Most people do not enter into a marriage thinking about divorce. You likely focus on the present and dream about future. You feel joy (hopefully) and are optimistic about the good times ahead. (Though a case of cold feet could indicate certain doom.) But along the way, in every marriage, there are bumps. Speed bumps, hills, and some serious mountains. Some couples hurdle these obstacles together. Others do not. And, as it turns out, there seems to be one main reason why some couples don’t make it for the long haul: contempt.
In Good Times and In Bad
Who doesn’t want to know the magic solution to preventing divorce? If we could bottle love and keep it on tap so nothing could ever contaminate it, why wouldn’t we? Turns out, though, it’s one particular emotion that’s damaging our amorous feelings, at least according to Dr. John Gottman, marriage therapist and researcher from The Gottman Institute. Gottman has spent four decades studying couples in an effort to truly determine what causes fissures between people and how to resolve these problems. The number one pattern among couples that predicted divorce was contempt.
The definition of contempt is “the feeling with which a person regards anything considered mean, vile, or worthless.” Contempt has synonyms like hatred, antipathy, derision, distaste, and scorn. Any of these emotions directed at your significant other are not a good thing.
But perhaps it can be argued that if you’re feeling this strongly about a person, there might still be some love there to find. After all, apathy is the opposite of caring and passion. If your spouse makes you want to strangle him, you’re certainly not completely apathetic and uncaring about him and whatever he does or says.
Overcome Contempt to Save Your Marriage
Even if you’re rolling your eyes at your partner right now and feeling pretty disgusted or negative toward him, that doesn’t mean divorce is your fate. It’s important to know why contempt occurs, how to recognize it in your spouse and yourself, and of course, if you want to avoid divorce, how to put a stop to it:
- Turn down the heat. You know there’s that one issue – spending, your in-laws, Chinese or pizza – that you and your spouse argue about repeatedly with no satisfactory resolution. This is normal. The problem occurs when how you handle the matter evolves into contempt. You can argue fairly, honestly, and openly with your spouse and still respect his or her opinion even though you differ. Or you can criticize your spouse, stonewall, get defensive, or act contemptuously. These “heated” render you incapable of hearing your partner or maintaining your sense of humor. Make an effort to recognize your temperature shooting off the charts, then take a breather and return to each other later to discuss the matter civilly.
- Keep talking. When you reach the point where neither of you is willing to even discuss the issue that’s fracturing your relationship, then that’s a problem. Fire is better than ice, and even if talking about a difficult subject is excruciating, it’s better to fight than give up completely. Disengaging from your spouse is a certain ingredient in divorce.
- Watch yourself. Teens roll their eyes. Spouses should not. Eye rolling, sneering, and passive-aggressive comments are surefire signs that you’re over whatever is on the table for discussion. And it’s a sign that you could use some intervention in the way of a therapist, counselor, or, in many cases, a Michigan divorce attorney.
- Compromise. Remember that you and your spouse are two very different people, and marriage is about love, yes, but it’s also about compromise. If you’re feeling contemptuous about what you’re feeling forced to do or say, evaluate your emotions – and remind yourself that you’re doing this for the one you love. And you’re not “losing” by doing that, you’re winning at your marriage.
Contemplating divorce? Remember that life will never be the same again. Divorce is not a matter to take lightly. If you need the counsel of an experienced Michigan divorce attorney, contact Femminineo Attorneys in Mt. Clemens, MI, to schedule your no-cost initial interview today.