What Causes Resentment in a Relationship? 5 Factors

Masthead Image
Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Friday September 3, 2021

Body + Mind is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through some of the links on our site. 


Resentment is relationship cancer. It festers beneath the surface, causing irreparable harm slight by real or imagined slight. If you want to save your love, you must address it. First, you need to spend time in mindfulness to discover the root of the emotion. What causes resentment in a relationship? Here are five contributing factors. 

1. Different Life Goals

You’ve dreamed of a charming country cottage since kindergarten, but your partner lives for the big-city bustle. If you sacrifice your wishes to move into their downtown loft, resentment could simmer beneath the surface if left unchecked. 

As difficult as it may seem, you need to find a way to either make your differences mesh or go your separate ways. The best thing you can do is have an honest heart-to-heart, followed by some time apart to sort through your feelings. 

Perhaps you decide you can stay together if you pool your resources toward a mountain cabin getaway where you can go off-grid when blinking neon grows too much to bear. You might even decide to establish twin residences if you have the means — after all, military families often live apart for months at a time. 

If you choose to split, keep things as amicable as possible. Perhaps you and your partner will do better as friends after the initial cooling-off period.

2. Different Energy Levels 

You’re up at the crack of dawn, ready to climb mountains — your partner would rather sleep until noon. Different energy levels can build resentment because you want to be out doing things with the one you love. However, you don’t want to feel like you’re dragging them along on your adventures, building resentment in them. 

Fortunately, this cause of resentment in relationships has an easy cure — cultivate outside interests. When you build a healthy friendship circle, you can take off cycling with your pals at 5:00 a.m. while your partner slumbers. Perhaps you can meet in the middle for breakfast when you finish your ride? 

3. Different Past Baggage

Everyone has baggage from past relationships. Sometimes, your partner’s innocent actions can build resentment if they trigger emotions in you that you’d rather forget. For example, if an abusive parent had a habit of tapping things repetitively when angry, and your partner does the same thing simply because they fidget a lot, it could drive you mad — without you recognizing why. 

To deal with this cause of relationship resentment, you have to take personal accountability. Spend some time in mindfulness identifying your triggers. If you know that you have underlying issues, find a competent therapist and deal with them. Many locations offer sliding scale fees if you lack health insurance, money or both. 

Please involve your partner in this process. Don’t use your baggage to excuse bad behavior, but do let them know your issues and what you are doing to address them. Hopefully, they will follow your lead in confronting their demons. 


4. Different Love Languages 

As outlined by Dr. Gary Chapman, the five love languages highlight what makes you feel valued by your partner. A perceived lack of appreciation is a definite cause of resentment in relationships. 

You can discover your style by taking the quiz. Once you have your results, discuss them with your partner and have them evaluate themselves so that you know how to best please them. The five languages are as follows:

  • Words of affirmation: Those three little words are the way to your heart. 
  • Quality time: You love nothing more than an afternoon together unplugged from distracting devices. 
  • Physical touch: If you call yourself a “hugger,” you might have this style. 
  • Acts of service: Perhaps nothing touches your heart more than your mate emptying the dishwasher. 
  • Receiving gifts: Having this style doesn’t necessarily make you materialistic — but a random bouquet is the way to make your day. 

5. Different Workloads 

Differing workloads can cause resentment in relationships if you don’t communicate your needs. Early on, you might be juggling a full-time job, side hustle and single parenthood while your mate has fewer obligations. Consider it a red flag if they don’t respect the fact that you might be too exhausted to go dancing on Saturday night and prefer a cozy evening on the couch. 

If your relationship progresses to cohabitation or marriage, resentment over unequal workloads can still fester. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women spend two hours more per day in unpaid labor — such as cooking, cleaning and childrearing — than do their male counterparts. 

Pro tip: Asking “how can I help” is rarely enough. Instead, make a household chore list and divide it equally between the two of you. Post it on the fridge like a checklist if you frequently forget your share. 

What Causes Resentment in a Relationship? Please Address These 5 Factors 

The five factors above can are part of what causes resentment in a relationship. However, if you address them openly and honestly with your partner, you can reach a resolution that works for both of you. 

Previous Article9 Benefits of Resistance Bands You Can’t Beat Next ArticleTop 9 Benefits of Playing Outside With Your Kids
Subscribe CTA Image

Subscribers get even more tailored tips & deets delivered directly to their inboxes!