Contempt is one of the biggest indicators that a couple will break up eventually. It’s termed one of the Four Horsemen in respect to divorce. The other three are criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The other three also make more intuitive sense. We critique those we love because we want them to be the best they can be, but taking it too far means not really loving them for who they are, but who we want them to be. Defensiveness is a sign of distrust; we find tidbits offensive and feel the need to defend ourselves without realizing that they possibly didn’t mean offense at all. Stonewalling is refusing to engage with the person you’re angry with at all, sort of hoping it just goes away without you dealing with it. All of these make sense because it deals with mistrust and miscommunication.
The Four Horsemen are popular fellows, not just in romantic relationships but all relationships. There’s different theories to why we react in such ways to people who are close to us, but I would guess a lot of it comes from uncertainty. We criticise because we are afraid they will see the flaws in us, so we remind them they are flawed too. We are so uncertain about what they mean, we find things to become defensive about. We stonewall because we don’t know how to deal with the emotions and hope it just sort of resolves on its own. There might be a whole slew of why we do these things, but it’s not healthy to act in these ways because we aren’t solving anything– we’re making it easier to give up.
Yet contempt is a funny emotion, one we don’t know a lot about. It makes sense to have problems trusting another person because you want to but also don’t want to be hurt. The question with contempt is, why hate someone you are in such a close bond with? What’s the source there? Is it mistrust? And yet we can trust people and still loathe them. Contempt, if I might suggest, could be a result of a non-confrontation. If you ridicule someone who matters to you, you’re doing it for a reason. It might not come to one’s mind easily, most certainly isn’t the petty little thing want to call out, but it is there.
In terms of contempt, I think it’s really important to be honest with yourself. Being cruel doesn’t solve a relationship’s problems, no matter who is in that relationship. If you can’t seem to stop yourself, then ask yourself why you’re still there. It’s important to be able to trust and communicate with others, and that’s never going to stop being a challenge. However, you also need to trust yourself and know where the line is. It’s simple to be contemptuous, but the best bonds aren’t simple; they are strong.