4 Reasons You May Feel Resentment Toward Someone & What To Do
While anger feels like a quick, reactive spark of emotions, resentment is more of a slow burn.
"Resentment is often seen as a longer-duration, lower-intensity anger," clinical psychologist Ayanna Abrams, Psy.D., tells mbg. It's generally a response to an ongoing and unresolved frustration or injustice that you can't move through or have not chosen to move through, she explains.
If you're feeling resentment toward someone in your life but aren't sure where the feelings are stemming from, here are a few possible reasons, plus how to deal with them.
4 reasons you might feel resentment:
You're in a one-sided friendship.
According to licensed marriage and family therapist Tiana Leeds, M.A., LMFT, resentment is "one of the most surefire signs that your friendship is one-sided." If you're used to over-giving your time, your ears, and your attention to a friend who doesn't seem to show interest in your life or provide the same kind of support, you might become resentful of them.
Generally, feeling taken advantage of or believing that someone has behaved selfishly over time is a tipping point for resentment, Abrams tells us.
You feel ignored when talking about something that's important to you.
When you're expressing something meaningful to you, and the person you're communicating with talks over you or moves on without acknowledging the story, it can be hurtful. If you repeatedly feel unheard or ignored, it can lead to resentment, Abrams tells mbg.
You're dealing with unresolved arguments or conflicts that continue to build on each other.
While "anger is more of a reaction in real time to something that feels unpleasant or unfair," Abrams says, "resentment is less of a reaction." Instead, it's the buildup of multiple offenses or unresolved conflicts.
For example: You ask your partner to start picking up around the house, and they tell you they're too busy but will get to it later. Later comes and goes, and the pattern repeats itself—ultimately, they resent you for being a nag, and you resent them for making you act like one. "After years of an unbalanced division of labor, you are likely to feel very frustrated, unappreciated, and even hopeless about the possibility of change," clinical psychologist Lina Perl, Psy.D., once told us.
You're insulted repeatedly.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me may be a well-intentioned phrase, but the truth is words can hurt. If someone repeatedly insults you—especially someone you care about—Abrams says that's breeding ground for resentment.
How to deal with resentment.
While your resentment may be rooted in valid reasons—namely feeling overlooked, unheard, and underappreciated—that doesn't mean it has to linger forever. There are a few ways to deal with resentment if it's beginning to interfere with your well-being and your relationships. Here's what Abrams suggests:
- Truthfully acknowledge all that you are feeling (to yourself and to the person) with compassion. You can't control your feelings, and denying them will only build more resentment.
- Don't try to force yourself to "get over” or "let go of" things quickly. Allow your emotions to fluidly rise and fall.
- Reflect on what has happened: Where are these feelings coming from? Who wronged you, and how did you respond? You'll likely notice a pattern in how you feel treated by others and by how you treat others.
- Learn how to share your expectations and needs with others to decrease some of these incidents from happening again. This will also help you develop healthier ways to cope if they continue.
- Try going to therapy—this can help you talk through your resentment and teach you how to set healthy boundaries.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.