You’ve probably come across the proverb ‘familiarity breeds contempt’. The Collins Dictionary definition states the expression is used to say that if you know a person or a situation very well, you can easily lose respect for that person, or become careless in that situation. When it comes to couples relationships, research has given some scientific validity to the old proverb.
In the last post, I described how the Masters of Relationship were found to be consciously building a culture of appreciation with each other. One of the ways they do this is to habitually turn toward their partner to notice the things they do, say and feel and in this way show appreciation. There are many ways to turn towards your partner, but effectively it is about being interested in their experience and looking for things their partner is doing right. Being interested in your partners experience is also about respecting them as a person.
The Disasters of Relationship, on the other hand, tend to habitually turn away from their partner. They look for things their partner is doing wrong and criticize in all kinds of ways. The research showed that this means they miss roughly 50% of the positive things their partner may be doing, and worse, they see negativity even when it’s not there. The worst way the Disasters of Relationship turn away from their partner is by displaying contempt towards their partner. Among others things, contempt is about lack of respect for the other person. So giving your partner the cold shoulder, putting them down (particularly in front of others), deliberately ignoring them or even just responding minimally are all ways of expressing contempt.
And research shows that the regular presence of contempt in a couples relationship predicts early divorce in marriages more consistently than any other factor.
About the Author Campbell MacBean
Campbell has over 20 years’ experience working with couples, individuals and groups. He is a Registered Psychologist (AHPRA), and Certified Gottman Therapist (CGT) through the Gottman Institute based in Seattle, USA. He is a Member of the Australian Psychological Society (MAPS) and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD) read more here.
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In Positive Health, Canberra. Nel MacBean Speech Pathologist Canberra. Campbell MacBean Psychologist Canberra.