What is Contempt in a Relationship, and How to Get Around It

What is Contempt in a Relationship, and How to Get Around It

Contempt in a relationship is a toxic and damaging attitude that involves looking down on your partner, feeling superior to them, and treating them with disrespect and disdain. It often manifests through mocking, sarcasm, eye-rolling, or making hurtful comments about your partner's intelligence, appearance, or worth. This can create an environment of resentment, eroding the emotional connection and trust between partners.

Signs of contempt in a relationship include frequent criticism and belittlement, a lack of empathy or understanding towards your partner's feelings, name-calling or using derogatory language, dismissive behavior, and an overall sense of superiority. You may find yourself engaging in frequent arguments characterized by hostility and disrespect. Over time, contempt can severely damage the emotional bond between partners, leading to decreased intimacy, a decline in communication, and increased emotional pain.

The dangers of contempt in a relationship are significant. It erodes trust, creates emotional distance, and can lead to the breakdown of the relationship. When contempt becomes a pervasive part of the relationship dynamic, it can chip away at the foundation of love and respect. The person on the receiving end of contempt may feel emotionally wounded, disrespected, and their self-esteem may suffer. This can lead to a cycle of negativity, defensiveness, and further damage to the relationship.

How to Combat Contempt in a Relationship:

To address contempt in a relationship, it's crucial to foster open and honest communication. Start by recognizing and acknowledging the presence of contemptuous behavior or comments. Both partners should be willing to take responsibility for their actions and commit to making positive changes. Building empathy and practicing active listening can help foster understanding and create a more compassionate environment.

Using a Softened Start-up is another excellent way to avoid the pitfalls of contempt. By making the conversation/comments about yourself and not your partner will help reverse the conversation. Click here to learn about the Gottman Soften Start-Up technique.

Seeking couples therapy or relationship counseling can also provide guidance and support in navigating and resolving contemptuous dynamics.

Here are 10 examples of contemptuous statements disguised in different forms:

  1. "Oh, you're so adorable when you try to be smart."
  2. "You never listen. I bet you forgot what I just said."
  3. "I can't believe I ended up with someone like you."
  4. "You're such a mess. I have to clean up after you all the time."
  5. "You're always so sensitive. It's exhausting to be around you."
  6. "Why bother? You'll never understand anyway."
  7. "You think you're so perfect, don't you?"
  8. "You're just like your mother/father – clueless and incompetent."
  9. "You're overreacting, as usual. It's just a small problem."
  10. "Do you even have a brain? It's like talking to a wall."

Remember, open and respectful communication is vital in a healthy relationship. By addressing contemptuous behavior and fostering mutual respect, you can work towards building a stronger and more loving connection with your partner.

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