The trouble with being contemptuous is that it implies you feel far superior to the worthless dung heap you are addressing. It implies that you have absolutely no respect for the other person and that his opinions are beneath your consideration. You are resentful of him. You are disgusted with him. Perhaps even angry.

No wonder contempt is a relationship killer.

If you do not wish to send all those signals, and do, in fact, think your relationship is worth saving, then take care. Your relationship is already in danger. Contempt is a major indicator that it will fail.

So ask yourself if you’re guilty of any of the following contemptuous behavior toward your partner:

Do you roll your eyes when he’s talking? If you do, you are saying through your actions that your partner’s ideas are stupid. He is unworthy of being taken seriously. Any hope of respect is out the window, and without respect, no reasonable discussion can take place.

Do you use hostile humor? You pretend it’s just a joke, but it’s really an incredible insult. “My wife is so dumb she thinks she’s got money in her account as long as she still has checks in her checkbook.” That’s not funny. That’s mean.

Does your voice have a rancorous tone to it? A nasty tone can change a perfectly nice sentence into a disparaging remark. Listen to yourself. How do you sound? Sometimes, without being conscious of it, you let your negative thoughts come out in your tone of voice.

Are you sarcastic? Sarcasm is a way to ridicule your partner. Sometimes delivered with a sneering, curled lip, it is a power play. You are attempting to denigrate him and elevate yourself. But it really speaks volumes about you. It usually means you are so insecure you need to put someone down to build yourself up. A sure way to damage your relationship.

If you find yourself being contemptuous, stop. Ask yourself if you are really trying to kill your relationship. If not, seek help from a qualified counselor. You may have resentment and anger issues that can be worked out. You may discover that you don’t really like being rude or mean, but you have used contemptuousness as a defense mechanism against your partner’s behavior. If that’s the case, you should seek couples counseling.

But sometimes you are contemptuous because you have lost all respect for your partner. If, time and again, he has behaved in ways that are distasteful, or immoral, or wrong, perhaps you think he deserve your contempt. But you can rise above that. You can either try to help your partner or sever the relationship. Some things just can’t be fixed. But do not sink to being contemptuous. You are better than that.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: