The Biggest Relationship-Ruiner Is Also The Most Subtle

The sneakiest thing destroys relationships.

NEVER Communicate THIS If You Want Your Relationship To Last Prostock-Studio | Canva

As soon as I said it, I knew we were in trouble. Just a few short months ago, the thought of saying something like that would have never even crossed my mind. But now, there it was. I said it. And now, we (and our relationship) were in danger. Like a floor covered with razor blades, the contempt in my voice was sharp and ready to cut her to pieces if she took one wrong step. How did we get to this point?


I was feeling such contempt for her — the most dangerous emotion in a relationship. It's invisible ... like an odorless gas that fills the chamber of your relationship and no one smells it or even notices until you open the chamber door and see the lifeless corpse fall out on the floor. But, it’s also such a natural response (for reasons that we can’t go into here) that only the truly vigilant will be strong enough to guard against it. It’s the emotion that causes you to be critical of your partner's slightest fault.

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If your boyfriend doesn’t use his turn signal when changing lanes, for example. Or, if your girlfriend walks too slowly while you’re walking to work together. Contempt sneaks into your life, it’s like an invincible predator, seeking to sink its teeth into anyone it can devour. I mean this 100 percent — Contempt is the great destroyer of relationships and marriage. Does it sound like I’m being over the top? Renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman says he can predict at 93 percent accuracy the failure of a relationship when a couple shows contempt for each other. 

@elizabethwing_mft Contempt is the #1 predictor of divorce! Once you see it, you’ll notice it all the time. Here’s how to STOP it from ruining your relationships! #love #relationships #conflict ♬ original sound - Lizzie Wing

But, we don’t need a scientist to prove it to us. We can look at our history of failed relationships. The ones that started so in love and ended in such misery. How did it get to that point? This one predatory emotion — contempt — likely devoured another promising love. But there is a remedy, a safeguard against the great destroyer. If you don't want your relationship to die an ugly death, remember this sage advice...Look for the good! 

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He or she will disappoint you. He or she will fail. He or she will do things that seem selfish, stupid, or silly. Look for the good; believe the best in them. Believe that he or she is doing the best they can with the information they have. Remember the person you fell in love with. Remember her beauty, her tenderness, her vivaciousness, her funness. Remember his assertiveness, his confidence, his protectiveness, his thoughtfulness. It's as simple and as challenging as that — remember the good.

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When you fail to remember the good, the great destroyer of relationships, contempt, slides in ready to devour you and the love you value so much. Think of the relationships you most respect right now. I have a couple of friends, David and Laura. They’ve been married for over 50 years. Happily. Do you know why? Every time I hear David talk to me about Laura, he tells me the good about her and their relationship. Because he constantly remembers it, without contempt.


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Michael Griswold is a writer focusing on love and relationships and a relationship coach. He has a Ph.D. in relationship and breakup psychology.