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Contempt in a relationship can be one of the most significant predictors of divorce. Dr. John Gottman, a renowned relationship therapist, identified it as one of the negative communication patterns couples fall into that can predicate divorce. Coining them the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are criticism, Stonewalling, Defensiveness, and Contempt.

Resentment vs. Contempt

The critical difference between resentment and contempt is how we perceive the wrongdoer’s status. Resentment is for people we perceive as having a higher social status than us. Meanwhile, we reserve contempt for those of a perceived lower status than ourselves. Contempt is not the same as hatred, though, as hatred stems from love. Contempt is the absence of love; when we feel that a person is not worthy of our time and energy. When contempt is towards a romantic partner, it is toxic to your relationship.

 

Signs of Contempt in Your Relationship

  • Your partner constantly puts you down
  • They compare you to others
  • They interrupt you constantly
  • You are always being criticized or corrected
  • They stonewall or ignore you
  • Constant sarcastic remarks
  • They are condescending
  • They redo household tasks you have just completed
  • You are often the butt of their jokes

 

What Causes Feelings of Contempt?

The cause of contempt in a relationship is issues left unresolved for too long. Unfortunately, one or both of you has chosen to be passive-aggressive about your issues, and now the problem is worse. Contempt is a stage of detachment, usually due to feeling stuck in cycles of conflict. Over time, these feelings intensify and can cause irreparable damage to a relationship.

 

What to Do

If you recognize contempt creeping into your relationship, you are not alone. As long as you are willing to be vulnerable, there is a way for you two to reconnect. You and your partner must take responsibility for the areas of the relationship to which you may not be contributing equally. Make an effort to:

  • Communicate directly without sarcasm
  • Stop focusing on only the negative attributes of your partner
  • Consider how your past or theirs contributes to your communication pattern
  • Learn to critique rather than criticize
  • Practice empathy

 

Seek Help

If your relationship issues feel insurmountable, consider couples counseling. A licensed counselor can help you identify where your communication breakdown is coming from and provide non-biased suggestions. You may not be able to get through to your partner on your own, but when another person points out their negative behavior, they are more likely to consider it. Over time and with practice, the two of you can repair the damage to your relationship. If your partner does not want to go to therapy, you can start on your own with individual counseling. Your partner may feel threatened by this step, but the goal is to show them you are committed to working on this relationship. 

 

Conclusion

According to Dr. John Gottman, contempt in a relationship can be one of the most significant predictors of divorce. When contempt is towards a romantic partner, it is toxic to your relationship. The cause of contempt is issues left unresolved for too long that can cause irreparable damage to a relationship. As long as you are willing to be vulnerable, there is a way for you two to reconnect. You and your partner must take responsibility for the areas of the relationship to which you may not be contributing equally. If your relationship issues feel insurmountable, consider couples counseling. A licensed counselor can help you identify where your communication breakdown is coming from and provide non-biased suggestions. 

 

Family Strategies Counseling & Mediation is a therapy office serving the Chicagoland Area. We offer couples counseling and mental health services. Our therapists are skilled at working with those struggling to process traumatic events. Call our office at (708) 798-5433 or email us at info@Family-Strategy.com for appointment details.