Relationship Minute: Feelings vs judgments

Contempt is a tricky thing. It’s destructive to the love in a relationship, and yet it can be insidious.

Often, subtle forms of contempt feel perfectly justified—”I’m standing up for myself,” or “I’m just telling it like it is.” But what you may not realize is that you’re standing up for yourself against your partner, putting yourselves in opposition to each other.

So while contempt may seem like the expression of genuine feeling, it’s actually an expression of negative judgment.

Try to practice expressing yourself with feelings and longings that can unite you and your partner, rather than judgments that can divide.

For example:
“It scares me when you drive fast!”
vs
“Why can’t you drive more like I do?”

“I felt embarrassed at the party when you left to chat with your friends and I didn’t have anyone to talk to.”
vs
“I would never abandon you like that!”

“The way you’re reacting is really unexpected for me. Can you tell me more about what’s going on?”
vs
“You need help.”

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Appreciation

Contempt is the most toxic of the Four Horsemen, and perhaps the most insidious. It creeps in over time until one day, you find yourself consistently viewing your partner as inferior. Negative Sentiment Override is a mindset, which makes it challenging to overcome. But it can be done.

The antidote to contempt is to build a culture of appreciation. Replace contemptuous thoughts with positive regard.

Contempt:
“Look at them over there, speaking too loudly. They’re so embarrassing.”

Appreciation:
“Look at them over there, telling such an animated story. I love to see my partner having so much fun!”

The way your partner interacts with and views the world is probably different from your approach, but that doesn’t make it less valid. Differences aren’t bad—they add flavor, create necessary friction, and challenge you.

What differences can you appreciate? How can you view your partner in a more positive light?

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Contempt

You may already be familiar with The Four Horsemen (criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling) but now that our context has shifted on a global scale, it’s worth taking a closer look at each and how they might show up at home. 

Though all of the four horsemen are damaging, Contempt is perhaps the most destructive. John Gottman describes contempt as “sulfuric acid for love.” Yikes.

So what is contempt? At its core, contempt is holding on to the negative belief that your partner is inferior or “less than.” It may manifest as sarcasm, hostile remarks, eye-rolling, mockery or mimicking, or sneering directed at your partner.

“Oh you’re so smart, huh?”
“You’re embarrassing yourself and me.”
“You just don’t know any better.”
“You don’t ‘feel like’ making love tonight? Big surprise!”

It conveys disgust. Ouch.

It’s a mean one, but it can be reversed. The antidote to contempt is building a culture of appreciation.

Cure nastiness with fondness and admiration. Appreciate the ways your partner is different, and that they have their own subjective, individual experience of things. Regard them as an equal.

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.