Is Contempt Killing Your Marriage?| Relationship Coach

Hello AwakenYou listeners! Before we jump into today’s topic, I want to share a few things that will be happening here in this community of people yearning for something different in their marriage as we dive into 2022. Starting this week and every second Thursday of the month this year, I will be teaching a class to help inspire you with ideas of ways to create more of what you want in your marriage. This month we will talk about how to start talking about your future together and what you both want to create this year, a perfect complement to the work you may be doing around goal planning. Secondly, after running my beta six-week Marital Magic course, I will be offering it five times this year, and the first one kicks off the first week of February. This course is a fun way to get started on the process of working on your marriage with a group of others who have similar goals to see how coaching helps you overcome the obstacles that are in the way of creating what you want in your marriage. And of course, the Cadillac of all of my offerings are to work with me one-on-one in my AwakenYou six month program where we get serious about doing the work to help you align with what it is you want in your life and, most importantly, in your marriage so that you can get back to a space where you can start falling back in love with your partner. Getting on my mailing list is the best way to stay up to date with all of the new things I will be introducing this year and get the first opportunity to join this community of people taking their marriage into their own hands instead of hoping for the best. This week we are continuing where we left off at the end of 2021, which was taking a deep dive into the seven indicators that your marriage is off track and headed in the wrong direction by taking a look to see if contempt is killing your marriage.

As we dig into each of these different indicators, please create awareness for yourself. As I study and share what contempt in marriage looks like, it has become obvious that this can be difficult to detect, especially if it has been a part of your early relational modeling. It might be something you think is “what you do.” This was definitely true for me, and over the holidays, I got a good opportunity to watch the contempt dynamic in my family, seeing where the seed was planted and nourished in my life without me seeing the pain of it because it was the water I was drinking, a defense mechanism that was installed early on. So this is why everything I share is first and foremost for you to start becoming curious about if and how this might be playing out in your life and, more importantly, your marriage while slowly pushing you away from the result you want, which is to develop a loving-kindness that grows and nurtures the relationship. This work starts with you in so many ways, starting with looking at what you are shielding or protecting within yourself. How are you lashing out to avoid looking at what is going on inside of you that you’re afraid of confronting?

Where we’ll start is to marinate on what contempt looks like and steps you can start taking to nourish yourself and put an end to a strategy that isn’t getting you the result you want.

What is contempt

Contempt arises when one has a sense of superiority over their partner, that the other is beneath considering their point of view or perspective, that they are worthless and deserve to be shown that they are not deserving of approval or concern. In short, it is disrespect. It is a constant brewing inside of what is wrong with the other and carried out as a form of attack on the other person’s sense of self, often executed as a way to make oneself feel better and superior.

It is the most lethal of the four horsemen, and the goal when someone is using contempt is not to resolve a possible issue but to tear the other person down. In an example where a woman or man might wish their physical intimacy looked different, one partner would attack the other with words that tear the other person down instead of stating what they are unhappy with and why. It might look like a spouse stating that the other is a prude and not sexy, which tears down the spouse’s character, ultimately creating less of what the contemptor is wanting by pushing them further away, increasing distrust and closeness. What that partner isn’t doing is looking inside to understand what it is within themselves that needs them to tear down another to feel better and why they aren’t able to have an open and loving conversation to find out what is at the root of the problem. A productive conversation would sound more like sharing that they would love to have more physical intimacy, why that is important to them, and asking for some help in discovering how they as a couple might start working towards what they both want. When a partner isn’t tearing down the core of another, it doesn’t cause the other to push them away. Instead, it allows them to have an open, vulnerable, and authentic conversation that leads to more intimacy in and outside the bedroom.

Contempt can take many different forms, words of sarcasm and cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, mocking the other, mean humor, and whatever form it takes, it is cyanide to your marriage. When contempt is mixed into disagreements, it is virtually impossible to aspire towards any resolution because your partner is translating your words to mean that you are disgusted with them as a human being. Contempt only leads to more conflict and further distance between you.

How to eradicate contempt

The first way to eradicate contempt is to understand what it is, why it’s being used, and even find some empathy for the partner who might be using it to feel better about themselves. Let me share a simple yet common form of contempt that many of us can relate to whether we’ve done it or been on the receiving end of it.

“Oh, I have never done that!” This is a form of contempt, and it is taking something someone shared and stating that they would never do something THAT bad, insinuating that how the other feels are less than themselves.

Here is another: “I’d never do that to you!” or “How would you like it if I did that to you?” Again, the person states that what the other did was morally worse than anything they would ever do, therefore insinuating their superiority.

How about this: “Don’t you know how to fold clothes the right way, what is wrong with you?” here again, the comment is making the action of folding clothes mean something is wrong with the person and that the person speaking is morally better. A simple change here could be letting go of how the other folds clothes, sharing how you might want the clothes folded without being attached to the expectation that they conform to your wishes, or sharing that you appreciate their willingness to help with the laundry and that you have a way you like your laundry to be folded, and then do it yourself.

A change to end contempt starts by noticing it, whether you are the sharer of the contempt or the receiver. Then it is the process of understanding what is going on, evaluating what is happening for you, sharing how you are feeling, and then bringing an invitation to discuss it. The opposite antidote to contempt is to ignore it and say nothing. This creates disconnection and distrust in your relationship; open, honest communication airs out the disagreement and leads to a better understanding of each other. Avoidance only creates separation.

As you start to pay attention to the dynamic in your marriage, you have the opportunity to dig into the roots of why it is there, how it makes you feel, and decide when and how you want to bring it up in conversation with your partner. The willingness to address these tough marital dynamics shows your willingness to create a smarter, more loving relationship where you can talk to your spouse about anything and know that it is never to tear the other down but to help build each other up into more emotionally intelligent beings.

I’d love to hear back from you after you take some time to process and be aware of how contempt might be playing out for you or your partner in your marriage. Know that if either of you is riding with the second horseman, it doesn’t mean you are the problem in your marriage. It means that you now have the opportunity to create lasting change for yourself and the future of your marital relationship. It means that this new knowledge can bring you to an end of life marriage that you look back on and smile at with a big heart full of pride in what you were willing to work on.

Remember to look at the show notes to get on my mailing list so that you can join me this Thursday evening and plan a fun life planning conversation with your partner. I will show you how simple it can be and how just the thinking of it might have you giving up before starting. See you all next week!


I am a life coach who works with individuals to break down relationship barriers by awakening their true selves. My process isn’t about changing your partner; it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage. If you’re ready to take your life and your love relationship to the next level, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s decide together if this is your next step to creating the life you’ve been dreaming of.

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