Every now and then, I come across a couple who have allowed resentment about each other to build into something much, much more and bigger than what they could have imagined possible, when this happens you have contempt. I have witnessed this in my office and I just get an uneasy sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach when I have to witness it and then deal with it; I immediately know that the couple is in danger and if they don’t do something their relationship will spiral down the road to an acrimonious divorce.
So what is contempt?
Contempt is when you or your partner begins to look down on the other or each other; you soon see them as inferior or worthless and you begin to express it through words or actions, especially during heated exchanges. There is a real bad energy associated with contempt.
One sign of contempt can be intentionally saying or doing things to communicate to the other person what a ‘nothing’ he or she is. It comes out in loud bursts with name-calling, hostile humor or ridiculing sarcasm, you may even tell your partner that you wished you never married them in the first place. It may be expressed not only in words, but also in the way you look at your partner or the tone in your voice. It can sometimes surface by saying negative things about your partner in front of other people or even in the presence of your closest friends or in presence of your children; this is done in the hope of showing others how bad your partner is too.
If the contempt continues it soon becomes an attitude and a habitual way of communicating with your partner.
A big part of what causes contempt is what you habitually tell yourself about your partner and their behaviors especially the ones that get on your nerves. You will find that you will often rehearse thoughts and create negative patterns of thinking by what you continually tell yourself about them. Rehearsing these negative and distressing thoughts soon puts your brain into an emotional imprinting mode and your brain soon gets wired to keep going into the same thought pattern every time your end up in a heated exchange with your partner.
Contempt is like having an open wound and someone keeps rubbing salt in it; it soon causes so much pain that it eats at your own outlook and destroys your relationship with your partner. If you don’t break this pattern and the way you and your partner handle the conflict or distress in your relationship; you are likely to divorce, or if you stay together you will be miserable and just end up bitter and twisted.
Who wants to live with someone who thinks you are worthless?
Who wants to live with someone who is resentful of your relationship and always sees you in the worst possible light? The answer is no one does and divorce soon is the result.
Things you can do if contempt has taken a hold of your relationship
1. Remember the positives about your partner, what was it that made you fall in love with them in the first place, what did you love about them, was it their smile, their personality, their cheeky behaviour; try to bring that spark back.
It’s all still there, you just have to make the effort and scratch the surface and it will all reappear.
2. Replace the negative thought patterns and all the resentment with positives and happy thoughts about your partner remember the good times, what did you love doing together; get out there and do it re-connect before it is to late.
3. Imagine what it’s like for your partner who is on the receiving end of your contempt. How are your words, and your negative behavior coming across to your partner? You will be perceived to be uncaring, judgmental, superior, controlling, disconnected, nagging, critical, and angry; even if you don’t really mean it. Don’t forget it takes two to tango and two to argue and fight in a relationship.
4. Talking about it. When your partners behavior or something they said ticks you off or frustrates you, ask them if you can talk about it; to communicate in a non heated manner in the hope that something good may come out of it and the relationship can take a positive and more meaningful direction for both you. You need to talk about yours and your partner’s behavior and the effect it has on both of you. Only then can you heal the relationship rift that is developing between the two of you.
5. Change your own behavior it is a good starting point in creating a better and the relationship that you want to have with your partner.
6. Recognize that bitterness, resentment, contempt, criticism and negativity not only damages your partner it damage you too.
So stop it right now and get on with the love; make it a priority to communicate with each other and always look for the positives in yourself and your partner.