5 signs someone secretly resents you, according to psychology

Tina Fey by Tina Fey | May 29, 2024, 10:11 pm

Once upon a time, I was in a relationship with a woman named Aleks (don’t fret, this is totally not her real name!). 

Everything seemed great on the surface—we laughed together, shared our hopes and dreams, and supported each other. But little did I know, underneath all of that, a feeling of resentment was growing day by day.

At first, I noticed Aleks making sarcastic comments about my holiday plans. And then it became my career choices. 

I didn’t think much of it at the time, I just laughed it off. But these little comments started piling up like a bunch of small problems that turned into bigger  ones.

One day, when we were chatting about our future, Aleks got upset. She said I was too focused on my goals, and it felt like we were going in different directions. It was a surprise, and I realized things weren’t as smooth as they appeared.

As time went on, it became clear that Aleks was holding onto some deep-seated grudges.

Our chats became more like awkward silences, and our shared dreams turned into things I went after on my own. Our love, which used to be impenetrable, was now feeling brittle because of all the things I felt were being left unsaid.

Looking back, I learned that relationships can suffer and break down over way more than just betrayal. Seemingly tiny problems that you ignore can pile up and cause real damage. 

Recognizing the signs, like the subtle resentment, might have helped us fix things before it was too late. Maybe not.

If you don’t want to learn this lesson the hard way, read on for some psychology-backed signs of whether someone secretly resents you.

Let’s start with a big one: they don’t think you love them for who they are.

1) They don’t feel accepted by you

A 2017 study in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that individuals who are harboring feelings of resentment in the relationship might “have long-term concerns about whether their partners are willing to accept them.”

So, why is acceptance a big deal?

Well, acceptance isn’t just about tolerating quirks—it’s about fully embracing them. 

When partners feel accepted, it’s like a warm, reassuring hug for their soul. They can kick back, be themselves, and know that in this great big world, there’s one person who sees them, flaws and all, and loves them all the more for it.

Psychologically speaking, when we feel accepted in a relationship, it creates a secure emotional base for us to come back to.

It’s like having a major safety net, like what we ideally should have had in childhood. This way, we can feel free to take risks, be vulnerable, and know that we won’t be judged or rejected. 

This emotional safety net is the bedrock of a healthy and resilient relationship.

When you’re accepted for who you are, it sparks a reciprocal desire to understand and embrace your partner’s true self.

When partners feel authentically accepted, they’re more likely to communicate openly, trust each other, and weather the storms of life together.

Without this, resentment can bubble up to the surface… particularly when one partner feels like they’re not getting the acknowledgment and understanding they desperately crave.

They might need more reassurance that you truly accept them, quirks and all.

If you sense this kind of resentment growing, it’s important to dive a little deeper, have a heart-to-heart, and make sure your foundation is still intact.

2) They feel rejected or criticized

When people feel mistreated, whether it’s real or perceived, resentment tends to creep on in like an uninvited guest.

A 2018 study on the transmission of anger over daily interactions in relationships found that “perceived mistreatment from others, such as being rejected or criticized” can be a sign of anger or resentment.

It’s the silent killer in relationships and friendship, sowing the seeds of discontent and unhappiness.

Maybe you unintentionally snubbed them in a meeting or got that promotion they secretly wanted. 

Instead of tackling the issue head-on, resentful people might choose the passive-aggressive route.

They won’t outright declare war, but you’ll feel the sting of their resentments through subtle jabs, eye rolls, or the worst one: the silent treatment.

It’s like they’ve become your personal rain cloud, raining criticism instead of encouragement.

But how do you navigate this emotional minefield? 

Well, awareness is the first step.

Pay attention to those subtle shifts in behavior. Are they suddenly too busy to grab lunch or conveniently forget to invite you to gatherings?

These might be hints leading you towards unearthing the feelings of hidden resentment.

3) They’re aggressive towards you—verbally or even physically

The same study found that when harboring resentment or anger for a particular person, “people are more likely to engage in physical, verbal, or social forms of aggression” towards them.

Now, we’re not talking about your buddy’s occasional eye roll when you tell a bad joke. 

We’re talking about a persistent, underlying resentment that can manifest in various outward forms of aggression.

When aggression comes into play, the whole atmosphere turns toxic, and everyone loses. 

It’s not just an unhealthy coping mechanism—it’s a form of emotional abuse that no one should have to put up with.

Physical or verbal aggression is crossing a line that should never be crossed, and it scars both the victim and the aggressor.

Relationships are supposed to uplift us, not drag us down, so it makes sense that physical and verbal aggression have no place in the recipe for a solid connection.

Respecting each other’s boundaries, communicating openly, and addressing issues as they arise, these are the building blocks of healthy relationships. 

Remember, it’s okay to call out covert hostility and demand the respect and open communication you deserve—and even walk away.

4) They experience high levels of jealousy

A 2023 study exploring post-pandemic relationship satisfaction in young couples found that jealousy is a major sign of resentment.

“Given that jealousy is closely tied to anger, relationships are likely to turn into destructive behaviors towards partners, leading to aggression in the relationship,” said researchers.

So, what does jealousy look like? 

Of course, a little bit of jealousy is natural, healthy even, but sometimes it can boil over to an unhealthy level.

According to researchers: “women tend to express jealousy accompanied by feelings of sadness or depression, while men tend to express it through anger or aggression.”

Imagine the scenario where you’re receiving attention from someone else, maybe a coworker, a friend, or even a particularly charming barista. 

Your partner, instead of embracing your appeal to others, suddenly becomes overprotective or starts questioning the motives of the admirer, or even yours.

This kind of resentment can often stem from fear—fear of losing someone you cherish, fear of not being enough, or fear of being easily replaced.

Recognizing jealousy in a romantic relationship is not about pointing fingers but about understanding the underlying insecurities and addressing them as a team.

And of course, this envy can surface in friendships and work relationships. 

One unmistakable sign is the subtle backhanded compliments. You know, the ones that sound like praise but leave a bitter aftertaste?

They might say, “Wow, you’re so lucky to have such a great job.” Which can translate to, “I wish I had your success, and it’s kind of annoying that you do.”

Jealousy can rear its ugly head when someone consistently downplays your achievements. 

You aced a project at work? They find a way to minimize it. Scored a date with someone fantastic? They’re quick to point out flaws or question the other person’s motives. 

It’s as if your victories are somehow threatening to their sense of self.

Jealousy can be like a toxic brew that can chip away relationships and fill friendships with resentment.

So, the next time you sense a hint of jealousy in the air, don’t ignore it. 

Notice it, call it out if necessary, and surround yourself with those who genuinely celebrate your victories.

5) They’re stonewalling you, or refusing to communicate

A study on a two-decade study of long-term marriages found that one of the “common interpersonal emotional behaviors” that arises between couples when resentment is present, is stonewalling.

Maybe you’ve heard this term before, maybe you haven’t. The researchers break it down super well: “Stonewalling consists of a total lack of listening behavior and ‘tuning out’ in response to a partner’s requests to change through criticism, concerns, and ‘nagging’.”

Stonewalling isn’t just a momentary communication glitch, rather, it’s a red flag waving in the breeze of relationship dynamics.

It’s akin to putting on huge noise-canceling headphones in the middle of a crucial debate.

Stonewalling isn’t just about not listening, it’s a blatant refusal to tackle any underlying issues. 

Unresolved problems pile up, and so does resentment.

The next time you face the stone-cold silence, ask yourself: Is this person shutting down because they can’t handle the talk, or is there resentment lurking beneath? 

After all, relationships thrive on communication, not on silence. 

Final thoughts

To sum things up, subtle signs can point towards deeper issues in our relationships. 

My experience with Aleks taught me that hidden resentment, like a quiet force, can damage strong connections.

Understanding and accepting each other are crucial. Feeling embraced for who you are creates a strong foundation for trust and communication. 

On the flip side, rejection or criticism can lead to resentment, causing passive-aggressive or even aggressive behavior.

Stonewalling, refusing to talk about important things, is a clear warning sign. 

Jealousy, a mix of insecurities and unmet desires, can show in backhanded compliments or downplaying achievements. 

Recognizing and addressing jealousy is important for keeping a healthy connection. 

Communication is vital for relationships—without it, resentment can grow. Being aware, talking openly, and accepting each other can help navigate these challenges.

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