6 signs someone secretly resents you, according to psychology

Have you noticed a friend or family member is acting differently towards you lately and you can’t help but wonder if they secretly resent you?

You’re not even sure why, maybe they’re jealous of your good fortune or they could be holding onto something that’s happened in the past. It might even be a change in one of your lifestyles that’s brought it on.

Whatever the reason, it feels like resentment but you want to be sure.

Sound familiar?

The thing is: resentment can be tricky to pinpoint because it involves many emotions. Thankfully, psychological insights and research can help us to spot resentment and make sense of it.

With that in mind, today I’m sharing 6 of the biggest signs that someone secretly resents you, according to psychology to help you to figure out what’s happening.

Take note of how many of these signs you’re seeing. Let’s jump in. 

1) They’re passive-aggressive towards you

When someone is passive-aggressive it can be very confusing. It’s usually when someone is unhappy about something but instead of addressing it directly, they try to act normal. At the same time, they’re dropping subtle hints and clues that suggest otherwise. 

Someone who’s being passive-aggressive toward you might give you back-handed compliments and continuously claim everything is fine when it’s not. Have you experienced this with someone in your life recently? 

People sometimes use passive-aggressive behavior to express their resentment and anger towards you as noted by psychiatrist, Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

I went through this after I told a close friend I was moving abroad for a year. She changed instantly. She said everything was fine but she was always sulky, sarcastic, and impatient with me. 

Looking back, these are all examples of passive-aggressive behavior and a sure sign of resentment about my opportunity to travel. 

If someone is being passive-aggressive towards you it suggests they secretly resent you and it could be a sign you need to walk away.

2) They blame you a lot

Do you notice your friend in question tends to blame you for lots of things, even when it’s not your fault?

Someone can’t really feel resentment towards you without also feeling some other negative emotions like anger, insecurity, and even shame. Emotions like these are uncomfortable and distressing.

As a way to cope with them, a person will have something called a conditioned response. “​​The conditioned response that produces problem anger/resentment is blame,” explains Psychologist Steven Stosny Ph.D. They’ll blame you to help them cope with their resentment and anger. 

Being able to blame you gives them short-lived relief from their negative emotions. “Conditioned blame stimulates adrenaline and a temporary feeling of power and confidence to relieve the self-doubt and powerlessness of discomfort/distress.” according to Dr. Stosny Ph.D.

If you’re copping the blame a lot from the same person, take note it could be a sign that they’re hiding their negative feelings towards you

3) They constantly find fault and point out your mistakes

You know how friends are supposed to lift you up, support you when you’re feeling down, and remind you how great you are when you mess up? A few years back I had a friend who did the opposite. 

At first Tara and I got on great, she was a positive and supportive friend. But after I got a promotion things started to change.

Instead of being happy for me, she’d constantly find fault with everything I did and point out my mistakes. It felt like non-stop criticism from her. 

Turns out: she resented me because her career was stagnant and I was progressing faster than her. And to cope with this hidden anger and resentment she turned to constant criticism. 

Does Tara remind you of anyone in your life? 

As outlined by psychologist and author, Melanie Greenberg Ph.D. there are lots of reasons why people criticize you including

  • They think you make them look bad
  • They’re covering up hurt or anger
  • They’re threatened by your competence

All of these things indicate that their criticism is deeply rooted in the resentment they feel towards you, even though they try to hide it.

signs someone is taking their unhappiness out on you without realizing it 6 signs someone secretly resents you, according to psychology

4) They’re very sarcastic towards you

We’ve all got one really sarcastic friend, right?

Always on hand to make a sarcastic remark that makes everyone laugh. Like Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) from ‘Game of Thrones’ or Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry) from ‘Friends’. They use sarcasm all of the time, with everyone, it’s part of who they are, it’s normal.

But what about when you notice that a friend is very sarcastic when it comes to you, but not with everyone else? This is a big red flag and a cause for concern.

This kind of mean-spirited sarcasm that’s very clearly directed at you, could be a sign of something else. Psychologist Bernard Golden Ph.D. notes “I’ve often observed how sarcasm reflects underlying resentment, often related to some form of hurt”.

If you feel like you’re always on the receiving end of sarcasm from somebody in particular, this might be revealing that underneath it all, they resent you. 

5) They’re bitter and envious of your success

It’s normal to feel a little pang of envy when someone in your life is enjoying success. According to one study, about 75% of people said they felt envy in the previous year.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy for them at the same time. Shasta Nelson, relationship expert and author calls this applauding envy.

When someone resents you, envy hits differently. They’re bitter, like it’s not fair that they aren’t successful and you are. “When a person becomes bitter, there’s often a sense of betrayal about how life has treated them” as outlined by Psychology Today.

And their envy means they can’t be happy for your success to the point it actually makes them unhappy. They won’t say it outright but you’ll notice they don’t show interest or enthusiasm for your good news. And they don’t ask about things they know you’re doing well in. 

I experienced this firsthand with an old friend. After a lot of hard work, I managed to get my dream job (at the time) at 22. I was over the moon and called my friend immediately. She didn’t seem interested at all and moved the conversation on as quickly as possible.

If you’ve identified this kind of behavior in a friend or family member in your life, it’s a telling sign that they resent you, secretly. 

6) They don’t want to hang out much anymore 

Although it’s hard to be on the receiving end of resentment from a friend or family member, it’s important to remember it’s not easy for them either.

Resentment is rooted in negative emotions and feelings of being mistreated. These kinds of emotions are hard to deal with and sometimes, people prefer not to deal with them at all.

Have you noticed that the person in question isn’t interested in spending time with you anymore?

Here’s the thing: if someone is feeling resentful towards you, being around you can trigger those negative emotions. They might prefer to avoid you to stop themselves from feeling those emotions. “People will often do this to protect themselves” as noted by WebMD.

Although it’s not your fault they resent you, you’re a reminder of their negative feelings and so they want to steer clear of you.

Final thoughts

There you have it, 6 signs that suggest someone secretly resents you.

It’s important to remember resentment is based on someone’s perception of unfairness. They might feel like you wronged them in some way even if it wasn’t intentional on your part.

Resentment is difficult for everyone involved, the person feeling the resentment and the person who is being resented.

Cat Harper

Cat Harper

Cat is an experienced Sales and Enablement professional turned writer whose passions span from psychology and relationships to continuous self-improvement, lifelong learning and pushing back on societal expectations to forge a life she loves. An avid traveler and adventure sports enthusiast, in her downtime you'll find Cat snowboarding, motorcycling or working on her latest self-development project.

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