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.

Marriage Expectations Are Very High

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. With such a high demand for emotional intimacy and transparency, 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 also be signs of 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:

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 A 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.

It may sound like a lot of work to break the cycle of hurt and resentment, but we have seen things clear up in a relatively short period of time when partners can openly talk about the situation, their feelings, and what they truly desire for the future. Many people get stuck in the blame game and can’t break out. We are very good at helping couples navigate these challenging conversations with excellent results.

How Do You Fix Resentment In A Marriage?

Feelings of resentment tend to build up over months or years and affects everything from your emotional connection to your physical intimacy. The good news is that although resentment issues take time to build, they can start to be undone relatively quickly with the right skills. Resentment is usually starts with an unmet need, so identifying what your hurt spouse needs to heal, will begin to repair the relationship.

Consistency is vital for long term healing. In some cases, you might accidentally meet your partner’s need, which helps to heal resentment in the moment, but then the old behaviors return and resentment builds once again. If you want to finally extinguish this cycle in your relationship, then you have to address the deeper issues and unmet needs of your distant or angry spouse.

Many couples that are concerned about resentment, feel helpless and hopeless. We have seen these patterns many times, and if you are ready to finally break this cycle, we can help. The advantage of an intensive marriage retreat is that we are often able to undo years of pain in just a few days.

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:
image of clashing fists representing how contempt in a marriage stems from a lack of positive attachment to a spouse

Contempt In Marriage

Contempt in a marriage is rooted in a lack of positive attachment 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.

image of heart within flames signifying the intensity of jealousy and how it can ruin a marital relationship


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.
image of a family signifying how influences from extended family can creates problems for married couples

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.
unhappy man feeling disconnected in marriage by wife who has found new and different interests and hobbies

Different Interests

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.

It’s useful to have some shared interests as well as some that you share with other people. Obviously, it is important that activities enjoyed with someone outside of your marital relationship are appropriate and do not lead to an emotional or sexual affair.

image of unhappy couple in a marriage stressed by gaslighting and resultant emotional distress


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.
image of a family representing how staying strongly connected in a marriage takes skill while juggling parenthood responsibilities


Many couples who get married are excited to become parents. That vision quickly fades when the first baby arrives. Juggling parenthood while keeping a strongly connected marriage takes skill. Spouses often believe that they need to agree on everything. In reality, if couples are able to maturely communicate their differing opinions, children learn to negotiate and begin to develop good critical thinking and healthy decision making skills.

image couple with gender symbols above signifying the challenges posed by aging in relation to desire and libido

Sexual Challenges

Sex usually becomes more complicated as a couple ages. Children, careers, and factors related to aging can become barriers to intimacy and a satisfying romantic life. Many couples also have different levels of desire or libido that adds stress to negotiating a healthy sex life. We are very good at leading couples in challenging conversations about their sexual desires, fears, goals, and more, as well as bridging the gap between the two individuals in their relationship.

image of couple miscommunicating which builds resentment in a marriage

Poor Communication

Feeling unheard, misunderstood, or dismissed leads many couples to consider the fate of their relationship. Communication therapy is foundational to every Marriage Quest Retreat, and our goal is to help each spouse feel heard, understood, and respected. Many couples believe that they are not compatible when in reality they were never given the manual on how to navigate a healthy marriage. Healthy communication is usually simple, but difficult to put into use when someone is distracted by other life goals, emotional triggers, or a personal agenda. We help couples refocus on the simple tools they need in order to have a fulfilling relationship.

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. 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.

The walkaway wife syndrome or “neglected wife syndrome” is when a wife asks for a divorce seemingly out of nowhere and the husband is blindsided. Obviously, there have been issues in the marriage and she has been unhappy for a while. Sometimes the husband has some awareness and has not responded. Sometimes he has had no clue at all.

It can. Long term unresolved resentment can build a wall that eventually will lead to an emotional cut off and that is irreparable. When this happens it usually poisons the marriage and ends in a separation and divorce. If you can find a way to open up and listen to each other, you may be able to repair and rekindle the marriage.

For some people it does, and for others resentment lingers on for a long time. The best way to let go and move on it to be able to see the situation or trauma from many different sides, to learn how to deal with negative thoughts related to the experience, and to find ways to self-regulate as you process your feelings.

A Marriage Counseling Retreat Is Your Solution

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.

Let's Plan Your Couples Retreat

Contact one of our well trained therapists today to make sure we are a good fit for your relationship and marriage goals. You can send us an email or schedule a free 20-minute phone consultation to answer your questions and provide information on available dates and pricing.