The Mating Grounds

Is Contempt Ruining Your Relationship? Here’s How to Fix It

Understanding Contempt in Relationships

Are you having trouble communicating with your partner? Do you find yourself constantly arguing or feeling belittled?

You might be experiencing contempt, one of the four horsemen of relationship trouble, according to John Gottmans Cascade Model of Relational Dissolution. Contempt, often considered the most corrosive of the quartet, involves complex emotions such as anger, disgust, and disrespect.

Its characterized by behaviors such as mocking, eye-rolling, and name-calling, which can lead to long-term damage in a relationship. In this article, well explore the signs of contempt in relationships and what you can do to address them.

Passive-Aggressive Behaviors

Passive-aggressive behaviors are a common sign of contempt in relationships. This includes when your partner intentionally frustrates you, withholds information, or makes belittling comments.

These behaviors can be frustrating and can create a cycle of resentment and negativity.

Fault-Finding and Criticism

Another sign of contempt is fault-finding and criticism. When your partner constantly finds faults in your behavior or criticizes you, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and frustration.

While constructive criticism can be helpful, petty poking and nagging can lead to contempt and resentment.

Body Language and Physical Distance

Body language and physical distance can say a lot about a relationship. If your partner keeps a physical distance from you or avoids eye contact, it can be a sign of contempt.

Couples counselor suggests that when you feel your partner is distancing themselves from you, its important to have an open and honest conversation about what youre experiencing and what you both can do to improve.

Unhealthy Competition

Unhealthy competition in a relationship can lead to feelings of disrespect and contempt. Constant comparison and criticism can be damaging to the relationship.

Its important to remember that relationships are not competitions, and healthy relationships involve support and respect for each others personal and professional goals.

Interrupting and Condescending Behavior

Interrupting your partner, talking over them, or using condescending language is a clear sign of contempt. Its important to remember that communication is a two-way street, and both parties need to listen and speak in a respectful manner.

If you find yourself interrupting or using condescending language, its important to reflect on why youre doing so and what you can do to change that behavior.

Listening Difficulties

Listening is a crucial part of communication in a relationship. If you find yourself having trouble listening to your partner or unable to focus on what theyre saying, it can be a sign of emotional distress or contempt.

Making an effort to actively listen and understand your partners perspective can improve the communication in the relationship.

Forgetfulness and Memory Issues

Forgetfulness and memory issues can create feelings of resentment in a relationship. If your partner constantly forgets important details or events, it can lead to a lack of trust and frustration.

Its important to communicate and work together to address any forgetfulness or memory issues and find a solution that works for both of you.

Negative Talk Behind the Back

Negative talk behind the back is a clear sign of contempt. Honesty and trust are crucial in a relationship, and negative talk behind the back can erode that trust.

If you find yourself speaking negatively about your partner, its important to reflect on why youre doing so and what you can do to address the underlying issues in a constructive manner.

Excessive Praise for Others

Excessive praise for others can be a sign of contempt and can create feelings of hurt and pain. If your partner constantly praises others and ignores your feelings, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and resentment.

Its important to communicate with your partner and express how you feel when they praise others excessively.

Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is a form of emotional abuse that can be damaging to a relationship. When one partner refuses to talk or ignores the other, it can create feelings of frustration and contempt.

Difficult conversations are a necessary part of any healthy relationship, and its important to find ways to communicate and work through any issues.

Hyperbole and Lying

Hyperbole and lying are clear signs of contempt and disrespect within a relationship. Exaggeration and dishonesty can erode trust and create feelings of insecurity and frustration.

If you find yourself exaggerating or lying in your relationship, its important to reflect on why youre doing so and address any underlying issues in a constructive manner.

In Conclusion

Contempt is a corrosive emotion that can create long-term damage in a relationship. By understanding the signs of contempt and working to address them, you can improve communication and build a healthier, more respectful relationship.

Its important to remember that relationships require effort, communication, and respect from both parties.

Dealing with Contempt in Relationships

If you find yourself dealing with contempt in your relationship, its important to take action to address the issue. Here are some ways to deal with contempt in relationships:

Having a Conversation

Communication is key in any relationship. To deal with contempt, its important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner.

Express how youre feeling and what specific behaviors are causing you to feel contempt. Be vulnerable and open to feedback, and work together to find a solution.


Self-reflection is an important part of dealing with contempt in relationships. Take the time to reflect on your own behavior and actions.

Admitting fault and taking responsibility for your actions can be a powerful step in healing the relationship. Make a conscious effort to change your behavior and communicate your efforts to your partner.

Assessing the Relationships Future

Contempt in a relationship can lead to long-term damage. If youre experiencing contempt, its important to assess the relationships staying ability and potential.

Contemplate whether or not the relationship is worth salvaging or if its time to consider a breakup. Be honest with yourself and your partner about your feelings and intentions.

Enlisting Professional Help

If youre struggling to deal with contempt in your relationship, enlisting professional help can be a valuable resource. A therapist or coach can offer an objective eye and provide tools and strategies to improve communication and strengthen the relationship.

Together, you and your partner can work through the issues and develop a plan to move forward.

Giving Each Other Space

Sometimes giving each other space can be helpful in dealing with contempt in a relationship. Taking some alone time to reflect and reset can help clear the air and provide an opportunity to make adjustments and tweaks to the relationship.

Make sure to communicate your intentions with your partner and establish clear boundaries and expectations.

Final Thoughts on Contempt

Contempt is an unpleasant emotion that can fester if left unaddressed. By taking action to address contempt in your relationship, you can nip it in the bud and create a flourishing partnership based on respect, trust, and open communication.

Remember to be honest, reflective, and open to change. With effort and dedication, you can create a stronger, healthier relationship.

In conclusion, understanding, identifying, and dealing with contempt in relationships is crucial for building and maintaining healthy relationships. By recognizing the signs of contempt, having honest conversations, practicing self-reflection, assessing the relationship’s future, enlisting professional help, and giving each other space, you can work towards a stronger and more respectful partnership.

It takes effort, dedication, and a willingness to communicate and change, but by taking these steps, you can create a relationship built on trust, respect, and mutual support. Remember that relationships are a journey, and dealing with contempt is just one step in the process of building a fulfilling and satisfying partnership.

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