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Contempt Hurts Relationships

Marital & Couples Therapy NJ

Maplewood Counseling

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Maplewood Counseling
Debra Feinberg, LCSW
Essex County New Jersey


Maplewood Counseling
Debra Feinberg LCSW
169 Maplewood Ave Suite 4
Maplewood, NJ 07040
Call Now (973) 902-8700


Contact Maplewoood Counseling

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Contempt is the Biggest Predictor of Divorce

Marriage in trouble? Understanding contempt and how it poisons your relationship.

According to relationship expert John Gottman, contempt is the single biggest predictor of divorce. It’s very hard to have a healthy, connected relationship when you disregard, mock, and disrespect your significant other. Name calling, mean, sarcastic joking, eye rolling and things like mocking your spouse, end up being poisonous to the relationship – and if don’t learn how to stop, it will most likely lead to divorce.

It’s understandable that most people feel anger in their relationship. You can learn to express anger without contempt and it will be very worthwhile.

What is contempt?

Contempt is a combination of anger and disgust and can takes things to a much more destructive place. Contempt is so damaging because it conveys “you are beneath me”. It is an arrogant way of seeing your partner as worthless and deserving of your disrespect and disdain. Often men and women use name calling such as “you’re stupid”, “you’re fat” , “you’re ugly” (and sometimes this behavior is directed at your children a well). Contempt makes it difficult for you to take your spouse or partner’s (or children) feelings into account and conveys you are disgusted and sometimes hate your spouse – basically gives the message ” I don’t care about you, your feelings or what you have to say”. 

Why is Contempt Poisonous to the Marriage?

Contempt is so harmful because over time it erodes your relationship. It is defeating and destructive.  Contempt  conveys an attitude of arrogance, superiority and disgust. I can make one partner feel superior and give the impression that we are not equals and I am better than you, smarter than you, etc. if this is the case, you’re disregarding and dismissing your partner because you really don’t value his or her thoughts and feelings.

Empathy is the opposite of contempt. If you were not willing to empathize with your partner or spouse‘s experience, you will be unable to have a healthy and satisfying relationship. 

Examples of Contempt

  • Name calling
  • Sarcasm
  • Mocking and mimicking
  • Eye rolling
  • Hostile humor
  • Smirking 

The cure for contempt, according to John Gottman, is cultivating more respect and appreciation of one another.  Sometimes reflecting on the positive aspects of your past (fondest and admiration) will help you make changes. You ability access fondness and admiration helps your therapist measure your ability to reduce contempt over time. Don’r wait until it’s too late to start working on  breaking this pattern. If you need help moving in this direction, get in touch.  

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