The Easiest Way to Destroy a Marriage

I recently signed up for an exercise class at my local gym. The instructor was very fit, of course, and I thought how great it would be for my own body to be as trim as hers. And she seemed so pleasant and agreeable. Until someone asked her a question.

She started her reply with, “Well, let me see. In couples counseling, I’m learning about ‘reflective listening.’ So I’m supposed to start by saying ‘I heard you say ____.’

She rolled her eyes.

“My husband’s always got his ‘thing’ he wants.”
And she rolled her eyes again.

I didn’t even hear her response to the question. The contempt she had for her husband was so loud. And so sad. She tried to bring it back a notch, but it didn’t work.

She corrected herself. “I shouldn’t rag on him. He’s not a bad guy.”

But the words were already out there. Infecting the atmosphere.
I can only imagine what life is like for him at home.

According to research by the Gottman Institute, contempt is the most toxic approach a person can take with a mate. It is the greatest predictor of divorce.

In the short term, women who show contempt for a man – either verbally or nonverbally – probably won’t get what they want from him. And I am highly in favor of women getting what they really want. [Yes, men can be contemptuous, too. I personally know what it’s like on the receiving end of this equation.]

Contempt assumes one’s moral superiority over the other.

Simply put, contempt is being mean. Engaging in Disrespect. Sarcasm. Name-calling. Mocking. Ridiculing. Mimicking. Eye-rolling. Scoffing.

A contemptuous attitude communicates that he is despised and worthless.

Besides destroying your marriage, you are also destroying your own health, not to mention his. An interesting stance for the fitness instructor, given her purported desire for her students to be healthy and at peace.

After more than two decades listening intently to couple communication, I can pick up on the slightest hint of contempt. And so many times the individual doesn’t even realize that’s what they are doing.

This is especially true for women, but not so much for men.

  • It seems to me that a man who is treating his wife this way is often consciously aware of it.
  • But because men are so sensitive to their wives, any defensive stance a woman takes has the potential to hit the man below the belt.
  • If you don’t know what I mean, it’s the emotional equivalent of kicking him in the groin.

Needless to say, I had a hard time overlooking the instructor’s attitude.

Like a hairstylist who notices a woman’s hair. It’s just what we do. In this context, it wasn’t my place to instruct the instructor. But her negativity was palpable, no matter how hard she tried to cover it up with lively talk about her next girl trip and the fact that she would probably drink too much wine with her friends that weekend.

Do you know someone like her?

We need to pay attention to how our friendships affect us. Notice how you feel after being around different people. Some are uplifting. Others not so much. You always have a choice.

  • Joining with a friend’s negativity is one option.
  • Pointing out her negativity is another, but rarely fruitful.
    (Yes, I did say something to her. She got defensive.)
  • Or setting personal boundaries, including the freedom to walk away.

So I had to make a choice.

Her class was included in my gym membership, and it fit my schedule perfectly. Nevertheless, I dropped her class after three sessions. Because being around her drained my energy.

It’s okay to say No.

It’s also okay to say Yes to relationships that build you up, help you get healthier, and enhance your life experience. I’m here to help.

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