Combating Contempt in Couples

If you’re a couple where Contempt is a regular part of communication, you are feeling pretty miserable. Your relationship is stuck in negativity and loneliness. Your marriage is most likely on the way to a divorce or a living death.

You may remain legally married. You might even choose to live in a “We’re married forever even though our marriage could be a case study for “Zombie Marriage: The Walking Dead Married of America!” Either way, if Contempt is an ongoing behavior, your marriage has definitely “Lost that Loving Feeling!”

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Marriage Doesn’t Have To Be Lonely

Bob and Kate were there. We began writing about the Marriage-Relationship Saga to encourage other marriages.

It’s painful when you’re looking at the options of a marriage disaster. You begin wondering if your destiny with your partner is to be lonely the rest of your life. Or simply call it, “Quits” like so many others have.

Hopefully, this series will encourage you. Bob and Kate made it. -And trust me, they’re nothing special! You can make it, too. If you choose.

Dr. John Gottman has studied couples for over 30 years. He found that Contempt was the deadliest of the 4 Horsemen in Marriage Disasters. Contempt is mean. Contempt is a sneering, seething disgust for your partner. Contempt is no longer about your partner’s behavior. It is about the very essence of your partner.

There is still hope. If you want your marriage. Like any destructive disease – There are antidotes to Contempt.

Combating Contempt in Couples:couples

┬áTake Care of Yourself – things to think about & take action on

  • If you aren’t already – start taking care of yourself.
  • How are you taking care of yourself Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? In other friendships?
  • Spend time investing in yourself. Begin approaching your partner with a full emotional cup.

Stay Inside Your Hula Hoop

  • Draw an imaginary circle around yourself. Do you notice who is inside the circle? -Only you. That, my friend, is the only one you can control in your relationship. Keep that circle in your mind. Color it. Remember it.
  • Practice stopping yourself each time you think a negative thought about your partner.
  • Think about how you have done similar negative behaviors or said similar things in the relationship.

Begin Building An Atmosphere of Kindness

  • I love what Harriet Lerner says in her book, The Dance Of Connectionwhen she is recommending couples be kind regardless of their current dislike for one another. “There is no virtue in speaking to others in a way that makes it impossible for them to hear what you have to say or to appreciate the truth of your position.”
  • Practice “Repair Attempts.” -If you find yourself starting to be negative, do whatever you need to do to take a break and stop the cycle of negativity. Some couples have even playfully stuck their tongues out at each other to say, “We’re being childish. Let’s stop.”

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    Even if it’s silly – Do a Repair Attempt
  • Start focusing on complimenting your partner every time you see or hear something you appreciate. Couples who have built up resentments have often stopped thanking each other. Take notice. Say, “Thank you.”

Marriage and relationships can be hard. Some marriages go through really difficult times. Bob and Kate had experienced a lot of trauma and loss in their lives and it had taken a toll on their relationship. The way back was slow.

Today – 7 years later – They both continue to love the life they have together. They have developed a life of Love and Admiration.

You can too. There is hope.

BTW: Religious folks will sometimes quote Jesus’ words of “Because you are neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” The religious folks will quote this in regards to obedience – the should’s and ought’s of life. But what if we applied this quote to the heart? What if we applied it to our relationships? Our marriages? Our parenting? Our friendships? What if Jesus was saying, “I don’t want you to be lukewarm about loving each other. I want you to Love with Passion and Intention?” -What if?


The above isn’t professional counseling. If you’re interested in couple’s counseling and would like to contact me for an initial consultation, call me at 530-268-3558 or email at kate@katepieperlmft.com. We’ll talk and decide together if I’m a good fit for both of you or if I can refer you to some wonderful colleagues of mine.

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