Resentment and Relationships

Dr. Corey Hirsch, JD, LCSW on Mar 01, 2023 in Relationship and Family

“Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

— Malachy McCourt

What Is Resentment?

Merriam-Webster defines resentment as “a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill-will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.” If you find yourself feeling like “that’s not fair” or that you have been wronged in some way, you may be harboring resentment against someone or something. Often, resentment occurs when we have an unmet expectation of another person or when we judge someone else. Sometimes an accumulation of irritation or frustration over little things leads to a generalized feeling of resentment.

Feelings of resentment create anger, disappointment, contempt, outrage, indignation, mistrust, and even disgust. When we feel resentful, we may try to level the playing field, seek some sort of revenge or payback, or use passive-aggressive tactics to express our feelings. Almost everyone experiences resentment at one time or another, but ongoing and persistent resentment in a partnership or marriage deteriorates goodwill and can ultimately lead to a breakdown of the relationship.

Go Easy on Yourself. Resentment Is Inevitable.

Humans are basically resentment machines! At any given moment, our mind creates automatic thoughts that are often critical and judgmental. Just as we breathe without thinking, our first thoughts are uncontrollable and unpredictable; they appear naturally and without warning. Resentment typically stems from those initial, untempered thoughts.

If we stay in resentment, we may experience tension, negative thoughts, bitterness, hostility, uneasiness, or perhaps feelings of unlovability, guilt, shame, or unworthiness. We may take on the role of the victim or martyr, which causes feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Some Causes of Resentment

  • Disappointment
  • Feeling taken advantage of by others
  • Emotional rejection
  • Relationships where being right or wrong is important
  • Feeling you are owed an apology
  • Feeling criticized or put down
  • Humiliation
  • Feeling unheard or unseen in relationships
  • Critical or hurtful words

Signs of Resentment

  • Persistent and uncontrollable thoughts about the incident or situation
  • Muscle tension
  • Knots or butterflies in the stomach
  • Racing thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Anger, frustration, shame, guilt, or regret
  • Feeling emotionally or physically unsafe
  • Avoidance of conflict or the other person
  • Disconnection

When we feel resentful, we experience a sort of charge in our bodies. Perhaps we feel an immediate adrenaline rush, knots in our stomach, racing thoughts, or teariness. When we act on those feelings without thinking, we may avoid the situation or perhaps create conflict that leads to problems in the relationship.

Resentment may also feel like a constant buzzing in the background of our lives, or it can be fleeting, only flaring up when we are reminded of the trigger event or situation. Whether we are constantly aware of feeling wronged or the feelings come and go, resentment seeps into every area of our lives and wreaks havoc on our sense of well-being.

Healing and Overcoming Resentment

Often, time does not heal feelings of resentment, and trying to “let it go” can feel impossible. However, in the context of marriage or partnership, healing resentment is essential for the well-being of the relationship.

Feelings of resentment do not go away on their own. Instead, the buried feelings fester and accumulate, causing a sense of disconnection from ourselves and others. Resentment causes us to lose our confidence, clouds our judgment, interferes with trusting ourselves and decision-making, and can even impact our personal integrity.

Using a process called The Work, I help people untangle the web of thoughts and lifetime stories that contribute to feeling resentful, disconnected, and discontent. I can help you get to the root of the resentment, work with the thoughts and feelings that contribute to the feeling of uneasiness, and help you gain freedom and peace. When we free ourselves from resentment, our lives open up, we are able to look at our situation more clearly, and we can see the opportunities and possibilities in front of us.

If you find yourself experiencing resentment, call me at (310) 486-8842 or email me at [email protected] to schedule an appointment or a free 15-minute consultation.

Dr. Corey Hirsch is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in AGOURA HILLS, CA.

Recommended Articles