When people consider the behaviour patterns that might damage a relationship, they tend to concentrate on the main problems such as infidelity, financial difficulties and/or sexual disorders; while these issues may surely destroy a relationship’s foundation, there are many more subtle, apparently little actions that may leave a relationship feeling cold and hollow over time.
Contempt is a sneaky creature; it emerges from a brew of long-simmering unpleasant ideas. With weapons like sarcasm, mockery, eye-rolling, regular interruption, criticism, and regular impatience, it aims right for the heart, ripping at the person’s sense of self.
Being a trained Gottman Couples Therapist, I work with couples to eliminate contempt from their relationship at all cost as it is the greatest predictor of divorce/separation. After 40+ years of research, Dr. J Gottman found proven antidotes for contempt.
The first antidote is to start small and describe your own feelings and needs about any given issue. Try to avoid using “you” statements, which can make your partner feel blamed or attacked. Instead, start with “I feel…”
The best antidote to contempt is to build a culture of fondness and admiration for each other. Take into account that you won’t be able to establish fondness and appreciation overnight, but if you put in the effort every day to do small, pleasant things for your Significant Other, you will be able to nurture this new culture in your relationships which will act as a constant buffer against contempt.