Renowned couples counselor and researcher, Dr. John Gottman argues that contempt is one of the worst poisons in a marriage. He believes that contempt is one of the biggest predictors of divorce. So, what is contempt and why is it so destructive?
As a couples therapist and marriage counselor, I have seen first hand in marriage counseling how destructive contempt can be. Contempt is attacking your partner's sense of self. It is attacking with intent to insult or assuming a position of moral superiority. Contempt relates to criticism in that it cuts at your partner's character.
It's more than criticism in that it assumes you're better than your partner. When you express contempt, you're suggesting you're superior to your partner. It is a form of disrespect.
Sharp humor or sarcasm
Contempt is so dangerous because it shows a level of disgust. When you show contempt to your partner, you are saying you find them repulsive. Feeling disgusted by your partner is the quickest way to end a marriage.
2 Effective Antidotes to Contempt: Assertiveness & Appreciation
Life happens and contempt may creep into a marriage or relationship. It's important to understand the signs that you may be feeling or experiencing contempt. Once you see that contempt is present, there are ways to help overcome contempt. Using these skills can help save and strengthen a marriage.
Assertiveness is the ability to express one's needs and feelings. It also entails the ability to respect our partner. Assertiveness is transparency with respect.
One of the proven antidotes to contempt is the ability to express what you think and feel. When you hold things in, they likely build and breed contempt. Learning to express the hard stuff will help combat contempt.
One way to practice being assertive is by using "I" statements. "I" statements make it about your needs. With "you" statements it's too easy to attack and blame.
An example of a contemptuous "you statement":
"You always neglect my sexual needs. You only care about yourself. How can you not care about our relationship You're so selfish?"
In this example, the person assumes a position of superiority. They are hurting and thus take it out on their partner. This contemptuous communication is bound to create a further divide.
An example of an assertive "I statement":
"I’m feeling neglected in our sex life, and I need physical connection. Can we talk about how to make that happen so it works for both of us?”
This statement does not accuse. There's no blame. And there's no disgust or superiority. It's one person expressing their honest needs and frustrations. It's also a good example of making a positive request.
The other antidote to contempt is building an environment of appreciation. Focusing on what you admire about your partner can help strengthen the relationship.
Appreciation is not something that happens overnight. If contempt has characterized your relationship for sometime, it may take some time.
Appreciation happens in intentional and small ways. If you do positive things for your partner every day, it can build strong culture admiration.
Here are a few ways to appreciate your partner on a daily basis:
Send them a text about one thing they did that impressed you
Leave you partner a sticky note on the bathroom mirror
Kiss your spouse for six seconds
Surprise them by doing one of their chores
The Benefits of Marriage Counseling
After understanding the root of the issue, a couple's counselor can help you develop tools. These tools can help you process emotions and communicate in a better way.
You can confront the contempt in your relationship. You can also develop a more positive approach in your marriage.
Marriage Counseling & Couples Therapy at Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Katy, Tx & Houston
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, our marriage therapists and couples counselors are here to help you with whatever the challenges may be in your relationship. Marriage counseling or couples therapy can be very effective in helping couples overcome contempt. Love is a verb and takes action especially when we may feel contempt.
Our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen and Family Counseling, is conveniently located off of I-10 and 99. We are a couple blocks south of Kingsland Boulevard and across the street from Encompass Health in Katy, Texas.
If you are ready to start marriage counseling or couples therapy, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Partner with our marriage counselors or couples therapist to help you reconnect with your spouse or partner today
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Serving Katy, Tx & Houston
Below are a few of the other counseling services we provide for teens, families, and young adults in Katy, Tx and Houston:
Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Group Therapy for Teens
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
About the Author
Quique also has a passion for helping teens, young adults, and adults who may be on the Autism Spectrum. He has a talent for connecting with and helping people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
If you're ready to start your healing journey in marriage counseling or couples therapy, you can call us at 346-202-4662 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.