Resentment: The Root of All Causes of Divorce

By Jackie Pilossoph, Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling, Love Essentially columnist and author

There are so many different causes of divorce. Some of the biggies I hear are cheating, substance abuse, growing apart and not getting along. But, I believe that all causes of divorce are symptoms of a much larger “root”, which is resentment.

Every single couple on earth, from the happiest to the most miserable has some resentment. It starts the day we meet our spouse and continues through until the day one of the people dies (maybe even after.)

Resentment is impossible not to have, if you think about it. Little things about our spouses bug us, and cause some negative feelings, and if we addressed every single thing to that person, we would have something to say every day! So, it’s probably best to hold it in, unless it’s something that affects the relationship, but even then, is it worth stirring the pot about something you resent if your relationship is relatively good, and it isn’t that big of a deal to you? Yes and no.

Resentment, also known as bitterness is defined in Wikipedia as: the experience of a negative emotion, anger or hatred for instance, felt as a result of a real or imagined wrong done.

The best way to really define resentment is to give examples. Let’s say you and your spouse have a five month old, and you, as the woman have been changing the baby’s diapers and waking up with the baby for midnight feedings the entire time. Your spouse has never offered to get up with the baby. You are beyond exhausted. Every time you get back into bed after a late night feeding, you see your husband sleeping peacefully and you resent that. But, that’s just the way it’s always been, and he is the one working, so you say nothing. Five years later, you still resent it. In fact, you will resent that your entire life. Does that mean you will end up divorced? Not at all. It’s just a fact that you will hold a little bit of resentment about that forever. Even if you go to marriage therapy and bring it up, that helps, but it’s still there and probably always will be. People have a hard time forgetting.

Another example of resentment: Let’s say you’ve been married for 10 years and all of a sudden, your husband starts making new friends and wants to go out with them. He suddenly starts drinking more than he used to, and stays out really late with these guys. He swears he isn’t cheating, but more and more, you find yourself home alone on Saturday nights. Six months later, he gets tired of going out and drinking, and stops. But, you have resentment for the past. And again, bringing it out in therapy might help, but therapy can’t erase history.

Here’s the point of this article: how you choose to handle your resentment could be the difference between whether or not you get divorced.

I think that when people feel resentment, they can act out in several different ways:

  1. Cheating
  2. Drugs or alcohol use to tame their resentment
  3. Acting blatantly angry and rude to their spouse
  4. Passive aggressive behavior: sugary sweet on the outside, cutting on the inside

Kind of like, “it’s payback time,” whether they even realize what they are doing or not.

My advice would be that if you are feeling resentful about anything, try therapy. It isn’t a cure all, but it really does help. And, if you end up doing one of the above 4 things, try to figure out if in fact you are doing it out of resentment, and what that resentment is specifically. Understanding your emotions and what is motivating the behavior is key to stopping the behavior.

Resentment is a little bit like cancer. It sits there and then it begins to grow, until it is completely out of control if you don’t treat it. It’s tricky and manipulative.

People often say, “I just don’t even care anymore,” but I think they do. I think they build a barrier of self-protection because they feel beaten down, the resentment so deep in their core that they think it’s too late.

My last piece of advice on resentment is to talk to the person who caused it: the one you love. Telling him or her in a nice way can be productive. Telling him or her that you are trying to get rid of it is a better way of handling resentment than by sleeping with someone else to even the score on something in your mind.

And remember that if you get divorced, it is a certainty that you will have resentment of some type in your next relationship. It’s impossible not to. Not saying that relationship won’t work out either, just be prepared, and try to learn from the past.

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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorce is a journey. Live it with grace, courage and gratitude. Peace and joy are on the way! Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

5 Responses to “Resentment: The Root of All Causes of Divorce”

  1. Deanna Kunkel

    Yes I certainly resent my husbands infidelity for years, gaslighting, emotional abuse, and refusal to go to individual or couples therapy. I also resent his promises to do so, get a new job, and change his ways to stay together, only for him to back out of all of them. You bet I resent the hell out of him. I have tried talking to him, but he won’t hear anything or do anything he doesn’t want to. He is personality disordered and quite content to be so.

  2. MarcoJT

    I understand someone feeling resentful if their husband cheats, is inappropriate with other women (either in person or online), is abusive, is an addict, parties with friends while you are home with the kids, talks bad about your to their friends, mother in law, etc. But being resentful for reasons like he is sleeping while you are up with the kids, when he works late, is pretty petty. Or him not helping you enough because he is busy with a million other things including work. I think a lot of people are sleep deprived and exhausted from raising kids. Kids can be hard and exhausting but lets not take it out on our spouse. Please remind ourselves not to be angry and resentful for things that are not justifiable. I’ve met women who are angry at their husbands for not cooking and cleaning enough when he is the only one who goes into work all day. Or they are mad that they didn’t get up early to help with the kids when the guy works til midnight the night before at a physical job. Would you really like to switch roles with him? No one is perfect but if he is a good guy who works and, provides, is loyal and faithful to you, and is not an addict and isn’t abusive be easy on him. There are not many around.

    • Jackie Pilossoph

      It’s interesting because I think you have a point, and it is just one more reason I think marriages are better when both parents have jobs. I regret being a stay-at-home mom for many reasons and this is one of them. Financially, of course is another. But I think I had resentment when my husband didn’t help around the house because he was tired from working. But from the point of view of the stay at home mom, that job is exhausting, boring, and tedious and burn out is huge. I would much rather have gone to an office from 9-5 back then. That’s not to say I didn’t/don’t adore my children, but it’s a really really hard gig. So, cut the stay at home mom some slack. She’s hurting.


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