6 easy-to-miss signs your partner is harboring resentment (according to psychology)

Relationships aren’t always smooth sailing.

Being intimate, sharing everything, and totally trusting your partner inevitably creates challenges.

Especially in the early stages.

After all, you don’t truly know each other yet (which only adds to the confusion).

However long you’ve been in a relationship, we’ve all been guilty of holding on to past grievances. And rather than talk about it, we let it simmer. 

Under the surface, like a boiling pot of water.

This doesn’t end well.

Trust me!

So how can you tell if your partner is secretly harboring resentment?

See if you can recognize any of these six telltale signs (backed up by psychology).

1) Stonewalling

This is an absolute classic.

I’m sure you’ve experienced it before.

Not just with your partner, but with friends and family too.

Picture the scene, you see someone isn’t quite themselves. You ask them if they’re okay. 

They reply: “I’m fine.”

When clearly, they are anything but fine!

If you’re not paying attention, it can be easy to miss. After all, they insist they’re okay, so what’s the problem?

This is an example of stonewalling

It can be incredibly frustrating to be on the receiving end.

In more extreme cases it can turn into the silent treatment (when someone completely refuses to communicate with you).

There’s plenty of psychology behind it.

Usually, the reason people shut down, disengage, and become emotionless, is to avoid conflict.

It’s a defensive mechanism that’s triggered to steer clear of any uncomfortable conversations or to prevent a fight from breaking out.

It can be a sign that they’re harboring resentment against you and afraid to bring it to the surface.

But also consider this.

Stonewalling can occur due to past traumatic experiences (and have nothing to do with you).

For example, if your partner was abused as a child, they may feel uncomfortable reliving those memories and prefer to simply not talk about them. Maybe your actions remind them of those unpleasant experiences, triggering the shutdown.

2) Negative body language

Unless you’re a body language expert, some of these subtle clues can be hard to spot.

But once you train your eyes, they can be very revealing!

According to psychologists, these gestures and microexpressions are vital. In fact, 55% of all communication is non-verbal.

Body language is driven by the subconscious so it can show you exactly how someone is feeling. 

There’s nowhere to hide!

I’m talking about avoiding eye contact, fidgeting or becoming easily distracted, having a bad posture, and constantly touching their face.

Folding arms, crossing legs, and not facing someone are also defensive signs that could suggest your partner is harboring resentment.

Watch out for facial expressions too.

Furrowed brows or a scrunched-up face.

3) Mood swings (out of nowhere)

One minute you’re enjoying a Hollywood blockbuster together.

The next, you’re involved in a shouting and screaming match.

Now, I’m not saying it’s all their fault.

It takes two to tango.

But if you notice their mood suddenly shift, after a small comment you made, chances are, you triggered something inside them.

Something they can’t forget.

Psychologists agree that mood swings can happen for several different reasons. Some are more serious than others.

But one explanation is that they’re harboring resentment (and you just brought it to the surface).

You unknowingly reminded them of an experience they’d rather forget.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say your partner has been cheated on.

The movie you’re watching involved a cheating scene and you reacted to it (maybe you laughed at a joke or just commented on the situation).

You didn’t mean any harm. You probably didn’t even think about what you were saying. But it brought back a ton of bad memories for your partner.

Suddenly changing their mood.

Watch out for this, as it’s a slamdunk sign your partner is harboring resentment (either towards you or just in general).

4) Passive-aggressive comments

This one is super hard to spot.

The psychology behind passive-aggressive behavior is complex. It involves indirect criticism rather than dealing with a problem head-on.

What a person says and what a person thinks can be miles apart.

The reason usually stems from underlying resentment or anger.

I’m talking about sarcastic comments or subtle digs. For example: “Great job taking out the trash today, I was surprised!”

At first glance, it might seem like they’re congratulating you. But under the hood, they’re feeling resentment. They feel that you don’t help enough around the house. Did you get the hint?

Remember this.

Behind all those snide remarks is an actual issue. They aren’t just being obnoxious to hurt you. They’re doing it because they themselves are frustrated with a situation.

Look at it as a cry for help.

5) Lack of affection

Don’t get me wrong.

All relationships have their ups and downs.

But if you’ve noticed an unusually long period of time where your partner won’t even embrace you or snuggle up on the sofa, it could mean there’s a real problem that needs addressing.

It should be taken seriously.

A recent study examined the effects of affection deprivation. It found a link with stress, depression, and loneliness.

But why does it happen?

Honestly, there are a million different reasons why your partner might not be as interested in bedroom activities as they once were.

But one of those is (you’ve guessed it) that they’re harboring resentment over something you’ve done.

The only way to find out?


Express your concerns respectfully and perhaps most importantly, listen!

6) Reluctance to make up

Finally, this could signal the final nail in the coffin.

Because traditionally, making up is one of the best parts of being in a relationship.

It’s all about forgiveness, letting go, and moving on.

We all make mistakes (especially after a few drinks).

But if you notice your partner starts becoming reluctant to make peace, it could signal things are about to go south.

Psychologists say that making up is important for repairing wounds and learning about each other’s needs. It can actually bring you closer to your partner.

Without it, any resentment will only fester stronger and for longer.

No relationship is perfect and you need to work at it. If you feel like it’s worth it, be the bigger person and hold out that olive branch.

Leila El-Dean

Leila is a passionate writer with a background in photography and art. She has over ten years of experience in branding, marketing, and building websites. She loves travelling and has lived in several countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, and Malta. When she’s not writing (or ogling cats), Leila loves trying new food and drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea.

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