If you can’t help yourself and you criticize your partner a lot in your relationship, then what you probably hear back are comments full of contempt. As deleterious as criticism is, according to Gottman the existence of contempt in a relationship is the clearest sign that there is probably trouble in the relationship. How do you know if you’re being contemptuous? You will most likely
1) use sarcasm (“No, I never listen to you do I? I try to find anything else to do but listen to you.”)
2) roll your eyes in disgust
3) call your partner names (“You’re so slow. Why can’t you understand what I’m saying?”)
4) mock your partner
If you notice that you’ve responded in a contemptuous manner, stop the conversation! If you can’t let go of the anger, resentment, or disgust that you feel toward your partner, walk away. Take a break! When you come back, apologize for the contempt and start the conversation from scratch as if neither of you had said anything. Not only will you probably have a better experience, but you’re letting your partner know that you recognize they have something important to say even if you don’t agree or like what they’re saying. Without expressing that mutual respect, relationships go down a downward spiral very quickly.
Do you feel contempt in your relationship?
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