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  • Writer's pictureAna Viana, M.S.

Healing Resentment: The Silent Relationship Killer

By Ana Viana, M.S. Marriage and Family Therapy


If you find that you are arguing with your partner more often or are feeling defensive around them, there may be some unresolved resentment. In my work with couples, this is usually what we discover: there is something that hurts that you have not effectively spoken about.

Resentment may be playing a role in how you feel about and interact with your partner. Resentment builds silently over time and can create a rift in your relationship without you realizing it. It's why it can be the silent relationship killer. Here is how it can eat away at your relationship and how you can start to heal it.

What is Resentment?

Resentment is a form of anger, hurt, disappointment, and is usually not addressed appropriately in relationships. Most couples are not even aware of this build up within the relationship and find themselves unsure how they’ve built this emotion toward each other.

All you know is you are irritated with each other and argue about the smallest things.

What causes resentment in a relationship to begin with?

Resentment starts when you are hurt by your partner but don't talk about it.

It may be feeling ignored by your partner, feeling disappointed, or having one of your needs go unmet. You'll then begin to engage in passive-aggressive behavior toward each other and withdrawing from the relationship without expressing your needs and wants. These behaviors may grow into contempt because they eat away at the trust and affection you once had in each other.

How to begin to heal it:

1. Identify Your Needs:

Start with your pinpoint (What irritates you?) and ask yourself: "What hurts about this? What do I need from my partner in this moment?" Be specific.

2. Learn How to Communicate Effectively:

Effective communication includes using I statements and being aware of the tone of voice/body language used when communicating with one another. In this way, you and your partner will feel less defensive and more open/honest about your true feelings. You can begin to practice being vulnerable with each other.

3. Practice Empathy:

Couples who practice how to fully understand their partner's emotions (even if they don't or wouldn't feel the same way themselves) are better at reducing frequency in arguments. Turning away from arguments and finding solutions as a team can be difficult for couples when one partner may be stuck on only viewing it from their own perspective and can only really see the other partner's flaws. However, if couples learn how to empathize with their partner, they are able to connect emotionally leading to other positive behaviors within the relationship.

4. Work as a Team:

If you are more focused on winning the argument or being right, you are not working as team. You are working against your partner. So try to practice working as a team by helping your partner: if one of you is having trouble practicing empathy, communicating needs, or using I statements, gently remind one another.

Remember you both want to feel loved. Help each other feel that.

It is possible to get there. But not with resentment. Resentment leads to unfilled relationships and slowly kill it altogether. If you need more help with learning or practicing any of these, consider couples therapy or individual therapy for relationship work. Working with a therapist can help you learn where their resentment is stemming from, practice effective communication, and learn how to let go of resentment. Check out our resource page for our favorite directories or schedule a free consultation below to work with me.

Ana Viana, M.S Associate Marriage and Family Therapist #130707

Ana Viana, M.S. helps BIPOC and Interracial couples break argument loops and build opportunities for meaningful connection. She uses an emotionally focused and attachment style lens to help you gain a clearer understanding of your needs and build insight into your individual wounds. By teaching you how to communicate them to your partner, she helps you create an opportunity to get to know one another deeply and accept one another fully. Ana is an Associate at TOC Therapy and her clinical work is supervised by Deniss Pleiner, CA LMFT #117208.


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