The Why’s of Contempt for Couples

couples contempt
Contempt – Corrosive

Hey, there. We’re continuing on in figuring out how couples can let their relationships deteriorate and slip into some Destructive Dances of relating to each other. We started at the Marriage-Relationship Saga. We’re going to keep walking together – persevering – learning about the Destructive 4 Horsemen Dr. John Gottman researched.

It’s hard, isn’t it? Sometimes looking at the ways we have treated each other in the past, or are treating each other currently, is truly painful and lonely. My hope is you will be encouraged.

So- Remember how I said in the last blog that I was going to tell you how Bob and Kate stopped riding Calico Contempt? Well – I was mistaken. (No. I didn’t lie. I was mistaken – Honest!) I am only going to tell you a bit more about Contempt and some of the reasons WHY we let it sneak into our relationship like a black mold – making everyone sick.

Contempt is defined as “the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.”

Contempt happens when we discount not only our partner’s behavior, but their very being. It’s a very painful position for either partner to fall into. For the one doing the Contempt, there is usually a lot of pain inside themselves they have been ignoring for some time. They let the pain spill onto their partner, seemingly unknowing of the pain they are inflicting.

And for the one who is receiving the Contempt, there is a hopelessness and discouragement building up inside themselves. There appears to not being any relief from the barrage of disdain coming at them.

There is no “issuing a complaint” for the person who is practicing Contempt. They express either slight disgust with their partner or full on scorn or disregard. If Contempt is part of your marriage on a regular basis, your marriage is indeed in trouble.

It’s time for a Change of Heart.couples contempt

You see, you think the problem is your partner, but it’s not. It is inside of you. If you are making subtle, but personal, attacks – or mocking your partner more regularly than not – the problem is inside your own heart.

You’ve actually become mean in relating to your partner. Or – as the Wisdom of Proverbs 14:1 puts it, “A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” -And as we all know, the same could be said of a foolish man versus a wise man.

We’ve lost our way and are utterly destroying each other bit by bit. The hearts are turning cold and bitter.

The way out of Contempt is to develop an atmosphere of fondness and admiration. – A Change of Heart

 The Why’s of Contempt

  • Built up Resentment – The dream we wanted did not happen. Instead of grieving the dream, and accepting what “is,” you’ve started meditating on it being your partner’s fault for the dream dying.
  • Depression – When individuals are experiencing a clinical depression, irritability is one of the symptoms. If there is denial about the depression, a partner will easily blame the other partner for their ‘bleh’ with life.
  • Hopelessness – We’ve asked. And asked. And asked for change. Maybe it is a habit we did “issue a complaint” about. But now, it’s just not cute anymore. We’ve started name calling. “Slob” “Eccentric” “Drama Queen/King”
  • Stress – Life is going so busy. The stress of life has piled up. The hamster wheel is moving at a rate that could peel a carrot quicker than Mr. Chop-Chop! And, rather than slowing down and taking a break, we start spewing for our partner to speed up also. The spewing becomes vile and corrosive. But, hey! We’ve got deadlines!

What do we do about the Why’s of Contempt? How do we begin to change and ‘turn this love around?’

We’re talking about the Ways to Stop Contempt next time. – Really – I wouldn’t lie!

-BTW – I told my hubby I was finding it difficult to add humor to Contempt. His response was, “Contempt isn’t funny.” -We get it. There’s hope.

Do you recognize any of the above reasons why sarcasm comes easier than sweetness to your partner? What are the more vulnerable times for you? Are you open to changing even if your partner stays the same?


 You know the above isn’t professional counseling. I’m available to call if you would like to see if I’m a good fit for you in your journey. Call me at 530-268-3558 or email me at kate@katepieperlmft.com. If I’m not the therapist for you – I know some awesome colleagues!

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