Contempt is the number one predictor of divorce/separation
Research by the Gottman Institute has deemed contempt as the worst of the Four Horsemen. Why? It is fueled by hate fire.
Do you find yourself, or both of you, communicating with sarcasm and petty put downs? Do you name call or sneer at them when you are having heated discussions? Do you try and think of the most awful thing to say that you know will hurt them just as much as they hurt you?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, I am really sorry to tell you that you well and truly have contempt festering in your relationship. However, it is not all bad news! Contempt can be healed with some solid antidotes and by turning towards attempts for reconnection, which are hard to recognise when you want to rip shreds off your partner.
Do you remember when we were younger and you got the wobbles of death coming down a hill on your bike, and when you finally accepted that you were going to fall off, you ripped so much skin off your knees that it was a scabby, wet wound?
That's what contempt feels like.
Everyone knows you cannot put a band-aid on that kind of wound, you need to air it out. Let it scab over. It will heal itself in time if you don't pick at it. Healing contempt, is much the same thing.
Sucking the poison out
Describe your feelings and needs from your partner using kindness and sentences starting with "I feel". That way you avoid contempt, which really just comes from a place of moral superiority to your partner, consciously or not. Avoiding sentences starting with "you did", "you are"; you avoid blame and attack. But again, this is just to suck the poison out, you need to consider long term immunity if you are going to repair the relationship.
The contempt vaccination
Build a culture in your relationship of appreciation and admiration. Yes, I know, that is really hard right now when you have asked your partner for help with the laundry every day for four years. Bare with me!
Don't go for the big bang of appreciation, start small and work your way up. Instead of looking for things that your partner does wrong, look for things that you love or appreciate about them. Do they squeegee the glass shower screen without you asking? Do they always help you wash the dishes after cooking dinner? When you go out with friends, do they still show you affection publicly? Are they really funny and make you laugh with their goofiness?
Find the smallest thing you admire and love, and work your way up. Then move to offering daily gestures of love and affection. The six second kiss when you get home from work, spend five minutes talking to each other about what you value and appreciate in the other.
Do not underestimate doing small gestures often, they add up.
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