While disagreements and arguments are natural in every long-term relationship – romantic or platonic – there’s always a way to ‘fight’ fairly. But do we always put up a fair fight? Of course, there are certain types of conflict that erode the relationship over a period of time. One such type is contempt in relationships.
Contempt in any relationship is not just something destructive, it’s also a vital factor that points towards relationship failure. It’s this pervasive feeling of disapproval, anger, and disrespect that is beyond expressing frustration for your partner.
Of course, we have all found ourselves trapped in dead-end relationships. While at times, the reasons for failure were easy to spot, at other times, it wasn’t easy to pin down the major problem.
For instance, do you get annoyed at the way your partner eats or walks, even though their habits didn’t really change over time? Maybe it was easy to ignore these little annoying things at the beginning of the relationship, but now it frustrates you too much.
This is a BIG sign that contempt is steadily making its way into the relationship while you are dealing with some bottled-up anger. In this blog, we will discuss contempt in romantic relationships – stay tuned to find out more on the topic.
So, How Does Contempt Look Like In A Relationship?
Contempt in relationships can show up in more than one way.
It is vital that you identify these markers quickly so that you can start working immediately on repairing the contempt. It is crucial to do this really fast because contempt tends to fester and damage the relationship over time.
So, what exactly does contempt in romantic relationships look like? Well, here are some of the most common markers of contempt:
1. Belittling Or Dismissive Language:
Using any kind of dismissive or belittling language for your partner hints at contempt in the relationship. Here are some examples:
- “Why are you so dumb? This is very simple! How can you not understand this?”
- “You are so lazy. I cannot live with you.”
- “You are so slow. Honestly, I don’t know how you do anything?”
2. Sarcastic Replies To Questions:
Giving any kind of sarcastic reply to your partner’s questions also hints at contempt in the relationship. Here are some examples:
- Partner A: “What are your plans for the evening?” | Partner B: Anything that doesn’t involve spending time with you. Haha!”
- Partner A: “Please try to be early when you pick me up after work today.” | Partner B: “Sure, so that I have to stand outside your office and wait for you to turn up.”
3. Jokes That Are Half-Truths:
Making any jokes about your partner that are also half-truths clearly hints at contempt in the relationship. Here are some examples:
- When anyone asks you guys, “what do you guys do professionally?” And you end up replying, “I am a lawyer, and he works to spend my income! Hahaha!”
- When your partner is talking about something they are passionate about but don’t find time for, you can’t help but sneer and roll your eyes.
- When you jokingly use dismissive body language, put physical distance between the two of you, or act like their affection and touch repulse you, it can be hurtful for the receiver.
Stonewalling is pretty common in relationships, and interestingly, it is one of the markers that indicates there is contempt in the relationship. Here are some signs of stonewalling:
- Blame and criticism.
- Ignorance is bliss.
- Emotionally shutting down.
- Walking out during an ongoing conversation.
- Silent treatment.
So, What Causes Contempt in a Relationship?
But what causes contempt in relationships?
In this context, couples therapist Tracy Ross told The Knot, “Contempt comes from issues that build up and aren’t addressed. It becomes a habit. You start giving yourself permission to act a certain way with your partner.”
Similarly, Kristen Mark, a relationship and sex researcher, told The Knot that negative emotions for one’s partner fuel contempt. It’s the basic disregard and disrespect for your partner’s thoughts, feelings, and existence that leads to negativity for them.
In this context, Mark said, “At its worst, it can take the form of disgust and hostility. It makes you want to attack a partner’s sense of self and fuels conflict in a relationship.”
Here’s What We Think, Though:
Contempt in relationships can arise from multiple factors, such as:
- Disrespectful behavior,
- Unresolved conflicts,
- Lack of basic empathy,
- Power struggles, and
- Communication Problems.
But, if we had to talk about that ONE specific cause behind contempt in romantic relationships, then it all boils down to the misalignment of the core values of the two parties.
Our core values define us – how we live our lives has a lot to do with what we believe in! When anyone acts in favor of these core values, we always develop a positive attitude towards them. At the same time, when the same person doesn’t agree with your core values, you automatically develop negative emotions towards them.
Of course, there are cases where contempt develops from some specific display of bad behavior.
But generally, contempt appears in relationships over a period of time through certain actions that betray our core values. Of course, frequent betrayals of your core values make you lose regard for your partner.
Does Contempt In Relationships Ever Go Away?
So, does contempt in relationships ever go away?
Dr. Fran Walfish, Psy.D., a relationship and family psychotherapist based in Beverly Hills, gave the answer to Brides. She said, “Contempt is a powerful feeling that can absolutely be worked through, go away, and be resolved when dealt with openly, honestly, and directly.”
When it gets very troublesome, it is always best to contact a third party like a psychologist, relationship counselor, religious leader, or therapist for advice. Moreover, open communication can really help both parties.
While you are communicating your feelings on issues that you find frustrating, always acknowledge what your partner is feeling. That way, your partner will know that you are making an effort. It is also vital that you discuss your problems in any distraction-free space. Plus, both of you have to be compassionate and honest with your replies.
Walfish further added, “This gives your partner a feeling of being heard, validated, and accepted. No blaming, criticisms, or judgments are allowed. Encourage your partner to express anger respectfully and directly to you. Pent up anger only festers, grows, and emerges in unwanted ways down the road.”
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Barsha Bhattacharya is a senior content writing executive. As a marketing enthusiast and professional for the past 4 years, writing is new to Barsha. And she is loving every bit of it. Her niches are marketing, lifestyle, wellness, travel and entertainment. Apart from writing, Barsha loves to travel, binge-watch, research conspiracy theories, Instagram and overthink.