You know you have a lot to be thankful for in your marriage.

Your partner is a really good person who loves you. You share goals, you have fun together and you can’t imagine being with anyone else.

But you’ve noticed there are one or two subjects that light your fuse faster than they used to.

When your mind doesn’t have enough to occupy it, you find yourself grinding away on them, feeling self-righteous, and shoring up more arguments for your side.

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You have a growing feeling your partner doesn’t understand you quite as well as he used to.

These are signs you’ve got some resentment built up. And you’ve got to find a way to speak up about it.

In my marriage counseling practice, I see every day how resentment can erode the quality of a relationship slowly, imperceptibly.

At best, it will keep you from being as close and connected as you really want to be. At worst, it can take you down the path to divorce. Any marriage expert will tell you that not talking about your concerns is the riskiest thing you can do for your marriage.

Dan and Carol’s Holiday Tradition

Dan was upset because he couldn’t participate in the Christmas morning ritual that was so important to his family. He would have loved to take his wife and kids to spend the night at his parents’ home, like his brother did, so they were all there in the morning.

His wife, Carol, was happy to go to his parents’ in the afternoon, but she liked opening presents at home. Past discussions had ended with Dan calling Carol selfish and Carol calling Dan a mama’s boy. So it’s no wonder Dan had decided to “go along to get along.”

Maybe you too have found that things have gone south when you tried to speak up. So now you just keep quiet.

Fortunately, there is an approach that not only keeps things from blowing up, but actually deepens the connection between you.

The key is talk to stop talking about what’s wrong and start talking about what you want.

At an emotional level, that is.

Whenever you have a concrete desire, such as spending Christmas with your parents, you’ve usually got an emotional desire that goes along with it. It’s your unfulfilled emotional desires that cause you the most pain—and eventually resentment—if they’re not addressed.

I think of emotional desires as being like a tree. The trunk of the tree for most of us is love and acceptance.

But for each one of us, some branches of the tree mean more than others. Your branches could be approval, admiration, security, or feeling protected, needed or special. Some people have strong growth-oriented desires, such as excelling and being challenged.

Christmas morning meant belonging and security for Dan. Imagine what might happen if Dan was able to express these desires to Carol. And then if Carol could say that opening presents at home made her feel important and special to Dan, two of her emotional desires.

They’d see each other with more compassion. The blame game would stop.

It’s hard to feel defensive when you listen to someone talk about their emotional desires. Desires are not criticism. Desires are the positive intention behind all the hurt feelings and nasty behaviors we resort to.

Does this mean Dan and Carol will come up with a plan that makes them both happy?

I can’t say for sure. But I do know they’ll see new possibilities open up.

From my experience working with couples, I’d guess there’s something about the way Dan treats Carol at his parents’ house that Carol doesn’t like. And triggers her anxiety about feeling important. Maybe a look across the table to show he’s there for her would make all the difference to her.

But I don’t want concrete solutions to be your first concern.

Focus on understanding first.

Sometimes the cure for our resentment is that experience of being deeply understood by our partner. Especially about our emotional desires.

That’s what’s really missing. Because the truth is, for most of us, that’s the most important emotional desire of all.

Win a Copy of “Save Your Marriage: Get Rid of Your Resentment”

This post was written by Claire Hatch. Check out Claire’s website and read more about her book at


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. Every football season I get resentful over the lack of attention my DH pays to me and our family. So iits a long 6 months where I can be sometimes very unhappy.

  2. I’m going thru resentment right now. My marriage of 35 years is all but over and I’m not even sure the cause. Guess there are lots of things that make up all the hurt and resentment. We’ve barely spoken to each other in 10 months even though we live under the same roof, purely because of financial reasons. I hate to see our marriage end like this.

    1. Dear Casey,

      If you hate to see your marriage end like this. Ask your spouse what you have done that isn’t right your spouse mind. Be open to listen and forgive and have an open mind to your spouse reasons not to communicate in 10 months.

      Be sincere in your openness and be willing to change what it takes to save your marriage. God didn’t let you fall in love en marry this wonderful person 35 years ago for it to fail. God loves you and has your best interest at heart (Jeremiah 29:11), so pray and talk to your Father and He will open your eyes and show you the way.

      Have a blessed day

  3. I become resentful when we’re at his mom’s apartment for Christmas and for some reason he is blind to the passive agressive comments she makes to me, and the fact that she tries to Physically and emotionally insert herself into our relationship, sometimes actually Even sitting between us on the couch.

  4. Ongoing resentment at our house about getting the baby to sleep each night. DH says she just wants me (and to nurse to sleep) so he shouldn’t even bother trying to help. I’m resentful because he won’t even try, but still wants a 4th kid ASAP without helping much with the 3 we already have.

  5. Oh we have seen and experienced resentment in marriage. God is faithful and hasn’t let us stay there long. Keeping a clear conscience is key to not letting resentment build. The Holy Spirit is active in a believer’s heart instructing us when things aren’t right. Committing to respond to His lead is crucial for a growing marriage. This post provides compelling reasons to read this book. Thank you, Dustin, for sharing this with us!!

  6. Recently my husband and I experienced a really rough time in our marriage. I have been resentful over a lot of things for a very long time. The fact that I dropped out of college to get married, the fact that he never helped me with the kids, the fact that he never helps with the house, and so many more. I truly found myself headed towards wanting to divorce him. I just built up so much anger because I couldn’t get myself to open up to him. Eventually we separated and after less than a day apart, he was back home. A lot of awful things have happened in our marriage and this post made me think again that I have to just be honest and our marriage can be wonderful!

  7. Oh there is resentment! I’m resentful of the lack of support and help and she’s resentful that I won’t leave her alone about the things that can bring us closer. I’m always hopeful but that hope is fading over many years of trying to figure this out. I’m just now sure how to get past and get rid of the resentment.

  8. Mmmm, What timing! I am going to visit a friend of mine tonight (ie have a beer) to talk about his separation from wife and 5 children. No doubt there is resentment in their relationship. I will be there to hear what he has to say – empathise, I guess, but not take sides. Anyway, I guess my motives should be: first, to be a friend, and first, to encourage a loving re-union.

    It’s so sad when things come to this.

  9. Sure would have been nice to talk about my emotional desires. Imagine the resentment from living in a sexless marriage, married to a wife that when I asked for time where we could just spend time together, she wouldn’t find time for even that, let alone having some even mercy sex. Then finding out that she had time for an affair and wanted to move out.

    Sometimes, the resentment is earned by the other spouse. Regardless what you change in your approach, it doesn’t address the elephant in the room.

    Not all spouses have your best interests in mind. Some are very selfish. When she’s done with you and sucked dry all your resources, she moves on to the next guy.

    The resentment continues when she uses the courts to make you a visitor to your child and you have money taken from your check that you know is being used to support the latest guy she moved in with her.

    Since no one seems able to address the core issue, I just have to live with the resentment.

    1. Tony,
      Sorry to hear about your challenges. I have been there, and done that. I know that my experience and comment will not make life easier for you, but I know that you will make it through this.

      Any ideas on improving relationships are easy to say, but not easy to implement. Relationships are very hard work and learning to let go of resentment and hurt is not easy. In your case, it sounds like there is some loss you are experiencing, that is complicating things.

      Hang in there for you and your children. All of you will benefit in the end.

  10. Right now I am dealing with several resentments….him traveling, him being available to fb friends but not so much to me.

  11. I sometimes feel resentful to my partner when he won’t commit having “the talks” he promises me we will.

  12. Thank you so much to everyone who has shared the impact of resentment in your relationships. It’s really insightful to see how even small issues can fester into major problems when communication breaks down.

    I am happy to let you know that Kari has won the free copy of Save Your Marriage.



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  14. I am resentful that in the 10 years of our marriage, I have to beg for sex. My wife seems to have no sex drive and/or no sexual desire for me. She does not understand that sex for me (or any other husband) is not just about physical release. It is about connecting. Husbands need that type of connection. Anytime I bring up sex is always the wrong time. Subsequently I have shut down emotionally. I don’t know what she wants from me. I feel like all I am in a meal ticket.

  15. We seem to have an ongoing resentment of miscommunication. I say she can be quick and sharp tongued if I do not complete a task in the manner she thinks it should be completed. She thinks I am ignoring here by not listening to how things should be done.

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