As a Gottman trained therapist I have learnt that there are four predictors to ruining a relationship and are the contributors of 99% of marriages breaking down! After studying this evidence-based therapy it was incredible to see just how accurate this was and how many times these predictors would present themselves to me in couples during therapy sessions. Often couples don’t even realise the damaging effect these factors are having on their relationship because it becomes such a normal way of communicating that the pattern is difficult to break. The damage is being done over time and only once it reaches the point of being detrimental do the partners realise that something needs to be done in order to save the relationship.
Let’s have a look at one of these predictors – contempt. Contempt is, by definition, a way of communicating superiority and disrespect. In relationships, contempt can be used to attack a person’s character or even as a subtle sneer which ultimately deteriorates trust and causes resentment and emotional distance in a relationship. When contempt becomes a pattern of behaviour over time, it is often not apparent until it is too late and the effects of the damage it has caused results in the end of a relationship. The reason for this is because of the emotional distancing that starts to take place in the relationship due to the imbalance between both partners as the one exerts their message of superiority of the other through these messages of contempt.
So, how do you avoid contempt in your relationship?
Make sure to create an atmosphere where there is mutual respect and admiration for one another
Be mindful of placing yourself above your partner when communicating (superior talk), e.g.,“I knew how to do that at 18, when are you going to learn?”
Be aware of your non-verbal gestures such as eye rolling or turning your mouth down when in conversation
Communication skills can turn a relationship around and change all these predictors that contribute to a marriage failing. When you break the negative patterns that have got a hold on either or both of you and you learn to start afresh with the same communication styles there can be conflict resolution and emotion re-connection. The cost of relationship therapy far outweighs the cost of divorce, let alone the emotional cost for which there is no price we can attach so commit to renewing what you have and let a new chapter begin!
Debra Bragança / Counsellor / Anchoring Your Life
Specialist in Relationships, Anxiety, Depression & Trauma