Dear Therapist,

I am full of resentment these days. Much of this is directed towards my partner, but it is also towards my boss and work. I’ve noticed it creeping into my friendships too which has me concerned enough to write.  



Dear Resentful,

I’m glad you wrote as you are right to be concerned. Pervasive resentment can be debilitating. Resentment is related to but distinct from anger. Anger is usually energising – it alerts us to the fact our boundaries have been crossed, values not respected. It can serve as a call to action. With resentment, we feel wronged, and stuck. There is a sense of ‘this shouldn’t be happening to me’ and yet it is. We need to figure out how to regain some agency.

In situations where resentment appears, I invite you to ask the question: Do I need to speak up or grow up? Sometimes we need to advocate for ourselves (speak up!). Other times we need to appreciate that other perspectives may differ from our own and that a certain amount of frustration is inevitable in relationships, work, and life in general (grow up!).

Many times we don’t speak up. We say yes and agree to things when we mean no. We stay silent when others behave in a way that hurts or minimises our feelings. We don’t give ourselves permission to voice requests. We need to learn to be assertive in communicating our needs, and yet when I suggest this to clients it is often met with some version of ‘he/she should know.’  No, no and no. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to guess our feelings and preferences. It is hard enough to know our own wants and needs let alone for someone else to get it right, and all of the time. Let’s make it easier on all and be clear, communicative. If we haven’t done this, the resentment we feel is likely be as much towards ourselves for not taking sufficient care. Yes, it is challenging to speak up, but a few minutes of discomfort are preferable to a lifetime of resentment (to paraphrase Brene Brown). 

Others times, we need to grow up. It may be that we have unrealistic expectations or an unwillingness to acknowledge legitimate difference that is the source of our resentment. We struggle to accept that others may have very different feelings, priorities and behaviours than those we’d like them to have. This can be frustrating, particularly if we are living or working closely with the person in question. But resenting people for being who they are is unfair. And speaking up to get our ‘requests’ met in these circumstances can start to look and feel like controlling behaviour.  

In these cases, we can challenge ourselves to get to acceptance. By definition, others aren’t carbon copies of ourselves. If we get close to them, we will rub up against differences, some of which can be very annoying indeed.  Managing some level of frustration is part of mature relating. But if we clash on fundamental values, growing up may look like walking away, recognising the situation isn’t going to work for us. The worst option is when we choose to stay but insist on being resentful the person isn’t who we want them to be.

Growing up might also look like taking action to redress a situation we deem unfair. Maybe we need to devote less time and energy to work, a friendship or family member. We want to stay in the relationship, but in a way that feels more balanced. Instead of waiting on the other to change, we can take things into our own hands to arrive at a level of engagement that feels more equitable.  

Finally, I’d encourage you to refocus your lens on what is working in your life. You may be overly fixated on all that is ‘bad’ about your partner, work, friendships, other. I once had a client who was genuinely resentful of the weather. It is exhausting – and ultimately futile - to fight reality. Try a week of appreciation for the many gifts on offer, rain or shine.  


Do you have a question for Dear Therapist? Send it to [email protected] with Dear Therapist in the subject line and Charlotte Fox Weber or Kelly Hearn will get back to you.