Avoid the “Kiss of Death” in Your Relationship

If you value your relationship with your spouse you will want to listen to John Gottman and Robert Levenson. They say that this one factor can predict divorce with a 93% accuracy. And no, it has nothing to do with the way you place the toilet paper on the roll.

But it may have everything to do with your reaction to it. If you find yourself thinking or saying things like “What kind of idiot doesn’t understand that the paper should be on the outside and not the inside? The patent even showed it this way!” then you may be headed for a breakup.

What is the one factor that they have identified for predicting divorce? Contempt. Contempt is a mix of anger and disgust towards another person. And in the case of marriage Gottman– a psychologist at the University of Washington and founder of the Gottman Institute–studied 79 couples over a period of 14 years to arrive at his conclusion: contempt is the “Kiss of Death” in a relationship.

Contempt for the other person leads to a superiority complex in the relationship. And when one person feels smarter than the other it will lead to them not valuing the input the other has to give. Their opinions and thoughts will not be valid and you will find yourself less able to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective.

Jesus talked about this in the Sermon on the Mount. You can find a progression there that moves from anger to contempt to lust to divorce. To prevent divorce Jesus started with anger and said the root of the problem had to be done away with. If anger is done away with contempt disappears too.

What can you do if you see this trait in your relationship?  Here are a couple of ideas that might help:

  • Just recognizing it in yourself or your spouse is a good first step.
  • If you see the trait in yourself get some help in identifying why you show up in your relationship the way you do. What deep held beliefs do you have that would make you think that your spouse seldom has a valid idea? What experience did you have in  your past that made you want to be right all the time?
  • If the trait is in your spouse you might not want to attack them with your discovery. Instead invite them into a discussion about how you might make your relationship better. If that is their goal too then you can discuss your feelings of being treated as an inferior and ask them to help you.

Addressing this issue early in marriage is vital. Studies show that when contempt surfaces in the first year of marriage a couple is more likely to divorce. But sometimes that doesn’t happen until sixteen years down the road.

Contempt is the “Kiss of Death” in a marriage. Ridding your relationship of it will set the environment for better kissing.

Question: When have you shown contempt for your spouse in your relationship?


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