It is almost a subconscious reaction but it speaks volumes about the longevity of your relationship

It isn’t cheating. Or drinking. Or lying. Or personality type. 

I mean, cheating & lying should be HUGE predictor of relationship failure. 

One of the best predictors of relationship success and/or longevity is the silent but deadly eye roll.

Why you ask?? 

Because the behavior of rolling your eyes signifies feeling of contempt. Contempt is a slow, crippling relationship death. It shows up slowly and grows (sometimes quietly in the background) in your relationship. 

Psychologist and Harvard graduate Susan Heiter states, “Eye-rolling suggests contempt.  An upper lip raised on one side suggests contempt.  So does a sarcastic tone of voice.  Beware if you have these habits, and also if you have been on the receiving end of these negative communications. They are sure signs that someone is not listening or listening to deprecate you (or you to deprecate your partner), not to gain understanding.”

University of Washington Psychologist, John Gottman, has been studying couples and marriage for forty years at the Gottman Institute. They distinguish contempt “is the most poisonous of all relationship killers. We cannot emphasize that enough. Contempt destroys psychological, emotional, and physical health.”

Sometimes, contempt grows subconsciously, if someone is crossing boundaries you aren’t addressing with them. Your mind is keeping track no matter how you rationalize or explain away behaviors. Because contempt grows over time and builds upon itself, when you finally address these feelings, it is too far gone to ever get over or start from anew.    

“Contempt makes partners seem more like opponents than loved ones” Dr. Steven Stosny writes, “Contempt in love relationships occurs at the end of a long chain of resentment, caused by accumulated perceptions of unfairness. Contempt makes partners seem more like opponents than loved ones.”

He suggests, “Contempt is the ultimate in self-fulfilling prophecy. That’s because contemptuous attributions eliminate all chance of improvement.” 

You begin to think your problems come directly from the particular person you contempt, but the problems arise from the behaviors or emotional interactions that happen between you and this person. 

Also, when you label and identify your partner with negative behaviors you don’t want, it usually backfires and you see more of the unwanted activity. If contempt becomes part of a person’s defense system, even a complete turn around  in the contempeted one’s behavior will not change all the pent up emotion held by their partner. For example, You have ignored me for twenty years, and now that we are old, you wanna talk to me???

How Do You Know You Hold Contempt? And How Not To?

Well, if you do a lot of eye rolling…. No. I am joking. 

Dr. Stosny believes, “Contempt is present when you use (or at least think) contemptuous attributions such as, lazy, selfish, inconsiderate, crazy, narcissistic, borderline, and so on to describe someone on a regular basis.”

He also states that contempt is extremely contagious and that if  you live with someone who is always holding contempt, you will usually end up holding on to some of your own resentment and contempt issues too.

If you do feel yourself holding on to negative emotions about your partner, it is the best interest of your relationship to open up and communicate your feelings with empathy and interest for the other person’s emotions. Or if you feel as if your partner is holding some resentment towards you, communication is the key to stopping the growth of contempt in your relationships. 

Good healthy empathetic communication seems to be a good answer to most of our problems as humans.  

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****This story was originally published at: https://medium.com/gen-x-female