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Examples Of Contempt In Relationships + What To Do Instead

example of contempt in relationships

Contempt is a feeling of disrespect or disgust. It’s a very strong emotion that involves thinking your partner is beneath you, and it’s usually connected to a negative opinion of them. The best way to deal with contempt is to recognize it and change your own behavior if needed.

Contempt can show up in many ways:


Name-calling is a way of demeaning someone and is an example of contempt. It’s a way of devaluing the other person, and it is one of the most hurtful things you can do to someone.

When we talk about name-calling, we’re referring to words like idiot or stupid–or even worse names that are degrading and dehumanizing. Name-calling isn’t just about calling someone out for being dumb; rather, it’s about making them feel small by telling them how little value they hold in your eyes.

When you name-call, you’re saying that the other person isn’t worth your respect. Thought it’s easy to do when you’re angry, it’s very damaging and should be avoided at all costs.

Eye rolling

Eye rolling is a form of contempt, and it’s often used as a way to show that you don’t respect what the other person is saying. Eye rolling can be subtle or obvious, but it’s still a very clear way of saying that you think the other person is being ridiculous and their opinion doesn’t matter.

If you find yourself rolling your eyes at your partner frequently, it’s important to realize how hurtful this behavior can be!

Subtle putdowns

In a relationship, you don’t have to say anything negative about your partner to be disrespectful. You can show contempt by the way you look at them, or by the tone of voice you use.

It’s important to realize that contempt is often subtle–it’s not always obvious when someone is putting you down. In fact, it can be a facial expression or body language that communicates disrespect without saying anything at all!


Shaming is a way of expressing disapproval, often as a form of bullying. It can also be used as a way of controlling someone, by undermining their self-esteem and making them feel bad about themselves.

Shaming is an insidious form of emotional abuse because it’s not obvious at first glance; it’s often disguised as a legitimate concern for the other person. The most common form of shaming is to call someone out on their behavior and make them feel guilty about it. For example, you might shame your friend by saying something like: “I can’t believe you did that! I thought better of you.”

How to Overcome Contempt In Relationships

Overcoming contempt in your relationship can be difficult, but doable. The first step is to become aware of your contempt for your partner and the ways it manifests. Next, you need to develop a willingness to change. You can’t do this without feeling some empathy for the other person or yourself (depending on which one is being affected by contempt).

Next try acknowledging the other person’s feelings and needs. You can also try to understand their perspective and why they their behavior triggers you.

Contemptuous and disrespectful behavior can be a bad habit. John Gottman, a famous relationship researcher, says the antidote to contempt is appreciation. So, when you feel yourself getting annoyed or upset with your partner, try to find something about them that you appreciate instead. This could be their good qualities or even just a nice thing they did for you.

If you’re partner is expressing contempt with you, don’t be defensive, don’t be a martyr and don’t play victim either! When someone is trying to make you feel guilty for something you’ve done wrong in a relationship – whether intentionally or not – use this as an opportunity to help them understand why their behavior was hurtful so that it doesn’t happen again in the future: “I know I messed up but I’m sorry! How can we move forward from here?” Or if someone criticizes something about yourself that isn’t true at all (e.g., “You’re lazy”), ask questions like “Why do think that?”


Contempt is the worst way to treat someone. It’s a toxic emotion that can ruin your relationship and make you feel unloved, unwanted, and even unworthy of love. If you feel like your partner is expressing contempt towards you in their words or actions, it’s important to talk about it – without judgement or blame from either side! By bringing up what you’ve noticed with compassion instead of criticism, both parties can work together towards healing wounds from past hurts and building trust again so that both people feel safe enough to express their true feelings openly without fear of retaliation or rejection by one another.

Getting past contempt in your relationship won’t be easy to do. If you need extra help, consider working with a marriage counselor to help you navigate these challenging behaviors.


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