Indicators that things are NOT ok in your relationship…Part 2 of 4
As a review, I’m going over what The Gottman Method calls the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These are characteristics that unhealthy couples exhibit which strongly correlates with an increased likelihood of the relationship ending in divorce.
#2 – Contempt
When I think of contempt, I have an image in my mind of someone viscously spewing hateful words and aggressive actions toward another person. It leaves no questions as to the person’s feelings toward the intended target.
In actuality, contempt in this context is more subtle. It can be sarcastic comments, eye rolling, or a big sigh and stomping around when your partner asks for help.
We all have grumpy days, or maybe that’s just me? It can be related to a blood sugar imbalance, stress, hormones, or just feeling off, and we snap at our family. But if you find yourself in this state often, and your communication aims to shut them down and causes them to feel belittled or worthless, that’s when we are in the danger zone and need to make adjustments so we don’t cause lasting damage to our relationship.
Here are some options for what to do instead if you find yourself demonstrating the behaviors listed above and feel like you’re acting out of contempt more often than not:
- Take a few deep breaths, reflect, and journal about your feelings if you don’t want to share your frustrations with your partner. I know there are times when we feel like we can’t talk to the other person, but holding the feelings in and just “eating it” causes what I like to call “things coming out sideways”. An example of this is I’m feeling resentful toward my husband because I’m stressed about all the things I feel like I have to get done right away, but instead of asking him for help in doing the night time routine with the kids, I bark at the kids if they don’t do exactly what I say, as soon as I say it. I feel the wash of shame that I’m a bad parent, they feel confused and often respond with anger back, and then everyone is yelling…I’m just saying that’s an example, I’m sure no one else has that happen in their home! 😅
- Actively think about the things you appreciate and like about your partner. If you’re relationship is in a rough patch and you don’t feel close to your partner, make a point to write down, or voice to text make a note in your phone every day for a week about what you appreciate about them. How they make your life easier, how they support you, how they make you laugh, or how they treat others. See if actively focusing on the ways they improve your life and the life of others decreases feelings of contempt. And if you’re feeling generous, say those things out loud to them, write them a note, or send a text out of the blue. They may look at you like you’re high, but I encourage you to keep trying to see how you feel and if it makes a difference in your interactions. Experiment to see what makes a difference in your relationship.
Ok, I’d love to hear if this is helpful or if you try any of these suggestions! When I work with clients, I can check back in with them to see how things are going, but with this, I’m just sending things out into the wilderness of the internet, and don’t get much feedback, so I’d really love to hear if you find this helpful or any other questions you might like my take on.