Contempt is not something that happens once by accident and then disappears from your life once and for all. On the contrary, it has a recurring nature and if you are addressed with contempt once, be sure that it will happen again. And again. Many times.
And since contempt often appears in close relationships, such as family relations and marriage, many people keep on wondering how to respond to a motion of contempt from a relative, a spouse, or from any close person.
If you also want to know the answer, this article will be interesting and useful for you.
We will do our best to explain what contempt is, why it appears, and how it is best to react to it in conversation.
We do hope that our recommendations and the information we are going to provide you with will help you to avoid this phenomenon in your family, and your relationships will be balanced and loving.
How Should I Respond to Contempt?
Contempt is the type of human behavior that is rather dangerous! It may not seem so at first, but the fact is that it can easily destroy another person psychologically, emotionally, and even physically!
This psychological and behavioral phenomenon is quite harmful for one’s health. And its corrosive nature can easily get not only into the heart of a marriage, but into other types of relatoinships too.
So if you are going to find out how to respond to contempt, first of all you need to clearly understand it, as well as how it works and what makes it appear.
Only in this case will you be able to clearly recognize it.
Also, it is essential that you are uncompromisingly honest in your assessment of its presence, no matter whether it is happening in your marriage or in your relations with close relatives (e.g. siblings, parents, etc.).
As we have already mentioned here, contempt is not a one-time thing. It is not just a regretful response to another person’s words or actions/behavior. It is the expression of scorn, disapproval, and in some cases even disgust toward another person!
In addition, there is another significant feature of contempt: instead of targeting a specific action, it goes much deeper and attacks the person’s very sense of self.
So how to respond to someone who treats you with contempt, you may be wondering now?
When searching for the answer, keep in mind that there won’t be a magical phrase or word that will change your relationships once it is pronounced.
Instead, dealing with contempt and – which is even more important – fixing it requires correct behavior from both sides.
So if you face contempt that is addressed to you, don’t rush to answer angrily and also hold back your rising aggression!
Both will not help, moreover, they can make things only worse.
Instead, consider acting correctly.
Try to Understand Your “Dark Side“
One of the very first steps that must be taken in order to overcome contempt in a relationship is to look at yourself.
Look deep inside of your behavior, revise your behavioral tendencies and patterns in case you are feeling contemptuous.
Of course, it is not going to be a simple thing to do since it requires a lot of courage!
To truly look deep within yourself and understand how you behave means that first of all you have to face the truth that you might be doing something wrong.
Communicate Directly to Replace Contempt
Contempt often appears when a person is not able (for some reason) to express his or her needs and desires directly with words. Instead, such a person chooses to act in a passive aggressive way to get what they want.
So if you notice that you are being contemptuous towards your partner or your family member, you will see that you are using cynicism and sarcasm indirectly to subtly ridicule them.
Therefore, it is not a direct form of communication. Instead, you should be communicating openly and directly, expressing your feelings and talking about them instead of arguing and assaulting!
Try to Change Your Feelings
We may often behave contemptuously when we feel angry, irritated, etc. And since most of us tend to get deeper into those negative feelings and emotions, it helps the contempt to flourish and bloom.
What we suggest you do is to look for positives instead! This basically means that you have to work on your negative feelings and do your best to replace them with positive ones for your partner or relative.
When you have an optimistic attitude and outlook, it can greatly help you out in your strive for changing your feelings. That’s because, as you probably remember, one of the most common reasons for contempt is a negative attitude towards another person.
Bring Out Joyful Memories
To deal with contempt, try to focus on all the positive moments you had with that person in the past.
If it is your spouse or a lover, remember your first date or how and where you first met.
Refresh your positive emotions by recalling your most romantic moments.
If you feel contemptuous towards your relative, recall all the happy moments you shared with him or her in the past, such as family parties, birthdays, etc.
You might be thinking that having a positive attitude and mindset is enough to deal with contempt, but this is not like that.
Both of them have to be supported by creating your very personal rituals with your partner wherein you appreciate and nourish the bond you share with him or her and celebrate your relatives.
This can take many different forms. For example, it can be planning weekly date nights, taking a bath together, or spending a day out of the month at the spa, or even simply watching movies together!
As an option, you can start catching up every evening after work, or planning regular vacations together – basically, anything that can make you become closer.
Complain Without Criticizing
If you do need to express your complaint, do it correctly.
Instead of making another person feel guilty and ashamed, find a healthy way to express your sadness or grievance.
Simply explain calmly what actions of his or hers make you feel sad or ignored (or whatever you feel like).
Find Out What Causes Contempt
You surely understand very well that contemptuous feelings and actions towards others don’t just come out of nothing.
There are a lot of causes for behaving this way, in fact.
So to be able to deal with this issue, you have to look deep within yourself in search of an answer to why it all happens.
Does it happen because you have an unfulfilled need for power? Or, maybe, you are feeling disrespected? Are you feeling disappointed, perhaps? The causes must be identified clearly.
Listen to Your Partner
It is important to not only be able to speak of what is important to you.
It is also essential to let your partner express his or her feelings and needs, and be able to listen to them.
Balance Your Expectations
If you feel like you are being disappointed or disrespected by another person, is it because you have very high or unrealistic expectations from your relationship?
If you want to value your partner, you have to keep your expectations balanced.
What Is the Cause Of Contempt?
To be able to fix the contempt in your family or romantic relationships, you need to be aware of why it appears at all and what makes it progress.
For example, it can happen because you have a tendency to be mean in communications with others.
Or you may face difficulty when expressing your feelings and needs in a direct and responsible way, and instead you tend to choose passive-aggressive behavior and actions in order to get what you want.
No matter the real cause, learning how to express your feelings and needs in a direct way is the first step to eliminating the problem.
Simply try to start replacing “you” with “I” in your conversations, and you will see a huge progress, as well as you will learn to think before saying anything.
However, there might be another reason as well! Of course, it is clear that the contemptuous person is responsible for his or her behavior.
But at the same time, contempt can show up when your complaints are ignored!
Among other behaviors that can cause contempt to grow we can name the following:
- Regularly ignoring your partner as an indirect way (e.g. by saying, “I don’t care.”)
- Ignoring opportunities for intimacy, not just sexual, but physical, e.g. hugging, touching, and kissing
- Not showing appreciation
- Neediness that forges a sense of obligation instead of desire
So it is pretty obvious that, if you want to know how to respond to contempt, not doing the behaviors described above is a great start!
How Do I Recognize It?
To be able to fight your enemy, you need to know how it looks. It’s the same with contempt.
You need to know how to spot it in your conversations to be able to realize that it has already grown there.
You can easily recognize contempt by several crucial features of it:
- shutting other person down
- Derisive humor
- Facial expressions like eye-rolling and sneering
- Off-putting body language like turning away, crossing arms, and pulling away in disgust
- Insults and name-calling
All these behaviors make your partner feel lower than you (or vice versa) and of course, the person would want to defend himself or herself which will result in an aggressive and passive-aggressive behavior towards you.
So now you know what contempt is and what can make it appear in your relationships, both romantic and family.
As you could understand from what we have told you, this thing is rather simple to spot but it requires quite a lot of work and effort to get rid of it.
So if you notice any symptoms of contempt in yourself or in another person that is close to you, you need to act quickly to be able to find the key reason for why it all happened and be able to fix the problem.
Try to calm down and realize that she might not be able to express her needs in a positive way. Ask her directly what she wants or needs. Normally it doesn’t. But sometimes, advice from a professional will help to deal with it faster.
Frequently Asked Questions
⭐ How do I respond to a contempt from my mom?
⭐ Does contemptuous behavior require therapy treatment?
Try to calm down and realize that she might not be able to express her needs in a positive way. Ask her directly what she wants or needs.
Normally it doesn’t. But sometimes, advice from a professional will help to deal with it faster.