The Antidote to Contempt

Resentment can be quite insidious. What may begin as a few annoyances can build to a point where you are holding your loved one in contempt. The anger of contempt comes with its own army….all of those frustrations have now gathered and are ready to fight. You come well armed, yet your loved one isn’t prepared for the attack.

Dr. John Gottman lists contempt as one of the most destructive negative behaviours in relationships:

“Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about one’s partner, and it arises in the form of an attack on someone’s sense of self. Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict—particularly dangerous and destructive forms of conflict—rather than to reconciliation.”

The antidote? Fondness and admiration. Gottman says that when we focus on what we love about our partner, it helps to sustain us through times when we feel annoyed. The same can be applied in all of our relationships where contempt can fester.

It isn’t always easy to bring those positive attributes to the forefront of our mind – our negative bias can get in the way, so can our anger. But it is possible. A proactive tip includes writing out a list of all of your loved one’s qualities. This can be a helpful tool in reminding us that the good outweighs the bad – it can also help to temper our response when we need to speak to them about our concerns, needs or feelings. It helps to bring the rational mind into our emotional space; putting contempt at bay and healthy communication on the front lines. :)

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