We continue our study of the four communication patterns that lead to the demise of a relationship, we
have discussed criticism.

CONTEMPT: Contempt is like taking criticism to a whole new level, it expresses a feeling of dislike
towards somebody, it implies that the other person is worthless or undeserving of respect.
The contemptuous partner puts themselves in a more superior position in relation to their partner and
talks down at the partner.
Among all the negative communication patterns, contempt is deadliest. People usually need help to
overcome this communication pattern when it has become the predominant way of communicating
because in the mind of the one being contemptuous the respect and worth of their partner is eroded
Contempt eats away at the relationship rapidly and painfully. Usually, contempt is found in the words, in
the facial expressions and in tonality, anything that expresses disdain, disregard and slight.
According to John Gottman’s study of newly wedded couples, partners who make a sore facial
expression when their partner talks are likely to be separated within the third year of the marriage.
They also discovered that a person who suffers from continuous contempt has lower immunity and
therefore becomes prone to several infectious diseases. The frequency of contempt a person suffers in a
year is a valuable indicator of how many infectious diseases that person will contract in the following
four years.
In an atmosphere of contempt, partners find it difficult to remember any positive quality of their mate,
contempt escalates and prevents meaningful communication. Because how deadly it this, we should
ensure we do not allow conflicts to linger to the point that one or both partners becoming
A good example of contempt is name calling ‘you are ugly’, ‘you’re stupid’, ‘I don’t know how you could
be this wicked’.
Contempt can be expressed in hostile humour, things like ‘she cooks so bad that she can’t even boil
water‘. A mockery is subtle but is also a way of reflecting contempt. For example, a man tells his wife ‘I
really care about you’, and she replies sarcastically ‘Oh sure you really do care about me’. The statement
she made is a form of contempt; it is a subtle sarcasm and it carries contempt.
Contempt can be expressed in body language, like rolling of the eye, sneering, pouting etc. It is also
found in the tone of our voices like ‘you’re tired? What’s new? I don’t have time to deal with another
For a couple to overcome the devastating effects of contempt, theytheir will need to walk on creating
activities that nurtures friendship, love and admiration.

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