Contempt: The Deadliest of the Four Horsemen

When things have really deteriorated in your relationship, a peculiar phenomenon can occur. You start to reside in what’s known as ‘negative sentiment override,’ which basically means you start to believe that your partner only thinks negatively of you. You believe that whatever they say is tinged with contempt of you — and you return that contempt in kind. The Gottmans have discovered that Contempt, if it’s seen in the first four minutes of a session, can determine within 76% accuracy the end of your marriage. Which means this sign, one of the Gottmans’ “Four Horseman” of relational apocalypse, is not to be taken lightly.

It’s important to take responsibility and watch yourself: how frustrated are you with your partner? It’s normal to have some frustration and irritation, but when that turns into disgust, or throwing insults and tearing down your partner’s character, you’ve slipped into the disaster zone of contempt. Run! Far and fast! Do whatever it takes to stop that spiral. Maybe take a break and examine yourself. Reflect and make sure you’re getting self care, asking your partner for what you need, explaining your emotions clearly, using a softened tone, and remembering that you do really love your partner.

This biggest way to battle this horseman is with fondness and admiration, and the only way to get there is to practice being thankful. So get out that gratitude journal — and review all the good things you appreciate about your partner. Say them out loud, to your partner, and to anyone else who will listen. Building a perspective of gratitude takes small steps.

But it’s an essential process to protect your relationship from the worst. 

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