Six warning signs your partner resents you (and what to do about it)

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK
Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK 

When you've been in a relationship with someone long enough, you likely know all about the saying, "familiarity breeds contempt". It's a rare partnership that escapes periods where things feel difficult and that your other half is less than the best friend you imagine they should be.

The good news is that conflict is normal and in many cases can be worked through. But what if you're in a communication pattern where you're not quite sure?

We asked two experts what the warning signs are when it comes to partner resentment.

Counselling psychotherapist Dr Karen Phillip and therapist Candida Virgo identified six key signs things are not well in your relationship, and what can be done about it in a constructive way.

The following advice comes with the disclaimer that if your partner is being financially, emotionally, physically or verbally abusive, please seek professional help to end the relationship.

1. Continually finds fault in your decisions and actions

Dr Phillip says this behaviour, "... creates a feeling of frustration, anger and resentment in you. This fault finding can also apply to the way you parent your children, this then becomes deeply emotionally challenging."

What to do

Enquire as to what the reason is for their disapproval and ask them how they would appreciate you doing something different. Use their comments as an opportunity to consider what it is you are doing and if your actions and decisions are conducive to your relationship. 

Sometimes we experience differences in parenting style and much of this is dependent on how we were each raised. This difference in parenting styles can have a direct correlation to feeling resentment toward our partner regardless if they parent firmly or relaxed. It's a reason they may find fault in your parenting style.

2. Chastises you in front of the children and others

"When your partner starts to chastise you in front of the children and others it can mean they are feeling resentful. They vocalise their disapproval in a direct bid to cause embarrassment and bring you down," says Dr Phillip.

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What to do

Ms Virgo says, "Talk to them about how this made you feel (using statements that start with "I felt...") and see if there is an underlying issue that they want to talk about."

"Call them on it," agrees Dr Phillip. "Rather than defending your actions stand firm that you have chosen or decided something to benefit yourself, your children, family or life. You do not need to defend, only validate the reasons."

3. Withholds affection and refuse to celebrate special events

"When your partner starts to withdraw from your relationship and you, they can withhold sex, affection and interest in special events such as birthdays and anniversaries," says Dr Phillip.

What to do

"Turning away from their requests for (reasonable) affection can weaken a relationship," says Ms Virgo. "A healthy response to this could be starting a weekly or fortnightly date night, showering before going to bed, taking turns in giving each other massages."

Dr Phillip advises, "We can't make the other person want us, we can tell them kindly it hurts and ask them the reason they have withdrawn. When we can understand it is easier to manage. Ask what it is they need from you to help reconnect, as this helps them to feel seen and valued."

4. Blames you for negative aspects of their life

"When your partner blames you for all things wrong in their life, they are diverting responsibility from themselves onto you. This can be a sign of resentment, lack of self-worth and diminished self-confidence," says Dr Phillip.

What to do

"Enquire as to the reason they feel this way and how they expect things to be different. When we can enquire without judgement and understand they may simply be reacting onto you those things they feel overwhelmed or confused about, it is an opportunity to support them.

Professional help is often encouraged so they can begin to understand the reasons they feel as they do."

5. Fails to appreciate your successes and efforts

Dr Phillip says, "Failing to appreciate your success or efforts may occur if the other person is jealous or resentful of you. They may feel secondary to your passion, inadequate due to your success or perhaps jealous of the rewards of your amazing efforts."

What to do

"Include your partner in your success and ensure you recognise them as part of your success. Most of us need someone to help us and take the load while we strive for the best we can be.

Let them know how much you appreciate their efforts and dedication to you. It is then important to make sure you reciprocate any effort they have put in so they too can succeed and excel."

6. Trivial problems made out to be big

Ms Virgo says, "Small problems becoming big issues can be a sign of frustration and resentment. If your partner starts an argument every time you forget to run the dishwasher, then perhaps it's time to talk about what their concerns actually are."

She adds, "Your partner may be feeling work related stress and not want to bring this up at home. 

What to do

Key to resolving these issues is communication. As uncomfortable as it can be to deal with this level of conflict, it's essential to talk to your partner about your feelings."

Lastly, how do people know when to pull the plug on a relationship or when to fight for it?

Ms Virgo says, "Drs John and Julie Gottman are psychologists and researchers who have spent over 40 years looking at what does and doesn't make relationships work," with four main factors that point to a relationship in peril.

"The most significant is contempt. If you feel contempt for your partner then take a look at why you fell in love with them in the first place.

Criticism is another sign of a relationship in danger, especially if you go beyond criticising your partner's behaviour to criticising your partner directly.

Thirdly, is defensiveness, which is often a response to criticism. This is a sign of unhealthy communication.

Lastly, stonewalling, which is when you shut down communication from your partner and block their attempts to engage with you."

Dr Phillip says, "There is a reason for resentment. If the reason can be determined, then progress can be made to adjust the feelings and behaviour. This needs both partners to be proactive and supportive. Couples may need to adjust the way they think and how they behave and speak to each other.

Relationship counselling can be an integral part of any relationship. Just like we give the car a yearly service to keep it running at optimum level and avoid breakdowns, our relationship is the same.

Only after we learn the skills to speak correctly, listen and understand our partner and their idiosyncrasies can we truly have a fulfilled and happy connected life together."

Dr Karen Phillip is the author of forthcoming book 'Communication Harmony – the 3 powerful secret words to eliminate all the drama and conflict from every conversation'. Register at info@communicationharmonybook.com to receive release details.