Respected marriage expert John Gottman says that to show contempt is one of the clearest indicators that a marriage is not going to survive. Contempt may seem like such a strong word that you dismiss the thought of it being a problem in your relationship. But take a moment to ask yourself whether you have ever shown disrespect or disdain to or for your wife, have looked down on her, or been scornful for some reason.
If so, be aware that these are all expressions of contempt to one degree or another. To show contempt for your spouse is a behavior we all want to avoid. Here are 7 warning signs that you show contempt for your wife.
1. Interrupting her.
Too many times, we don’t really listen to other people to learn what they think and feel; we are just waiting for an opportunity to break in and tell them what we think. This communicates that their thoughts and feelings don’t really matter—that it’s all about you. Listen to the podcast discussion my wife, Susan, and I had about Why Spouses Don’t Listen and What You Can Do About It.
2. Correcting her.
When a husband and wife don’t see eye to eye on something, it’s easy for one to start to view the other person as an opponent to be overcome. Rather than engaging in conversation, we correct what she has to say and explain why she is wrong (as far as we are concerned). This is belittling. It says that they are stupid or foolish.
3. Criticizing her.
Disagreeing with someone on an issue is bad enough, but it gets worse when we then make things personal. “How on earth could you think that?” isn’t really a question so much as a hidden statement. And think for a moment how often criticism is couched in a rhetorical question. “You’re not really going to wear that tonight, are you?” Over time, through repeated criticism—one of 4 Communication Habits to Avoid in Your Marriage—we tell our wives that we do not like them the way they are, that they are not acceptable to us.
4. Finishing her sentences.
At one level, this may be positive. Finishing your wife’s sentences shows you are listening to her and demonstrates that you understand and know what she thinks and feels about a subject or situation. But sometimes, it communicates irritation—that you just want her to hurry up and finish what she has to say so you can speak instead. It assumes she doesn’t have something new to tell you or you think she needs your help to communicate clearly.
5. Making fun of her.
Playful teasing is part of the spice and glue of a loving marriage, but it can become a way of tearing down—especially when it is done in front of others. This kind of passive-aggressive put-down is one of 7 Things You Should Stop Doing to Your Spouse in Public.
6. Communicating non-verbal negatives.Sometimes it’s not the words we use, but the way that we say them.
Sometimes it’s not the words we use, but the way that we say them. Our tone of voice and body language can be very damaging.
7. Redoing what she has done.
No one likes to be corrected all the time. So she didn’t load the dishwasher quite the way you think it should be done, or the dinner table isn’t set exactly as you wanted it. Following up behind her and redoing her task treats her a bit like a child. Does it really matter that her way is a little different?
None of these seven things in and of themselves necessarily means you are treating your wife with contempt. It’s when these things become a pattern or a habit, rather than an exception, that you should be concerned, as it could be the symptom of some deeper issues in your marriage that need to be resolved.
Hopefully, this list is just a helpful reminder and encouragement to you about the importance of showing respect for your spouse. So let’s take it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship. Why not ask your wife which of these 7 missteps she thinks you most commonly make and vow to make a change?
Sound off: Have you ever shown your wife contempt or felt it from her?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why do you think it is important to treat everyone with respect?”