Friday Fodder – Contemptuous

Once upon a time…

That’s it. I’m not going to say another word. What’s the point? All we do is go around and around and around. I’m over it; it’s just so tedious.

What a waste of time and money. And after almost thirty years of marriage, one thing I do know is that she’s an expert at doing both – often simultaneously. If only she could teach classes on how to waste time and money to make herself feel better.

She says she wants me to be happy. Then for the love of god, woman, just let me be me.

I’m not a mystery, I’m the same guy I have always been for decades.

I work. I come home. I watch a little TV. I drink a six-pack. On the weekends, I mow the lawn and make sure the cars are clean and running smoothly. On Sunday, I might play a little golf with my friends and drink two six-packs.

We’re fine.

I don’t need to come here and spill my guts in this claustrophobic room painted in soothing pastels. And don’t get me started on those cheery motivational posters of eagles soaring. 

I don’t need to sit here with Mr Cardigan in his “safe space” talking about things better left unsaid. Let sleeping dogs lie, I say.

We’re fine.

Mr Cardigan talks to us about Japan for $275 an hour. “Say kintsugi with me,” he sings. Why do I repeat it along with her, like a dickhead as if we are watching Play School? Mr Cardigan explains how kintsugi is the Japanese tradition of repairing cracks in broken pottery with gold. “The Japanese do it to show how we can embrace flaws and imperfections.”

Exactly.

She should stop trying to fix me. At my age, I’m not changing. She can fill in whatever flaws or imperfections I have with whatever she wants, which seems to be a litany of complaints about shit I’ve always done wrong since the day we met.

And what if I don’t change?

What is she going to do – leave me? 

I’ll help her pack.

She’s right, though. I guess I do stay at the office pretty late and she’s got me there – I do take the long way home.

Why would I hurry home though? To be browbeaten yet again? I’d rather drive to a couple of hardware stores to find a lightbulb we don’t need. Anything to get out the house and away from her eye rolls and disgusted sighs.

I’m not going to be treated like I’ve been her life’s biggest disappointment.

And the things she accuses me of. Grossly exaggerated and unfair.

If I were going to talk, which I’m not, I would say—yeah, I look at other women. And it might shock her to find out that sometimes they look back.

Are there cracks in the foundation of our marriage? C’mon. It’s been thirty years, Mr Cardigan. We don’t have cracks; we have fissures.

The Japanese do have it right, though. Those cracks are ours. Maybe that’s what keeps us together – we’re perfectly imperfect.

Stuff it. I don’t even care. I’m just going to sit here.

Not another word.

He’s just going to sit there and not say another word. Belligerent bastard!

What’s the point of marriage counseling if only one of us speaks? I can go around and around and around by myself. It’s just so lonely.

Doesn’t he want to make our marriage better? For the love of god, just let Mr Cardigan do his job.

I’m not a mystery. I’m the  same girl I have always been for decades.

I work. I take care of the kids. I watch a little TV. I eat ice cream – half a carton – right from the container. On the weekends, I do all of the housework while he plays golf with his friends.

It’s not fine.

It would be nice if he would stop treating me like the help. If only he was as charming to me as he is to the receptionist at his office.

I like Mr Cardigan trying to give him the communication tools he needs to fix whatever chasm has opened up between us. Maybe he will learn to ask for what he needs.

What does he need from me these days? Anything? All he wants is to be left alone. 

After our youngest left home, our family life was basically over. I was roommates with a stranger – a stranger who has said some shockingly cruel things over the years.

He expects me to let bygones be bygones.

We’re not fine.

Mr Cardigan has us repeat the word kintsugi together. Surprisingly, we both repeat it at the same time. Perhaps he is paying attention after all? Maybe he likes the concept of non-attachment, the acceptance of change. Maybe he’ll stop being so closed off -so much more since his father passed. Mr Cardigan says: “The Japanese show us how we can embrace flaws and imperfections.”

Exactly.

We can both change. I’ve been working on myself, trying to improve.

But what if he doesn’t change?

What am I going to do – leave him? 

Maybe I should help him pack.

He stays at the office way too late and I know he takes the long way home.

But do I want him to hurry home? Do I really want to be ignored in person? I’d rather binge on Netflix or disappear into a book. Anything to avoid him avoiding me.

I’m not going to be treated like I’ve been his life’s biggest disappointment.

And the things he accuses me of. Grossly exaggerated and unfair.

Are there cracks in the foundation of our marriage? It’s been thirty years, Mr Cardigan. We don’t have cracks; we have fissures.

The Japanese do have it right, though. Those cracks are ours. Maybe that’s what keeps us together – we’re perfectly imperfect.

But I refuse to simply sit here in silence.

These two again. Instead of focusing on the communication skills I’ve taught them, she’s mastered criticism and defensiveness, while he’s even better at stonewalling and showing contempt.

I think next session I will have them repeat “shoganai.” Perhaps they need to learn a little Japanese stoicism. Or maybe they’d be better off in a cage fight ha-ha.

Most of all, I just hope their cheque clears by Monday.

“Contempt is the kryptonite of a good relationship.”

― Khang Kijarro Nguyen

Moral of the Story:

Contempt is the single biggest predictor of divorce. While arguments and disagreements are a natural part of any long-term relationship, contempt is a type of communication that attacks our partner with ridicule and sarcasm. The contemptuous party takes a position of judgmental superiority and seeks to embarrass and shame the other partner by painting them as unworthy. Eye rolling, sneering, mocking, or using sarcasm, exaggerations and insults are all examples of contempt. Over time, contempt erodes a person’s self-esteem. Feelings of contempt that are left unaddressed are a huge relationship killer. Contempt is often fueled by negative thoughts about another that show up through lack of respect and disregard for your partner’s thoughts, feelings or even for their existence. At its worst, it can take the form of disgust and hostility. Sometimes contempt signals that we don’t appreciate our partner anymore. If that’s the case, consider if the relationship still makes sense. You are not here to be stuck in misery.

Empathy and contempt are polar opposites. Empathy involves caring about aother’s feelings and concerns. Contempt is arrogant disregard, dismissal, and denigration of others’ concerns (“I know best”). Empathy nurtures relationship bonds, whereas contempt invites relationship problems. Listening to understand, appreciate, and agree is the opposite of listening with contempt. Communication is key. However, before you talk to your partner, it’s important to be clear on your own thoughts, feelings and frustrations. Ask yourself questions like, “Am I really trying to make [name] feel less than me? Where is that going to get me? Is this the kind of relationship I want to have?” Contempt is indirect criticism. If you are going to express your criticism, do it openly instead. Anything is better than contempt. Once you and your partner have worked to identify where the contempt is coming from, you can rebuild your relationship from a more positive, safe space. You must devote time to building the positive, not just eliminating the negative. Positive people enhance their relationships with positive communications, appreciation, gratitude, affection, agreement, interest, and smiles.

“It is dependency, not familiarity, that breeds contempt.”

― Marty Rubin

Affirmation: Together we feel loved, supported & appreciated.

I know I am worthy of love, and I deserve to be in a loving and healthy relationship. I feel inspired to improve myself for this relationship. My partner always makes me feel that I am enough and I know they love me deeply. We support each other to become the best we can be. We easily set healthy boundaries in our relationship. I am able to view things from my partner’s perspective. I appreciate everything that my partner does for me and our relationship. We are faithful and loyal to each other and I feel safe sharing my secrets and innermost thoughts and desires. We always resolve our conflicts in a peaceful and respectful way. We treasure our relationship as much as we treasure the people around us. Our relationship is built on true love, trust, and respect. My partner makes sure that I feel loved, cherished, and secure all the time. We respect each other’s privacy and feel safe to ask each other for what we need. My partner accepts my flaws and helps me to become a better version of myself. We give our relationship the time and attention it deserves and we love spending intimate moments together. I am willing to listen.

“The belief in limitation is the basis of all jealousy, and jealousy leads to possession. Possession is the idea that you must hold tightly to that which you love or it might escape. In truth, it does not escape. It loses its value to the holder and often creates contempt. True power attracts the sweet pleasure of liberation within the harmony of love.”

― Deborah Bravandt

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