Contempt is the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. It is a blend of anger and disgust that is extremely toxic to a relationship—even in small doses. When contempt enters in, relationships unfortunately suffer a slow death.
A superior attitude is extremely destructive
A superior attitude, or a belief that one is more reasonable or mature than one’s partner, is the single most destructive thing relationship researchers have identified to date. Technically, it’s a form of contempt. Contemptuous people are extremely judgmental about aspects of their partner’s behavior, or worse, their partner’s character, morals, goodness, personality, or worthiness as a human being.
Common examples of Contempt (Superior Attitude) in a relationship
- You are extremely organized. Your partner is scattered. You see their disorganization as a flaw in their character instead of just another way of doing life which is different from yours.
- You see yourself as smarter/more intelligent/more skilled than your partner and you therefore discount or devalue their input on important matters. You put them down if they disagree with you or “push-back” in any way.
- You put down your partner in front of the children and sabotage your partner’s parenting efforts because you think your parenting skills are superior.
- You disrespect your partner in front of the children or tell them not to listen to your partner.
- You name call your partner using vile language, completely devoid of showing respect or caring.
- Even though you and your partner have an agreement on something you secretly do it your way anyhow because you think their way is wrong, crazy, or misguided.
- You manipulate your partner into doing things you know are against their principals or values because it serves what you want or desire.
Why contempt is harmful to your relationship
- Any time one person believes him or herself to be on a higher plane of functioning than his or her partner, the stage is set for the emergence of contempt.
- Contemptuous spouses sees their partners as the cause of most of the relationship problems.
- Contemptuous partners feel that they have more to complain about than their partners do, and that their partners have treated them worse than they have treated them.
- Contempt is extremely harmful even if words aren’t spoken. Expressing contempt through body language (e.g., eye rolling) predicts relationship failure just as much as do verbal expressions of contempt.
- Being treated with contempt quickly erodes love feelings and lowers self-esteem, if you let it. Most relationships need a sense of equality to survive, not one partner being superior to the other.
- Partner feels blamed for everything by the contemptuous spouse.
- Partner secretly resents being controlled and devalued by spouse.
- Partners typically don’t stand up for themselves as they allow disrespect to continue. Not respecting your partners leads to more contempt.
- Partners Complain to others about their spouse, yet continue “business as usual” in daily life.
Dr Brent Atkinson has written much about this in a book called Developing Habits For Relationship Success