Growth Marriage podcast

Contempt: The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

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Today we’re going to talk about the 3nd Horseman of the Marriage Apocalypse… contempt. Click here if you want to learn about the first or second horsemen. Dr. Gottman calls contempt the sulfuric acid of love. Needless to say, contempt is frickin’ dangerous if it’s present in your relationship. So pay attention to this post, because I’m going to teach you how to deal with contempt when it shows up, and then set up protections to prevent it from ever creeping back in! Contempt is dangerous because it robs the relationship of equality and mutual respect.  When a partner is acting out of contempt, they are putting themselves above the other person. Contempt is making yourself smart, and your partner an idiot. It’s making yourself right, and your partner a moron for even thinking they could be right. It’s making yourself the good one, or clean one, or punctual one, or considerate one, or helpful one, or thoughtful one... and then making your partner the wrongest, messiest, most inconsiderate and least helpful person around. Contempt is putting yourself above your partner. It’s making them feel small, unimportant or less-than in some way.  A typical sign that you’re being contemptuous is if you’re using weapons like name-calling, swearing, belittling, demeaning comments, mocking, or eye-rolling to get your way or prove a point. Contempt is usually caused by the buildup of frustration and resentment over time. It creeps into the relationship slowly, then explodes and does serious damage. Nothing will destroy your relationship faster than contemptuous behavior. Preventing Contempt If you want to prevent yourself from falling into the contempt trap, the best thing you can do is learn to practice constant, sincere gratitude.  Fill your relationship with appreciation! Gratitude connects, where contempt drives you and your partner apart. Gratitude fosters empathy which puts you and your partner on equal footing. Contempt puts one partner above another. Gratitude makes you appreciate all the wonderful things about your partner. Contempt makes you focus on all of your partner’s faults. If you want to protect your relationship from contempt, practice gratitude constantly. If You’re the Recipient of Contempt If you’re the recipient of contempt, here are some things you can do: First: Call it out for what it is. Say something like, “The way you’re talking to me is hurtful. It’s not ok.” Next: Take a break “I’m going to go take a walk. We can revisit this when I come back.” Then: Have a conversation about the conversation After taking a break, and before diving back into the conflict conversation, have a chat about how to more effectively have the conversation.  Ask each other questions like:  “What is the ideal outcome of this conversation?  What did I do when we talked the last time that contributed to it going poorly?  What can I do next time to ensure we don’t lose our tempers, or fall into the trap of contempt again?” If you can take some time to reflect on the mistakes you make as a couple that invite contempt into your relationship, you can take steps to prevent it from happening again. If contempt is a part of your everyday life, I highly recommend seeking out a good couples therapist - to help you overcome these dangerous and harmful habits. How To Apply What You’ve Learned: Since the best antidote to contempt is gratitude, set a gratitude goal for yourself for this week. How are you going to practice gratitude daily? How can you switch from contempt to gratitude when you’re feeling emotionally revved up? How can you use gratitude to help you with gentle start-ups when you have a complaint you want to address?

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