don’t want to hear it, I try to get her to talk as it comes and she waits until it is overwhelming and I shut down. Men need it as it comes, not in Mass bulk, you will never get anywhere if you let it build. I try to explain this to my wife and it falls on deaf ears, I hope this gives you some insight from a male perspective, and wish you the best in your marriage.

  • Brian Canter says:

    One of the best tools I have ever seen that helps deal with resentment and better yet, gaining an understanding of your spouses passion’s in life, is the Flag Page. But like any other tool, it takes buy in from both spouses to make that tool work.

    We often marry the opposite of ourselves because they tend to fill the gaps of what we seem to lack. Example; one is quite and reserved and the other is outgoing and the life of the party. Those things we find so cute at first tend to drive us crazy latter in our marriage and at that point we wonder why they can’t simply act like us. We then try to change them into a mini version of our own personality. This leads to resentment and when that builds over time, it will create a wall within our marriage.

    This tool can help understand that, help us see things from our spouses perspective, and when we understand that and use that tool, you will be amazed at the transformation within your marriage. I highly suggest looking at this tool.

  • John says:

    How would you approach resentment that’s been building in my heart? I’ve always wanted & imagined having children once I was married. During the time we were dating & engaged, although she wasn’t initially open to the idea, her heart & mind started to change. After marriage she wanted a couple of years to process it. It’s now been 4 years & the aspect of children has become a hard point of discussion, one of which my heart hasn’t changed on. I am worried that if we don’t have children, I’ll become resentful towards her. But I’m also concerned that if she concedes to have a child, she’ll end up resentful towards me. We’ve gone through marriage counseling & have been in prayer over this topic for a while now. Any advice you can offer would be a blessing.

    • J says:

      Having kids is a huge decision that will affect everyone your family knows. The last thing you want to do is give kids a home where their very existence causes resentment. Thank you for taking this to prayer.
      I recommend finding the root causes of why your spouse doesn’t want kids and why you feel so strongly that you want them. With careful counseling there may be a way to benefit both parties. Some points to consider are parenting classes, adoption or birthing, which parent could give up their career to initially stay home with the child if that is desired, financial burden of children. Also, do everything you can to make sure your marriage is rock-solid with or without kids, because each new family member changes your family dynamic and the adjustment can initially be very difficult.

  • Valerie says:

    Resentment begins somewhere between un-communicated expectations and marriage that doesn’t appear safe. Think about it: every marriage is a cross-cultural marriage in one respect or another and navigating that without intentionality and care can land both people in big trouble. For example, my husbands family interrupts all the time! There are so many of them, its the only way you get a word in edge-wise. My family on the other hand, interruptions are the height of bad form, yell before you interrupt. So us coming together and away from resentment had to come to a place of communicating our comfort levels, being honest when the other person messed up either in interrupting, or over-reacting when interrupted. This is a silly example, but the point is, men and women speak different languages, different things mean something different to them, like for example a razing joke. Then add in the cross cultural differences and that complicates everything. <– this is a paradigm shift that is needed before the work can really begin.

    In short, "My spouses perspective and my own differ, but it is just that…perspective(a point of view)." The moment moral strings are tied to that perspective and things get more black and white, the more marginalized both in the marriage can become.

    – Stop making a moral judgement on everything your spouse does
    – Shift your paradigm toward 'this is my perspective, or this is my experience' in place of 'he is ignoring me or she is hurting me on purpose'
    – Create a safe place for your spouse to communicate his/her needs, hurts and even expectations
    – Start raising your hand when the hurt you have experienced from your spouse occurs…stop holding it it, its doing no one any good and it will only come out worse or sideways later.

  • Saved By Grace says:

    I don’t know how useful this blog is when no one responds to the heartfelt questions people ask here. It is not enough to write what people should know, but people are dying for a tool, a way, an example, some guidance. Please take the time to respond- Thanks.

  • Susan says:

    When it comes to the topic of resentment in relationship, we don’t come with a blank slate. Any question asked or answer offered is an iceberg: this much showing above the surface, and much, much more below the surface. Most of the responses I see here suggest personal experience with pain, frustration with not being heard or understood, and things along those lines. There are no small resentment issues from a female perspective, at least, because even small irritations (he didn’t rinse out the milk jug) trace into bigger patterns that mean “he doesn’t listen” or “he doesn’t value my contribution” on much, much larger scales. Now a small- scale irritation has turned into a relational identity crisis — and possibly before I’ve said a single word to my spouse! If I hold back until I know I’m not being unreasonable, I tend to start keeping records of just how often his choices irritate me, and I can build up a really good head of steam in no time flat. Did it just this morning in less than 30 minutes, in fact.
    In such circumstances, there are no easy answers. Simple or straight forward, possibly, but not easy. You have to work daily to communicate with someone who speaks a foreign language. Very often each of your heart’s concerns are getting lost in translation. So… using counseling techniques like a Talking Stick (person holding the stick, wooden spoon, etc.) gets to talk while the other listens. Then you trade. No talking while the other person had the spoon, only Active Listening. Me listening doesn’t mean just keeping my mouth shut while I think through all the answers I’m going to give my spouse when it’s my turn; it means I try to see things from his position while he’s talking. Another technique that’s helped us a lot is using a scale of 1-10. 1 means it barely matters; 10 means it’s life or death. “What should we watch on Netflix?” “We could watch X, but it’s up to you.” ” No, you choose. I like Y, butt that’s fine.” “Watching X is a 7 out of 10 for me.” “Y is only a 2 or 3 out of 10 for me, so let’s watch X.”
    If the resentment is an ongoing thing, then there ought to be an objective 3rd party. Whether 1 or both spouses see a trustworthy counselor, anything from family baggage to post abuse to unhealthy communication to unfair fighting patterns could be underlying the problem. So… not easy answers.

  • Anne says:

    We need God in our marriage. Not to be selfish, not to put ourselves first. When we marry we are as one. What’s best for one is best for both. God comes first. What we watch on Netflix …, well does that really matter? Build up your spouse! Read the Bible. God and Jesus are our fullment. Not our spouse!!!

Leave a Reply