Contempt- /ken’tem(p)t/ noun – The feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.  Synonyms include, disdain, disgust, loathing, hatred, disrespect, and disobedient.

It definitely seems like contempt is a word we should reserve for our worst enemies or our worst behavior. We can have contempt for sin, or for the car that left us stranded in the middle of nowhere. We can even be in contempt of court. But, one things for sure, contempt certainly isn’t a sentiment that we would associate with our loved ones right?… Or is it?

Unfortunately, when we spend our time and energy focused only on the negative traits of our spouse, we invite the darkness of contempt to take hold of our heart. Sure, it’s easy to see the bad in people, because it’s those little annoyances that aggravate us and make us uncomfortable.

Although, it might be easy to point out the imperfections that irritate us about our spouse, it can be just as easy to see the positive. The first step is the decision. Decide to make the shift from a negative focus to looking for your mate’s positive attributes. Here are a few simple ways to help you make this shift.

10 ways to banish contempt and help your marriage:

  1. Be friendly – Friendliness is a base component to any relationship. Sadly, when we are wallowing in contempt, friendliness seems to be the first thing to disappear.   We are all super nice people aren’t we? And we have friends that really like us right? So how do we talk to them? How do we treat them?   Let’s resolve to bring the person we are with our friends, into the home.
  2. Show Approval – Without realizing it, most of us seek the approval of the ones we love. It stands to reason then, that many of our actions, and decisions are based on whether they approve or disapprove. With that being said, let’s bless our spouses with our approval! Let’s find ways to extend our approval to our spouse.
  3. Be considerate – Being considerate means to consider our spouse in our life. We can’t lead our lives as if our spouse doesn’t exist. Consider how our actions and decisions will impact their life. When we say yes to something whether inside or outside the marriage, we end up saying no to something else. Sometimes when we say yes without considering our spouse, it is he or she that pays the price for our yes.
  4. Be liberal with your praise – If we commit to focusing on the good in your spouse, we will discover those things that are praise worthy. Let’s take the time to observe him or her as they move through their day. In what ways do they excel? What are their strong points? If we are so entrenched in the habit of looking for the negative, we might need to look through the eyes of friends, colleagues, and family to see what wonderful things they see. No matter how we do the discovery part, we need to take what we learn, make a list of our spouse’s gifts and talents; and begin verbally praising your spouse for each of them. The key to praise and complimenting, is sincerity. Anything less than a sincere delivery of praise may do more harm to the relationship.
  5. Compliment your spouse – Complimenting is similar to praise. However, there is a slight difference, when we praise someone, it is normally for larger accomplishments. Compliments are normally offered in response to the finer details in life, such as a color that looks good on them, a new outfit, haircut, or appreciating their choice of wine. In order to compliment our spouse we will need to be more observant. If we pay attention to the finer details of our spouses we will find plenty to compliment!
  6. Respect your spouse – Contrary to the popular statement. “Respect needs to be earned”. Respect doesn’t need to be earned. Respect begins deep inside ourselves. It is something that we all deserve as children of God. Respect in its simplest form then, is treating our spouse in a manner that would be pleasing to God. Assuming their moral compass is working, we don’t always have to like what the other person is doing or saying for them to deserve our respect. Respect is shown first by our words and tone. Then, respect is shown by recognizing their particular role. Whether it is Husband or Wife, there is respect due each of these important roles. Our thought, and treatment of our spouse should consider the unique way their role fits in the marriage.
  7. Endorse your spouse – To endorse our spouse we simply have to speak well of them no matter who your audience is! No more “vent sessions”.   Rather, we can share some of the observations we are making as we become more aware of our spouse’s positive traits!
  8. Give your spouse credit – Sometimes we get so busy juggling our own responsibilities that we forget the contribution our spouse makes to the marriage and family life. We need to take time on a regular basis to make an accounting of that contribution, and give him or her the credit. We get bonus points if we give them credit in front of friends!
  9. Sympathize with your spouse – We can take the time to sympathize with our spouse when he or she comes home from a hard day and wants to tell us about it. Rather than creating a competition of whose day was worse, we can allow our spouse to have his or her own tough day. We can let our spouses own their experience; it was real and shouldn’t be minimized.
  10. Show your spouse kindness and affection – We can show our spouses affection through kindness. A sweet smile, a gentle touch, or a reassuring word are a few ways to show affection. Another way is to remember our spouse’s preferences.   It is true, we may not have the same interests or see value in the same things as our spouse, but that isn’t the point. The point is how to show affection for our spouse. How does it make you feel when someone remembers your preferences, or something you enjoy? Make an effort to show your partner that what’s important to him or her, is important to you.

Of course these are only a few of the many ways we can heal a marriage that might be struggling with contempt. If you have fallen into the habit of seeing only the negative qualities in your spouse, I encourage you to choose one or two of these ideas and begin implementing them right away! Remember, the first step to changing the course of your marriage is to make the decision to spend so much time focused on the positive qualities or your spouse that you won’t have any time to look for the negative!