Look down on your spouse (How to ruin a perfectly good relationship)

A really effective way to destroy a relationship is to think that you are better than your spouse. You get bonus points for conveying it to them through words and body language.

This kind of looking down or contempt in relationships has been found to be the number one predictor of divorce by Dr. John Gottman in his many decades of relationship research.

How can you show contempt for your spouse? There are so many ways, verbal and non-verbal to be truly mean and show disrespect and contempt for others:

Using sarcasm
Name calling
Hostile humour
Sneering, eye-rolling,
Making light or belittling what matters to them
Invalidating their thoughts and feelings

Saying things like: who does that? Everyone knows that not the way it is done. What's wrong with you? Etc. etc. etc.

In whatever form, contempt is very destructive to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It's virtually impossible to resolve a problem or feel loving towards the other when your partner is getting the message that you're disgusted with him or her.

Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner, in the form of an attack from a position of relative superiority. Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict rather than to reconciliation. It is a very effective way to destroy feels of love and affection because it is hard to love someone who thinks that they are better than you.

Living with contempt is also bad for your health and mental and emotional wellbeing. Dr. Gottman has found that couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, and so on) than other people. Here is Anderson Cooper from CNN talking about Dr. Gottman's findings on contempt in relationships.


And more details about how contempt destroys relationships.

If you want to improve your relationship rather than destroying it, here is how to combat contempt in your relationship:

Contempt destroys a relationship a little at a time and rebuilding it also has to be done over a sustained period of time. There is no quick fix to dealing with the effects of contempt on a relationship.

The antidote to the poison of contempt lies in building a culture of fondness and admiration.

Sharing fondness and admiration in your relationship is not complicated, but it takes intentionality and attention, more so when the positive feelings have been eroded by sustained conflict and contempt.

To start with, intentionally nurture positive thoughts about your spouse. What do you (or did you) love about them? What do you admire? What makes them special and lovable?

When you think loving thoughts, you feel love in your heart and it shows up as loving actions towards your partner.

To nurture a culture of fondness and admiration in your relationship requires that you consistently and frequently also express your appreciation for your partner.

This can be done in little ways throughout the day. To become what Gottman calls "a master of relationships" (as opposed to "a disaster at relationships"), practice scanning your environment to find ways to appreciate your partner.

When you take the time to notice what your partner does that makes your life easier, makes you smile, or reminds you of why you were attracted to them in the first place, let them know!

It is one of the most effective ways to turn a distressed relationship around.

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