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Destructive Communication Patterns: Contempt

We will continue our look the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the destructive communication patterns that couples employ during conflict and are consistent predictors of divorce. The four horsemen are: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. Today we’ll explore the unhealthy communication pattern of Contempt. Contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce and must be eliminated.

Contempt includes behaviors or statements that come from a place of superiority, and include name-calling, eye rolling, sarcasm, and mocking. When your partner displays contempt for you, they are communicating, disgust, scorn, or disdain. They are displaying feelings of superiority by showing that they feel that you are inferior to them, beneath them, underserving of respect. No one deserves to be spoken to with contempt, and when someone shows you contempt it says more about them than it does about you.

The antidote to contempt is for the couple to build a culture between them of appreciation and respect, a culture of fondness and admiration. If you feel that fondness and admiration are missing from your relationship, it is suggested that you take more serious action and have a conversation about looking into couple’s therapy.

While fondness and admiration are crucial in any marriage, these positive sentiments often dwindle over time through conflict, resentment, or as a result of life’s many stressors and distractions. For couples in crisis, the best test to measure the strength in their fondness and admiration system is to focus on how they view their past. If your relationship is in significant trouble, you’re not likely to elicit much praise from each other by asking about the current state of the marriage. Talking about the happy, positive events of the past, however, helps many couples reconnect. If you are able to revive fondness and admiration for each other, you are more likely to approach conflict resolution as a team, and the re-growth of your sense of connection will keep the two of you as connected as you felt when you first met.

If you need more guidance with improving communication patterns, consider couples therapy with a therapist trained in the Gottman Method.