Contempt Takes 2 in Relationships

Too many people live with contempt in their relationships. Contempt is a power play that leads to loneliness. When ugliness layers & layers over time it becomes ordinary. When contempt is an ordinary activity instead of an unusual one, that’s a BIG problem. Contempt is a tango for two.

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Contempt Takes Two in a Relationship Episode #30

Too many people live with contempt in their relationships. Contempt is a power play that leads to loneliness. When ugliness layers & layers over time it becomes ordinary. When contempt is an ordinary activity instead of an unusual one, that’s a BIG problem.

Contempt is a tango for two. I always am concerned about how much the one who receives contempt is unconsciously or consciously doing penance. Imagine someone who has abandoned a first family, they may suffer with a lot of guilt & be all too comfortable with receiving disrespect on an ordinary, daily basis. It’s far worse when someone suffers from self hatred not based on any legitimate guilt but believes in some twisted way they must deserve it.

The person who receives contempt participates by silently swallowing too much crap from someone else. They participate in the victim role. I emphasize this because it is too simple to just blame the perpetrator. Though certainly the perpetrator often has 80, 85 or 93%. It’s important to recognize the 20, 15 or 7% participation of being too passive.

Passivity is often about giving up. “It’s too much trouble to try & let them know how hurt I am. It’ll just make things worse.” The hard truth is it’s ONLY your job to make yourself understood. You have to establish boundaries about whats ok & whats not ok for you. You are the only one who can do that. People pleasing behavior may be a part of the passivity which means you should definitely listen to my last episode #29.

If you secretly want the other person to love you enough to stop, you are sadly mistaken.

So what is the aphrodisiac underneath contempt? What is it that people delight in? It’s simple: POWER

The people who easily dish out contempt delight in the power of it. They want to be TOP DOG. They want to be in charge. If your partner always gets it wrong then the deliciousness of always being right is all yours & the bonus….???
You get your way most of the time.

Contempt means living with the absolute loneliness of real deep disconnection. (repeat)

Loneliness is a big problem in our culture for a lot of people. It’s so easy to have a sexual connection but the longer, harder work of real intimacy is very hard to find. Building something substantial is far more illusive.

Contempt in relationships is about casual, ordinary disrespect. Disrespect is why people get divorced. It’s so easy to climb into your own fortress & find reasons to look down on someone else. That’s how people survive high school & how they survive the empty hole they feel inside about who they are.

When someone is contemptuous of me in the office it isn’t hard, because I recognize the contempt is really about their own insecurities & changes over time if they stick with me. The empty hole is profound insecurities mixed with manipulation & the false belief that power is the only thing that can fill that empty hole.

The only first step to repair is for the receiver to stop participating in it. The second step is for the parter who has contempt to develop an awareness that it is hurtful & unfair & needs to stop. The motivation for stopping might be the loneliness they both experience.

Of course the longer it’s been going on the harder it will be. Asking for a therapist appointment with someone who is willing to respectfully challenge this lopsided power dynamic maybe the only way out if this pattern has been going on for years.

Power can not be more satisfying than the pain of the loneliness. That’s what has to flip.

There is a wonderful movie from 1964 by film director Jean-Luc Godard with the title Contempt. Critics rated it 94% on rotten tomatoes. Bridgette Bardot plays the wife Camille who is known only for her beauty & really invisible to her husband. He seems to offer her up to the producer he wants a job from. When someone is not seen by the person who is supposed to love them the most this is a very deep level of contempt. It is very powerful to watch this play out in the gorgeous setting of Capri. One of the most visually stunning movies I have ever seen. The circular argument between husband & wife plays out as if real.

When we are young & immature we all want to be loved no matter what. Everyone is hungry for that unconditional love. So if I treat you badly & you are passive about it then you love me no matter what & that makes up for what I didn’t get in childhood. The trouble begins when we don’t grow up. Growing up is honestly facing painful situations. Growing up means unconditional love is out the window after 18. We have to recognize we aren’t treating the other person right because it soothes our own insecurities and that’s not ok.

Then there are relationships where contempt just happens a wee bit too often and needs to be cleaned up. There is a range to contempt & how it plays out in relationships. Remember, Respect is more important than love over the long haul in relationships.

My challenge for you today:

Ask yourself have you used contempt too frequently to get your way in your relationships? If so you might want to keep a log & put a slash mark next to the date when you are disrespectful. Awareness is the beginning of change.Then you might want individual therapy to explore your own insecurities & ability to so easily disconnect.
Have you been too passive & avoided establishing boundaries in your relationship? If the answer to this second question is yes, try reading Boundaries by Ann Katherine. After you read the book you might want to write a letter to your partner of the things you’ve left unspoken that bother you. Then you have to decide if you have the courage to give it to them or go to therapy to explore having greater courage in your relationship & how you stop yourself from saying the truth.
Consider how you build your own fortress & contribute to your own loneliness. You can build a fortress by keeping your secrets or you can build a fortress by being ugly to your partner. Either way you want to be more self aware to age gracefully & be less lonely.

In April I will offer my next episode: 15 Ways to Make Relationships Last. I also will begin to sprinkle in interviews in the future.

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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