Last month I began to blog about the 4 horsemen that seek to destroy marriages. John Gottman identified the four horsemen and has been able to use his theory to predict divorce among couples he counsels. The first of the horsemen was criticism and you can read more about it by clicking here.
The second horseman, and perhaps the most dangerous, is contempt. Contempt is when we demonstrate disgust towards our spouse. It may come in the form of sarcasm, name-calling, or eye rolling. When couples are in conflict, one responds in one of these ways, the spouse often feels devalued and disrespected. We do this when we mock our spouse or sneer at them.
We’ve all seen it before.
A wife says, “You are such an idiot. I can’t believe you…”
A husband remarks, “You disgust me.”
We tend to be contemptuous when we are angry or insecure. When we feel backed into a corner we may bark out comments we wish we could take back. When someone hurts us, we fight back with either words or actions as a means of self-preservation (or so we think). Some of us are gunny-sackers; this means that we hold on to negativity and keep a running list of things our spouse does wrong. Whenever they do something we don’t like, we don’t address the issue at hand, but we drag out our list and throw it in their face.
This is the opposite of biblical love. First Corinthians 13 says, “Love keeps no record of wrong.” For many, we not only keep score, but we constantly remind our spouse that they are losing in our book.
Most of us don’t realize the damage done by contempt. Dr. Gottman’s research suggests that this is the #1 predictor for divorce.
The question at this point becomes what is more important — winning the battle or saving the relationship?
The next time you are irritated by your spouse, take a few deep breaths before your limbic system kicks into overdrive (the limbic system is a part of the brain that controls emotional processes) and you say or do something you will later regret.
You can learn more by checking out Dr. Gottman’s blog at www.gottmanblog.com