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Is your relationship doomed? It might be, if contempt runs rampant — it is the best predictor of divorce.

How to avoid being contemptuous toward your spouse:

  1. Avoid sarcasm (comments like, “I’ll bet you do!” or “Oh, that was super funny” in a sneery tone of voice).
  2. Avoid body language that often goes along with sarcasm or can simply stand alone as a response (rolling your eyes, smirking one side of your cheek into a dimple). These are actually cross cultural signals of contempt.
  3. Don’t make “jokes” at the expense of your partner, or make universal comments about his/her gender (again, usually accompanied by the gestures in #2).

Do instead:

  1. Keep the focus of your responses and interactions on yourself instead of on your partner, describing your own feelings and needs.
  2. Create a culture of appreciation in your relationship through positive interactions.
  3. Work on a positive habit of mind instead of scanning for the negative around you.


Why is it important to avoid contempt? Contempt, which is to put someone down and/or put yourself on a pedestal at the expense of another, is one of the best predictors of divorce all on its own. But along with criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling, contempt can predict almost certain doom for any relationship. Contempt has also been linked to predicting the number of infectious illnesses the recipient will experience over a four year period. Powerful stuff, just like battery acid!

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LeMel Firestone-Palerm, LMFT, LPCC, CGT
LeMel Firestone-Palerm, LMFT, LPCC, CGT About LeMel...
Helping Create Healthy Relationships Since 1997
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist MFC 42162
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor LPC 1534
Certified Gottman Therapist