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Exploring and discussing a variety of relationship topics and issues for people in all kinds of relationships; including partnerships, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, roommates and more.

Dec 8, 2020

If appreciation is the number one relationship booster, what is the biggest thing that can undermine a relationship? The answer: contempt - that pattern of feelings and behaviors that expresses disgust and scorn towards a person or a group of people, ultimately dehumanizing them. The severity of contempt’s impact on people can make it seem like it’s easy to recognize; yet, contempt enters relationships as subtle as poison administered in careful, incremental drops.

In this episode, I discuss how contempt can usher a relationship to its failure. I share John Gottman’s definition of contempt and describe what causes it to sneak into intimate relationships. I highlight some behaviors that cultivate the seeds of contempt and explain why it’s so difficult to resolve. I also reveal how we can heal and reverse contempt in relationships and discuss how kindness and compassion can be antithetical to contempt.


“Contempt is a deep, slow poison in relationships. It goes for the kill by attacking a person’s sense of self.” - Pripo Teplitsky


This week on Relationships! Let’s Talk About It:

  • The contagious nature of contempt and how it sneaks into intimate relationships
  • Contempt in inter-personal relationships and how it bred the Holocaust
  • How contempt makes partners seem more like opponents than a couple
  • Examples of contemptuous remarks and body languages
  • Contemptuous communication in social media and how it hinders productive dialog
  • John Gottman’s “bid for connection” and how ignoring your partner’s efforts can undermine a relationship
  • Withdrawing as a response to contempt and how neediness can lead to stonewalling
  • The power dynamics of contempt in a relationship
  • What makes patterns of contempt challenging to detect and reverse
  • The importance of building an environment of admiration, kindness, respect, and empathy
  • Recognizing the mask of contempt and what it conceals
  • Why apathy, not hate, is the opposite of love
  • The relationship between contempt and substance abuse
  • Contempt as a means to avoid vulnerability
  • The contagious nature of compassion and how it can heal our relationships


Resources Mentioned:


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Let’s Talk About It!

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Theme music “These Streets” provided by Adi the Monk