How to Notice If Contempt is Part of The Couple

We’re going to return to the Marriage-Relationship Saga again. Back on the range with the Couple of the Hour, Bob and Kate. As they assess the way they’d been riding together, their focus turns to the Disaster Ride of Calico Contempt.

Contempt sounds like such a nasty word, doesn’t it? I mean, you’d have to be a pretty mean person to actually practice contempt, right? And being a couple who had contempt? Well, that would never happen to them! After all they were the couple who marched down the aisle to “Happy To Be Stuck With You.”

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Gottman discovered 4 Horsemen of Marital Disaster

Their wedding day was one of the best days of their lives! Certainly, Calico Contempt wouldn’t be a ride Kate would be riding. And likewise Bob would never allow Calico Contempt to be a part of his repertoire of relating to his lovely bride. But alas, as they learned about Contempt, they realized they both had let the Disaster Ride slip into their marriage.

Dr. John Gottman is a world renowned psychologist and researcher of marriages. He has done extensive research on masters of marriages and disasters of marriage. Gottman found 4 behaviors in marriages that were destructive to any couple. Gottman referred to these behaviors as the 4 Horsemen. I’ve talked about Criticism and Defensiveness previously. Now we are going to focus on Contempt.

Gottman refers to Contempt as “statements that come from a relative position of superiority. Contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce and must be eliminated.” Contempt happens when one person calls another person’s ideas “silly.” Or worse yet, when one person says, “You idiot” to the other.

In Bob and Kate’s case, they rode a more subtle version of contempt through the pasture of their marriage.They discovered Contempt in their marriage. The following are some examples you might discover also:

  • Muttering – There was the muttering under their breath at the other one as they walked away. When asked about what they said, though. Neither one would dare repeat it.
  • The Eye Rolling -If you watched them as a couple, you might think they had a nervous twitch. Because eventually, you would see one of their eyes continually roll as the other one talked. Of course, you might not see it. Because they were good at not doing Contempt Actions in public!
  • Sarcasm – The sarcasm that seemed to ooze from their pours whenever they were together was evident. There would be subtle remarks said as the other partner was talking.
  • Mocking – Either one would mock the other when their partner was talking about something.
  • Voice Tone – Neither Bob or Kate could seem to keep the tone of their voice as friendly and welcoming to each other. There seemed to constantly be an “edge” to their tone of voice. The “edge” of Contempt. Their tone relayed, “You’re tiring. I don’t want to be around you or talk to you anymore.”
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Contempt is Corrosive

Bob and Kate’s relationship had hit a devastating low place. Neither one of them knew exactly how they had allowed things to get this bad. Realizing how bad they had allowed the pasture of their marriage to get was painful. The 4 Horsemen Dr. John Gottman had described were riding rough-shod through their lives.

But the realizing Contempt was a significant part of their lives was perhaps the hardest part of the assessment of their marriage. They knew it wasn’t good for them. They knew it wasn’t the atmosphere they wanted for their children.

They knew something had to be done. And fast. The ratio of positive to negative was no longer 5 to 1, but more like 1 to 20!

We’ll discover how Bob and Kate stopped riding Contempt in their marriage next time.

Have you ever struggled with Contempt? Notice this week when you’re talking with you spouse and children. Listen for Contempt in conversations. Contempt has become part of our culture. Notice if it is part of you relationship.


The above isn’t meant as professional counseling. Contact me if you would like an assessment as a couple and would like to find healthy skills.  530-268-3558 or kate@katepieperlmft.com.

 

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