What is contempt?

Contempt is easily defined as an emotional mix of anger and disgust. Contempt is the feeling that something or someone is undeserving of consideration or deserving of scorn.

If you’ve ever said, “Oh, I would never do that!” when referring to the actions of other people, you have expressed contempt toward their actions. If you’ve ever said, “Oh, I would never be like that!”, then you’ve expressed contempt toward a person.

Contempt is damaging to all relationships and marriage is no exception. When the partners in a marriage journey down the road to contempt, they put their marriage at risk.

What does contempt in marriage look like?

Maybe you aren’t sure if contempt is alive in your marriage. If you’ve experienced any of these scenarios, then you or your partner may feel contempt toward each other.

If you’ve ever expressed disgust toward your partner and feel that they are on a lower moral level than you are, you have experienced contempt toward your spouse.

If your spouse has ever expressed disgust toward you or something that you’ve done, they likely feel contempt toward you concerning that issue.

If you’ve ever felt superior to your spouse and those feelings led you to question your relationship, you may be experiencing contempt.

If your spouse has ever declared his or her superiority over you, he or she likely feels contempt toward you, at least in the areas where he or she feels superior.

If you or your spouse exchange in sarcasm toward one another, there may be contempt present in your marriage.

If you or your partner ever mock each other during arguments, you have a red flag for contempt.

What does contempt do to a marriage?

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of your partner’s contempt, then you know how it makes you feel. When someone you love and are emotionally intimate with treats you with disgust or flings sarcasm your way, it hurts. Even if your spouse apologizes later, the fact that he or she has considered such hurtful things about you still plays in your mind.

When your partner scrutinizes your life and exposes your flaws, you begin to trust him or her — and his or her love for you — a little less. Eventually, your marriage becomes a place where you don’t feel safe to be yourself for fear of your partner looking down on you. This lack of trust and security dooms a marriage.

How can you stop contempt from ruining your marriage?

The best way to keep contempt from ruining your marriage is to never let it get started. This means that couples must find a way to express their frustrations and voice their complaints without sliding into resentment or disgust.

Here are four ways to keep contempt out of your marriage:

1. Make your complaints all about you. This means using your “I” statements. When your partner does something you don’t like, tell him or her how it makes you feel. Use, “I feel frustrated when . . . “, and “My feelings are hurt when . . .” instead of “You frustrate me when . . .” and “You always hurt my feelings.”

Your feelings are your problem — not your partner’s! But, as your committed spouse, your partner should care enough to discuss with you how you feel and what steps you can each take so that you don’t feel that way anymore.

2. Assign positive intent. I’ve mentioned this important step in other posts about marriage. When your partner does something that annoys or hurts you, don’t automatically assume that he or she was intentionally trying to annoy or hurt you.

Talk to your spouse about it and explain how you feel, but don’t blame them for being purposefully hurtful. The truth is that they may not have been thinking of you at all! Help your spouse to become more aware of how his or her actions affect others by saying how those actions affected you.

3. Complaints and criticism are not the same thing. When you complain to your partner about something he or she is doing that bothers you, you are not attacking him or her as a person. (Especially if you use your “I” statements and assign positive intent.) Complaining helps you to express yourself and to be heard. Criticism, on the other hand, is damaging and can be the beginning of feelings of contempt.

4. Pay attention to your own faults and practice compassion. If you feel like criticizing your partner, try to remember the last time you were perfect. If your partner is messing up in ways that you don’t struggle with, think about how you would feel if he or she began blasting you for the things with which you do struggle.

Instead of looking down on your partner or feeling disgust toward him or her, ask how you can help. Your spouse probably already knows the things that he or she has difficulty with and would probably be relieved if you showed compassion instead of condemning. Be your partner’s biggest fan and the first one in line to help him or her when he or she needs it!

If you want to know more about contempt in marriage and other factors that destroy marriage and predict divorce, read The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman. This was required reading for me in my grad school Marriage and Family Therapy program and remains one of the best books I’ve ever read on the subject of marriage.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours. Featured image via

My husband doesn’t make me happy. I would like to tell you that there was a time when he did make me happy, but the truth is that he has never made me happy. There was a time when I wanted to believe that he made me happy. I bet you believe (or have believed) the same about your husband, but, hopefully, you’ve finally admitted (at least to yourself) that your husband doesn’t make you happy. The good news is that realizing this important fact about your husband is the first step toward an fulfilling relationship!

That’s right, ladies! Once you admit that your husband doesn’t make you happy, you can stop looking to him to provide your happiness for you and instead start looking to the one person on this planet who can make you happy: YOU!

My Husband Doesn’t Make Me Sad

One phrase I saw repeated over and over by therapy clients was , “He/She doesn’t make me happy.” They might be talking about their partner or their parent, their child or even a friend. It caused me wonder just how other people were given the responsibility of making my clients happy. Who gave that responsibility to them? Why do people expect other people to provide them with happiness?

I expect a lot of things from my husband. Respect is a must. Support is required. Patience is nice. Loyalty is essential. Faithfulness is a necessity. But happiness? That’s not part of the deal.

Now, that’s not to say that my husband doesn’t go out of his way to do things that bring me happiness. He does a lot of things that make me feel cherished, appreciated, admired and loved.

He refrains from trying to intentionally bring me sadness, as well. But that’s not why he doesn’t make me sad. He doesn’t make me sad because I am the owner of my feelings. Only I can decide if I’m sad or happy or angry or annoyed.

What if it was impossible for your husband to make you happy or sad? What if it simply wasn’t something he had the power to do? What if you, and only you, were responsible for your emotions and you were the only one who got to decide how you felt?

Guess what, buttercup? You are the only one who gets to decide how you feel. Not your husband. Not your children. Not even your mother. Just you.

How absolutely freeing is that?

For me (and for my marriage) it was the best realization I’ve ever had!

Be The Owner of Your Own Emotions

You may be asking, “If my husband can’t make me happy, then what’s the point of marriage?” or “If my husband can’t make me sad, then why do I feel so down when he does _____?”

It’s because you are human and you do feel emotions. When someone behaves toward you in a way that is hurtful, you feel hurt. This is a good indicator of whether or not you should be around that person. If you consistently feel sad when you are around your husband, you have to ask yourself if he is a healthy person to share your life with. That is what marriage is about — sharing your life with someone; partnering with your person; having a witness to your life.

Listen to your emotions. They are an excellent compass. When something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right. It is your responsibility to move yourself from a place of emotional dis-ease to a place of emotional health. Not your husband’s.

If you aren’t happy, you need to take the steps to create happiness for yourself. Your husband can’t do that for you. If you came into marriage expecting your husband to be a constant source of happiness for you, you have put a lot of pressure on him and you have set yourself up for disappointment.

Do I Make My Husband Happy?

I know that we often go out of our way to bring happiness to our husbands. We tend more toward people-pleasing and constantly consider ways to add to their happiness. Many times they don’t even notice when we’ve gone out of our way for them. And that certainly doesn’t make us happy!

The great news is that when you stop expecting your husband to make you happy, you can also take the responsibility of your husband’s happiness off of your shoulders. Now, you can simply do things for him because you love him instead of hoping that what you’re doing will make him happy. His happiness is not your burden to bear — it’s his!

Most emotionally healthy people naturally want to do things that add to the happiness of those about whom they care. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s when you stop taking responsibility for your own happiness or when you take too much responsibility for someone else’s happiness that you will find yourself becoming less and less happy.

How to Make Yourself Happy in Your Marriage

1. Assign Positive Intent

I talk about assigning positive intent to others’ words and actions often. You can save yourself a lot of unnecessary heartache and keep your relationships drama-free if you simply assume that others’ words and actions are meant in a positive manner, or at least a neutral manner.

For example, your husband is not trying to make you crazy by leaving his socks on the floor. He is not doing that to intentionally mess with you. He’s doing that because picking up his socks is not on his list of important things to do. That’s it. No malice intended. Either remind him (nicely!) every time it happens, pick them up for him or get over it and go be happy.

2. Get a Hobby

Does that sound harsh? It’s not intended to be. It’s a very real, very helpful suggestion. What, outside of your relationship with your husband, brings you joy? Do more of that.

Practice better self-care. Reach out to others via volunteer work. Take classes to better a skill you have or to add to your education.

3. Figure Out What Your Emotional Needs Are

Simply tossing a general, “You don’t make me happy.” in your husband’s direction doesn’t help him to show you love in a way that is more meaningful to you. Tell him tangible things he can do when he wants to show you how much he cares for you.

Do you need him bring you flowers? Should he vacuum the living room? Give you a massage? Sit and listen to you talk about your day?

If you don’t know what you need from him, then how is he supposed know? Spend some time figuring out what makes you tick and then tell him. Be straightforward and don’t play coy games. If you need him to massage your right third toe while singing Let It Go in his best cookie monster voice, then tell him exactly that. Do not make him guess. That only sets him up for failure and you for disappointment.

4. Don’t Expect to Always be Happy

No one is happy all of the time. For us ladies, our hormone shifts can cause us to feel inexplicably unhappy from time to time. Do both you and your man a favor by keeping track of your cycle. You will probably notice that between ovulation and the first day of your next cycle, your husband has a much more difficult time staying on your good side. When I’m ovulating, my husband can do no wrong. A week before my period, however, nothing he does is right. I’ve learned to steer clear of him during those times when I have nothing positive to say about anything. He has learned to consult his calendar when he’s feeling unjustly accused of treachery.

You are an emotional creature. Whether it’s hormones or a major life transition or just a bad day, you are not always going to be happy. Marriage isn’t a cure-all for life’s ups and downs. Your husband, strong and brave as he may be, is not the defender of your happiness. You, also brave and strong, are the defender and curator of your happiness — and no one else’s.

This post was originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours. Photo via

“I’m sorry,” I said to my husband as I pecked his cheek. He set the bowl of oatmeal down in front of the screaming two year old and faced me.

“I’m sorry too,” he said as we wrapped our arms around each other. We whispered a few more words to each other, smiled as we mentioned make up sex later, and kissed each other again.

We had had a fight about work schedules, parenting, household chores. Basically, just life. We fought, couldn’t come up with a resolution, and went to bed. We went to bed angry. The one piece of marriage advice everyone gives you and we don’t listen to it. At all. We never have and we never will.

When my husband and I fight and can’t reach a compromise or resolution, we walk away from each other. We leave each other to find our own thoughts, calm down, breathe, and gather our feelings. Sometimes I come back to the table with a new argument, which is sometimes just a nicer way of presenting my first argument (I’m pretty sure after 7 years of marriage he sees through this tactic). We rarely continue an argument until we can respectfully speak to one another.

Sometimes the argument ends in agreement, sometimes it ends with a compromise and a backup plan in case our compromise fails, sometimes it ends with one (or both) of us realizing we were wrong, and it always ends with the words “I’m sorry.” I have yet to meet a couple who didn’t benefit from taking a step back from the fight, calming down, and then going back to the fight. For us this can take minutes, hours, days, or even well after we go to bed.

Marriage is a long road that is often complicated by other’s well wishes. Just be careful what advice you dole out and what you choose to listen to because no two marriages work the same. When asked for marriage advice or how our marriage works, I never give the good ole’ ‘never go to bed angry’ line. Maybe this piece of advice has worked for some couples, but as for us, going to bed angry has saved my marriage many times.

This post was originally featured on Ashlen’s blog, The Kidspert. Photo via The Huffington Post

If my husband were in a talent competition, he would have a few things in his bag of tricks to choose from.  While riding the mechanical bull may not be his strongest skill, rope climbing, monkey bars, and nose whistling would all be in the running.  There is one skill, however, that he does better than anyone I know.  No one else I know is uncouth enough to do this with the gusto and frequency that he does.

He burps curse words.

If he really needs to let it fly, he doesn’t take the time to muster a burp, he just curses like the rest of us and even adds a touch of whimsy with favorites like “f@%k me in the goat a$$” and “tits McGee”, that make sense only to him and lonely shepherds.  The burped words are just a way of extending a casual burp, and making it more enjoyable for bystanders.  He also contends that it isn’t really cursing, because it’s a burp.  I contend that it isn’t really a burp, if it says this to me when I’m trying to make a cup of coffee in the morning:

“f—–uhhhhhhhhck”

and

“sh——iiiiiiiiiiiiiiit”

and

“son of a B——iiiiiiitch”

He also feels that its okay to do this within hearing range of the children, who are three and four.  He argues that it’s a foreign language so complex, that they can’t possibly translate, let alone mimic.

If I’m being honest, I might be a wee bit jealous, and here’s why.  I didn’t burp until I was in my 20’s.

You’re not believing me?  I’ll say it again, as I have nothing to gain from lying.  I NEVER BURPED UNTIL I WAS AN ADULT.  I wasn’t holding back, I wasn’t demure, I just couldn’t do it.  Not on purpose.  Not by accident.  It. Never. Happened.  At this point you’re thinking “But the gas has to escape some way??!!”.  Don’t worry, it escaped, I just prefer to write things that embarrass my husband, and not me.

My best friend as a kid was a phenomenal burp artist.  She could burp words and even sentences on command, like no one I’ve ever seen.  When you’re ten, these are important credentials to look for in a BFF, and I worshipped her tween talent.  As far as my burplessness, I maintain that there was some sort of physical delay that corrected itself for me as I grew older.  As an adult, although I can’t burp on command, I burp frequently and with average tone and vibrato.

Looking back, I may have subconsciously chosen my husband because of his word-burping strengths.  Given my fascination with it at an early age, and my own delayed abilities, this may have been an attempt on my part to give my own spawn a fighting chance to burp like normal people before they turned 25.

Today, I’m happy to say that at least one of my children shows early signs of speaking Burp-ese.

My youngest is three and loves the alphabet.  He sings the alphabet song all the time and I heard this in passing the other day:

“A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-LMNOP-Q-R-eeeeeeeeesssss-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z”

Yep folks, an unexpected burp bubbled up at ‘S’, and that little guy just worked it in and kept on going like a champ.  He didn’t acknowledge it, and he didn’t look up.

While he’s only burping letters now, it’s only a matter of time until his official BSL (burping as a second language) courses with dad start and he’s bilingual.  Hopefully we can hold off on the curse words until at least second semester.  And by second semester, I mean college.  Otherwise, that will be a teacher conference that dad will be attending.

This post was originally featured on Susan’s blog, Pecked To Death By Chickens

My in laws have finally left and surprisingly, I survived. I pretty much avoided them and stayed out of their way as much as possible. Unless of course they took us out to eat. Because HELLO, FREE FOOD! Who the hell doesn’t like a free meal?! Nobody, that’s who.

If I didn’t avoid them as much as I was able to, I would probably be writing this with pencil and paper from a prison cell. I would’ve been all Orange Is The New Black but really though, orange just isn’t my color.

READ MORE: And That’s When I First Knew My Mother In Law Was Crazy

Well, it isn’t really anyone’s color, except for maybe super hotties like Mark Ruffalo, Ryan Gosling, Chris Hemsworth, Liev Schrieber, or perhaps even the always gorgeous Kerry Washington and Robin Wright.

But I’m totally getting off point here.

For the low, low price of zilch, zero, nada, you too can follow these easy steps to survive your visiting in laws.

Take notes, people! There may be a pop quiz later on.

SEE MORE: WTF? Worst In-Law Stories

Step 1: Drink… A Lot. Vodka or wine in a coffee mug is a great choice. Especially one that has been hand painted by your child. It will look sweet and innocent but at the same time, you’ll be getting plastered. It’s a win win.

Hiding your alcohol intake will be one less thing your mother in law will judge you by and bitch about. It will also make it more tolerable and entertaining when your in laws tell you stories about your spouse growing up that you’ve heard 1oo times before.

Step 2: Fake an illness (cramps, bloating, pms, mad cow disease, problematic anal warts) and hide out in your bedroom with chocolate and a good book. Make sure to let out a few groans of pain in their presence.

Step 3: Fake raging diarrhea and hide out in your bedroom with chocolate and a good book. Nobody questions diarrhea. Ever.

Step 4: See steps 1-3.

Happy visiting!

This post was originally featured on Elle’s blog, This Is Mommyhood

We all know that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. The stores are already decorated with red and pink. Classroom lists are going home and, perhaps, you have been scouring Pinterest for adorable Valentines your kids can give their classmates.

If you’re lucky, your significant other has already started planning, too. He’s contemplating which restaurant he’ll call for reservations and deciding which gift will be the perfect one just for you. Or, perhaps, like a lot of men, he isn’t thinking about it at all and on Feb. 13 he will have an “Oh crap!” moment in which he realizes that he forgot about it (again). In a panic, he will get online to order you some flowers and take whatever reservation he can find at any restaurant that might still have an opening.

READ MORE: These Girls Tried Cosmo Flirting Tips On Real Guys And The Result Was Hilarious

My husband would most likely be in that second category. Luckily for him, I am a very cheap Valentine’s ate for five basic reasons:

1.) I cant hold my liquor. Seriously, after one glass of wine, I am already “feeling it.” If I have two glasses, I’ll really be buzzed (and by “buzzed” I mean sleepy). So, a full bottle of the fancy stuff is not required.

2.) I wont be able to stay awake past 9:00pm. Well, I might be awake, but I won’t be very good company. Chances are I was up at that crack of dawn and, by 9:00 pm, I am pretty much brain dead.

READ MORE: A Really Important Question About Dating

3.) Coffee is cheaper than wine. I would actually prefer a cup of coffee (See #2) rather than a second glass of wine (See #1).

4.) I cant go anywhere too fancy because I have nothing to wear. Let’s face it, I don’t get to many cocktail parties these days and I can’t exactly wear jeans or yoga pants to a five star restaurant.

5.) Im perfectly happy with some chocolate and a back rub. Honestly, if the hubby wants to really romance me, all he has to do is put the kids to bed, hand me some chocolate, and rub my back while I sit in my pajamas on the couch watching the latest episode of House Hunters. It would be a bonus if we ordered pizza for dinner so I didn’t have to cook. That’s it. It’s truly that easy!

READ MORE: Jdate Horror Stories And How I Discovered It’s Not The Religion In The Man That Matters

Really, I want my husband to show me in little ways that he loves me EVERY DAY – not just on Feb. 14. It’s great that there’s a day set aside on the calendar for us to express our undying love to our significant others, but I really don’t need or expect any grand gestures. If, however, my husband decides that he needs to jump on the bandwagon, he’s pretty lucky that I’m such an easy date!