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Contempt in Relationships: 5 Eye Opening Examples, Its Disastrous Effects

Contempt in Relationships: 5 Eye Opening Examples, Its Disastrous Effects

Contempt in relationships manifests through behaviors that show a lack of respect and can severely damage the emotional and psychological well-being of the victim.

When one partner frequently rolls their eyes, uses sarcasm, mocks, or dismisses their significant other, it sends a clear message of disdain and superiority. These actions chip away at the recipient’s self-esteem and destroy the trust and mutual respect essential for a healthy relationship.

Contempt makes the victim feel like their thoughts, feelings, and contributions don’t matter, creating a toxic environment where open communication and emotional safety disappear….and leaves the door wide open for resentment. Contempt in your relationship, snowballs into other relationship issues. It serves no other purpose other than to control and dominate.

Living with contempt in your relationship has serious and lasting effects. Victims often suffer from increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of worthlessness.

This emotional toll can also manifest physically, causing headaches, digestive issues, and weakened immune systems. The constant negativity can distort the victim’s self-worth and potential, making it hard for them to assert themselves or chase their goals.

When contempt in your relationship goes unaddressed, it erodes intimacy and affection, driving partners apart and threatening the future of the relationship. Addressing contempt in relationships is essential for restoring respect and emotional well-being in any partnership.

My Own Experience With Contempt in Relationships

I am an example of what contempt in a relationship can do to a person. I have seen my husband mock me, roll his eyes, and dismiss me on a regular basis-for decades.

As a result of not putting up boundaries to stop this crap sooner, I now have to live with major sleep issues, and Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory, auto immune disease of the digestive system of which there is no cure) which I was diagnosed with in 2016. We had been married 22 years at that point.

I honestly think my rocky marriage has much to do with my getting an auto-immune disorder. I implore you not to let your marriage and health get to this point. NO relationship is worth losing your health for!

Now, because I kept putting up with his contempt for me, I have something I will have to live with the rest of my life. I will always have to deal with the misery of a constant upset stomach, nausea, muscle weakness, fatigue, and joint pain, along with all the other wonderful things contempt in a relationship does to a person, like suffering from self esteem issues-which I’m continuously working on.

Sounds like “fun”, huh?

I have dealt with all of the examples of contempt in relationships listed below. Right down to the public humiliation. His contempt towards me is his way of making me “shut up” when I ask too many questions, or the wrong questions which resulted in unexpected and uncalled for public blow ups by him. One time in a restaurant, and another on a plane, but there have been many other situations too long to list here, but you get the idea…

Since he won’t stop with his contempt towards me, it has led to me using reactive abuse back at him at time- if I let it get that far. I try not to hand over control of my emotions to him. He can hardly control his own, so why let him have mine?

I only have control over my reactions, not his. I take responsibility for my bad reactions towards him. However, I’m not going to beat myself up too much for it, either. Everyone has their breaking point, and there is only so much a person can stand before they blow up.

To be honest, it’s triggering me just write about the topic of contempt in relationships. It’s infuriating to me to know that this person, who purports to “love” me, can turn around and treat me like that – all in the name of “control.” He’s so good at spotting it in other people, yet he can’t see it in himself?

I used to think maybe he couldn’t help it, or he didn’t realize he was doing it. But now I know better. When someone is abusive towards you – believe me, it’s f@cking planned. In my relationship, I was the emotional punching bag when he was angry or stressed, or God forbid, we have a disagreement. There was absolutely no regard for my feelings, just his.

His contempt for me made every bad situation a million times worse than it had to be because his negative feelings would transfer onto me. Knowing this, and carrying it with you, is emotionally exhausting, and makes it harder to gather the resilience needed to leave.

Some days my mind still can’t make sense of it all.

Examples of What Contempt in Relationships Looks Like

1. Name-Calling and Insults: Regularly calling you derogatory names or making belittling comments about your intelligence, appearance, or abilities.

2. Sarcasm and Mocking: Using sarcastic remarks to demean or ridicule you, often in front of others to humiliate you.

3. Eye-Rolling and Sneering: Non-verbal cues like eye-rolling, sneering, or smirking to dismiss your opinions or feelings as unimportant or ridiculous.

4. Public Humiliation: Making fun of you or criticizing you in public settings, aiming to embarrass you in front of others.

5. Dismissiveness: Ignoring your attempts to communicate or trivializing your concerns, making you feel unheard and insignificant.

These behaviors are all forms of emotional abuse and are used to exert power and control over the victim, creating an environment of fear and low self-worth.

Facial Expressions of Contempt in a Relationship

Contempt facial expressions are often characterized by distinct, recognizable features that convey disdain or disrespect. Besides Sneering and eye rolling, here are some common contemptuous facial expressions:

1. Lip Curling: The upper lip may curl upward or the corners of the mouth may turn down, indicating disgust or disdain.

2. Smirking: A smug or mocking smile that suggests superiority or amusement at another’s expense.

3. Raised Eyebrows: One or both eyebrows may be raised in a way that conveys incredulity or condescension.

These non-verbal cues can be powerful tools of emotional abuse, as they communicate disrespect and belittle the recipient without words. Recognizing these expressions is important to understand the underlying contempt.

Have you noticed any of these facial expressions directed at you in your relationship? If not, look at them while they are treating you with contempt. If your heart is telling you they aren’t, double check it by watching their expressions and listening to the tone of voice.

How does Contempt in a Relationship Affect the Other Person?

These actions can have profound and lasting effects on the person experiencing them, impacting their mental, emotional, and even physical well-being. Here are some examples of how contemptuous behavior can affect a person:

1. Lowered Self-Esteem: Constant insults and derogatory comments can erode a person’s self-worth. For example, if someone is repeatedly told they are “stupid” or “useless,” they may start to believe it and lose confidence in their abilities.

2. Anxiety and Depression: Being mocked, ridiculed, or humiliated can lead to severe anxiety and depression. Someone might feel constantly on edge, worrying about the next insult, or feel hopeless and trapped in the relationship.

3. Isolation: Public humiliation or dismissiveness can make a person withdraw from social activities to avoid further embarrassment. They may isolate themselves from friends and family, exacerbating feelings of loneliness and helplessness.

4. Physical Symptoms: Emotional distress can manifest physically, leading to issues like headaches, stomach problems, or sleep disturbances. For example, someone who is constantly belittled might experience chronic stress, leading to physical ailments.

5. Doubt and Confusion: Gaslighting and dismissiveness can make a person question their own reality and sanity. If their concerns are constantly trivialized, they might start to doubt their feelings and judgment.

These effects are part of a pattern of emotional abuse intended to control and dominate the victim by breaking down their self-esteem and sense of self.

Why Does my Partner Have Contempt For Me? What Do They Get Out of It?

Your partner’s use of contempt in your relationship is often rooted in a desire to exert power and control. Here are some reasons why they might be using contempt:

1. Power and Control: Contempt is a tactic to dominate and control you by undermining your self-esteem and making you feel inferior. This gives them a sense of superiority and control over you.

2. Insecurity and Jealousy: They might feel insecure about themselves and use contempt to make you feel bad, so they don’t feel as inferior by comparison. Jealousy can also drive them to belittle you to prevent you from feeling confident or attractive to others.

3. Projection: They might project their own negative feelings onto you. If they feel inadequate or unworthy, they might try to make you feel the same way to deflect from their own issues.

4. Manipulation: By using contempt, they might be trying to manipulate your emotions and behavior. If they can make you feel worthless, they might believe you’ll be less likely to leave them or challenge their authority.

5. Lack of Empathy: They may lack empathy and not understand or care about the emotional damage their contemptuous behavior causes. This lack of empathy allows them to continue their abusive behavior without guilt.

These behaviors are all about maintaining control and dominance in the relationship, often at the expense of your emotional well-being. Understanding this can help you see the patterns and take steps to protect yourself.

Patterns or Triggers That Can Lead to Your Partner’s Contempt

Understanding the patterns that trigger your partner’s contempt can help you recognize the warning signs and take steps to protect yourself.

Common triggers include:

1. Disagreement: When you express a different opinion or challenge their views, they might respond with contempt to assert dominance and shut down the conversation.

2. Success or Independence: If you achieve something significant or show signs of independence, they might react with contempt to undermine your confidence and keep you dependent on them.

3. Jealousy and Insecurity: If they feel threatened by your relationships with friends, family, or colleagues, they might use contempt to isolate you and make you doubt your worth.

4. Perceived Slights: Any perceived criticism or lack of attention might trigger contempt as a defensive mechanism to protect their ego.

5. Stress or Anger: When they are stressed or angry, they might take it out on you using contempt as an outlet for their emotions.

These patterns are part of a broader strategy to maintain power and control in the relationship. Recognizing these triggers can help you anticipate and respond to their behavior.

Have you noticed any specific situations or behaviors that seem to provoke contempt from your partner? Do you find yourself walking on eggshells to avoid their contempt.

How To Respond to Contempt in Relationships

Responding to contempt in a way that protects your emotional well-being is crucial. Here are some steps you can take:

1. Stay Calm: Try to remain calm and composed. Reacting emotionally can escalate the situation and give your partner more control over your emotions.

2. Set Boundaries: Clearly and assertively communicate that contemptuous behavior is unacceptable. For example, you could say, “I will not tolerate being spoken to in this way.”

3. Remove Yourself: If the situation feels unsafe or overwhelming, it is okay to physically remove yourself. Take a walk, go to another room, or leave the house if necessary.

4. Document the Behavior: Keep a record of instances of contempt and other abusive behaviors. This can be helpful if you decide to seek professional help or legal action.

5. Seek Support: Talk to trusted friends, family members, or a therapist about what you’re experiencing. Having a support system can provide emotional strength and practical advice.

6. Self-Care: Engage in activities that boost your self-esteem and well-being. Practice self-care routines that help you feel grounded and valued.

7. Plan for Safety: If you feel threatened, develop a safety plan. This might include knowing where to go if you need to leave quickly and having important documents and essentials packed.

What if My Partner Won’t Stop After Putting Up Boundaries?

If your partner continues to show contempt and disregards your boundaries, it’s important to prioritize your safety and well-being. Here are steps you can take:

1. Reevaluate the Relationship: Consider whether staying in the relationship is healthy for you. Continuous contempt in your relationship, as well as disrespect can have long-term negative effects on your mental and emotional health.

2. Seek Professional Help: Talk to a therapist or counselor who specializes in domestic abuse. They can provide personalized strategies and support to help you navigate this difficult situation.

3. Build a Support Network: Reach out to trusted friends and family members for emotional support. Let them know what’s happening and how they can help you.

4. Develop a Safety Plan: Create a plan that includes safe places you can go, important documents and essentials to take with you, and contacts for emergency situations. This can help you feel more prepared if you need to leave quickly.

5. Consider Legal Options: If the situation escalates, you may need to explore legal options such as restraining orders to protect yourself.

6. Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that it’s not your fault. Emotional abuse is about control and power, and you have the right to seek a life free from such behavior.


You deserve to be treated with respect and to feel safe in your relationship. Contempt in relationships acts like a corrosive agent, slowly wearing down the bond between partners. It breeds an environment of negativity, insecurity, and emotional pain, making it impossible for genuine love and respect to flourish.

Recognizing and addressing contempt in your relationship is not just essential; it’s vital for the health and longevity of the relationship. With empathy, open communication, and mutual respect, couples can heal from the wounds contempt inflicts and rebuild a foundation of trust and affection.

Ultimately, overcoming contempt in relationships paves the way for a stronger, more resilient partnership where both individuals feel valued and understood. If your partner can’t, or won’t abide by the boundaries you set for them, it’s probably time to consider leaving the relationship as contempt will surely destroy it, if allowed to continue.

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