Being treated with contempt is one of the worst things that can happen in a relationship.
It makes us feel disrespected, humiliated, and angry. In other words, whenever someone treats you with contempt, they are hitting a nerve and you are going to feel it.
No one wants to feel bad.
But to keep the contempt out of your relationship, you have to understand why it’s happening and how to handle it.
Does your partner have a history of being disrespectful? Are they unaware of how their behavior affects you? Do they have a good reason for acting that way?
If you’re feeling disrespected, here are some of the worst possible responses to contempt in a relationship and how to avoid them.
1) The silent treatment
One of the worst responses to contempt is the silent treatment. This gets you nowhere.
If you’re feeling disrespected, shutting down and refusing to talk is not going to help anything. You won’t be able to speak your mind or let your partner know what you are experiencing.
This response will just cause more anger and hurt feelings because your partner will think that you don’t care about what they are doing or saying and they won’t know why.
You put up walls and resistance to your communication, which is the foundation of any relationship.
So if you want to keep the peace, it’s best to stay calm when someone is being disrespectful and find the right time to speak your mind.
2) Moving out or away from the person
If you’ve decided to stay in the relationship but your partner is still being disrespectful, you might consider getting out of the situation and not arguing with them.
This is not an ideal response because it’s quite unpredictable.
Your partner will be hurt and confused when you leave without explaining or saying goodbye.
And you might not find your way back to one another again.
And once they realize that you’re gone, they will have time to think about why you were upset and what was wrong with their behavior.
But this might not be enough to make them come back to you.
What can be more effective is to give yourself some mental space from them.
Continue to keep them in your life but fill your time with the things that keep you feeling vibrant and strong.
If you feel like you are at a relationship standstill and you can’t get past it, it might be time to look for some help from someone with experience.
I’ve been there, and I know how it feels.
You want to reach out and talk to others, but it can be hard to open up and dish out every detail to your friends.
When I was at the worst point in my relationship I looked to a relationship coach to see if they could give me any helpful insights. I felt like I had no idea what to do anymore. And I wanted to keep my love life separate from my family and friends.
I really wanted to get to the heart of the issues that I was facing.
I found the experience liberating.
With a gifted coach at Relationship Hero, I got in-depth, specific advice on experiencing contempt in my relationship. I also got to understand why it triggered me so much.
Relationship Hero offered an experienced coach who helped me turn things around and understand the way that I bond with others and my expectations in my relationships. They provide solutions, not just useless talk.
In just a few minutes you can also connect with a gifted relationship coach and understand how to deal with contempt in your relationship too.
3) Withdrawal and stonewalling
One of the worst things you can do in a relationship is withdrawn or stonewall when you are responding to contempt.
Neither of these responses will get your message across to your partner and it will only make them feel bad.
If you feel like you are being treated with contempt, withdrawing from the conversation or giving them silent treatment will not help anything.
This response tells your partner that they don’t matter and that their opinion doesn’t hold weight as much as yours.
It also creates resentment in the relationship because it shows that you are upset with them but refuse to confront them about it.
The best way to deal with this situation is to confront your partner when they start behaving with contempt toward you.
Ask them what they need and why they feel this way about certain subjects.
They may not know how their behavior affects you and if so, it would be helpful for them to know.
The more information we have about ourselves and our partners, the better off we are in a relationship.
4) Calling someone over-sensitive or negative
When you throw names and labels at someone, it can hurt their feelings. These tactics don’t get you very far.
The goal of this response is to make the victim feel like they are at fault for feeling the way they do.
That can shift a great deal of blame and responsibility onto them. And away from you and leave them feeling horrible. No one will want to change and make things better if they feel bad around you.
It also puts them on the defensive and makes it hard for them to express themselves. You have to let them realize how they’ve been acting on their own.
It will mean much more to them if they act from their heart, not react to your name-calling.
5) No-talk zone
If your partner’s bad behavior is affecting your relationship, it’s important to talk about it.
Taking the high road and not talking about what bothers you can just create an even bigger mess.
If your partner doesn’t understand how they make you feel, they need to be aware of that to change their ways.
That’s why a no-talk zone is one of the worst responses to contempt in a relationship.
In a healthy relationship, talking about what bothers you should be encouraged and not avoided.
If something is bothering you, talk about it with your partner.
This will also give them a chance to defend themselves if they have a good reason for acting that way.
6) Saying “Just you paranoid”
The worst possible response to contempt is to tell your partner they are just being paranoid. It’s an empty label that can leave them feeling misunderstood and pushed aside.
When someone is feeling disrespected, their feelings are 100% valid. The person disrespecting them does not get to decide whether or not they were wrong.
If your partner is trying to dismiss your feelings, then you know that this has been going on for a while.
You can tell them how hurtful it is and how it makes you feel.
Your feelings matter and they need to hear that you’ve been feeling this way for some time now.
It may be hard for them to admit at first but if they do, then do your best not to engage in a heated argument with them.
They will most likely feel bad about the way they acted once you have told them how their behavior hurts you.
7) Being too agreeable
If you’re feeling disrespected, it might also be a sign that you need to work on your assertiveness skills.
Assertiveness training is an excellent way to learn how to say no and speak up for yourself without being aggressive.
It teaches you how to be assertive without being rude or aggressive.
Assertiveness training will help you feel empowered, confident, and in control of your emotions.
It will teach you how to let your partner know what you expect from them, and help them respond calmly.
Plus, it can make your partner think twice before being disrespectful again because they know what kind of reaction they will get from you.
8) The “you should respect me too” response
A common response to feeling disrespected is to respond with “You should respect me too.”
This response doesn’t solve anything because it just shows the other person that you are equally at fault and there is no resolution.
To avoid this response, you can try to focus on your feelings and what makes you uncomfortable with the situation.
But remember that if you are feeling angry, it is unlikely that your partner will listen to you.
If you try to reason with someone who is being unreasonable, you can make matters worse.
If the other person isn’t willing to hear your perspective, then it is probably a good idea to leave the situation and let off steam by yourself until you are feeling calmer.
9) Arguing with a pattern
It can be really hard to get out of bad patterns when you feel disrespected.
This is because people become too focused on any negative things that are happening and fail to see the bigger picture.
If you do end up arguing with someone, it’s important that you stay calm and not provoke them anymore by making them feel defensive.
If you find yourself being disrespectful, try avoiding “triggering” subjects of conversation with your partner or showing them how you are feeling through your body language.
10) Playing the victim
Provoking someone in this way will make them feel like they were right.
You won’t get any useful feedback or feedback at all.
Playing the victim will also make you focus on their behavior and what they did to you, which isn’t helpful if you want to change how they behave.
If your partner disrespected you, it might be helpful to ask them what they had intended. It may help to know what prompted them to act in a certain way.
When you’re in a relationship with someone, you will inevitably encounter difficult situations.
They can range from your partner being particularly tired and snappy to them being downright nasty and contemptuous of you and everything that you do.
Contempt is the most destructive emotion in a relationship, since it erodes trust, kills intimacy, and leads to other negative responses such as contempt for the other person.
But there are ways to deal with it when it happens; you just have to know how to handle it effectively.
11) Trying to control them
If you are being disrespectful and they don’t respond in the way that you want, it can be tempting to try and control them or keep them from making changes.
The problem is that this will only frustrate the situation and make it worse.
Just like yourself, your partner has the right to live their life and do things their way without interference from you.
The best way to handle any negative behavior is to address it by talking to them and understanding why they feel the need to act in a certain way.
12) The “you control me” response
The worst thing you can say when you feel disrespected is that your partner controls you.
This will only make them feel like they are right or that they are a victim of your controlling ways.
Your goal should be to help them see how they are affecting you and how they can change the way they act.
An assertive response will not just make them feel better but also give them useful information on how they can better themselves and their behavior.
13) The “I’m fine” response
When someone is being disrespectful, it can be tempting to respond with something like “I’m fine!”
The problem is that they are not fine and the response makes it seem like they are okay with their behavior.
If you actually wanted to make them feel better and show them how they were affecting you, you could take a more aggressive approach by asking them what was wrong.
14) The “you are the problem” response
If you want to deal with the situation effectively, your best bet is to not take it personally and to realize that the person being disrespectful isn’t necessarily attacking you.
Instead, they are projecting their issues on you and the way that they act.
It might be a good idea to try and sympathize with them a little bit and see if there is anything that you can do to help them feel better.
Loving beyond contempt
If you ever feel like your partner is being disrespectful to you, one of the worst possible responses for you to have is to ignore the opportunity you have here with yourself.
You need to find a way to get yourself out of the negative cycle. And this might surprise you, but this freedom has to begin within you.
This can be accomplished by changing your perspective on the situation or finding new ways to cope with the problem.
The more you keep engaging in the same type of behavior or response, and expect a different outcome, the more you are on the path to insanity.
If you’re dealing with experiencing cruelty and contempt, have you considered getting to the heart of the issue?
All relationships are mirrors and insightful moments to dive in and learn more about our relationship to ourselves.
I was reminded of this lesson from the shaman Rudá Iandê, in his profound and honest talk on love and intimacy.
So, if you want to improve the relationships you have with others and explore why you let contempt into your life, start with yourself.
Personally, after taking the inner journey and focusing on my relationship with myself, I found that my relationships with others improved drastically and it’s still improving every day for me.
If you are looking for a solution to the problem of dealing with disrespectful or cruel people in your life, you have to first understand how you respond and welcome this behavior yourself.
If you respond with kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, you will be able to avoid the negative cycle of contempt.
On the other hand, if you respond with fear, aggression, or violence, you will only invite more of the same.
And ultimately, if you are struggling with relationships that have chronic contempt in them, your well-being must re-evaluate what’s going on internally.
You can keep on going by trying to tackle the issue externally, or you can get to the root of the problem to understand and resolve how you feel once and for all.
So, how do we avoid the cycle of disrespect?
By learning to be respectful to ourselves.
When we don’t, that’s when contempt finds a home in our lives and wreaks havoc in every area of our lives connected to that person. And who wants to live like this?
So best of luck on this opportunity ahead of you. You got it!