Why contempt in relationships?
Contempt in relationships has the power to be incredibly harmful. It’s a way of communicating that can be detrimental for the duration of the relationship. And can negatively impact your partner.
Through my work as a couple therapist and becoming trained in Gottman’s Couple Therapy, Level One, I have been fascinated by Dr. John Gottman’s research regarding contempt and the impact it can have on marriages/relationships.
What is contempt in relationships?
When you type in a Google search for the definition of contempt, the following comes up.
Contempt is defined as “thinking someone or something is beneath consideration, worthless, deserving scorn.”
As I’m sure you can imagine, contempt in relationships can be incredibly toxic and unhealthy. When contempt is present, it is very difficult for spouses/partners to communicate effectively.
What does contempt communicate?
Often contempt communicates disgust which is why it becomes incredibly difficult to communicate effectively when contemptuous comments or behaviors are exhibited.
Some examples of contempt include:
- Thinking you are better than your spouse/partner
- Having a feeling that your spouse/partner is less than in some way
- Blatantly doing and saying things to disrespect your spouse/partner
- Rolling of the eyes directed toward your spouse/partner
- Saying things to demean or put your spouse/partner down
What’s the antidote to contempt in relationships?
Gottman has found through his research that the best antidote to contempt is fondness and admiration of one another.
But, to change this negative communication pattern, couples must work toward recognizing current patterns that exist in their communication and in their relationship.
Couples must first become aware and recognize what’s happening in their interactions. Become aware of when signs of contempt may be present.
This (awareness) is the first step toward change.
When couples can first become consciously aware of the dance they are stuck in, then they can begin to consciously work toward creating a dance that enhances their communication and improves their relationship.
If you’re considering professional help, couples therapy is a helpful resource to help couples become aware of negative communication patterns and begin working toward new, more healthy, and functional ways of relating.
If you’re in the Austin area and wanting relationship help, contact me at 512.550.7918.