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How contempt in a marriage may lead to divorce

Maryland couples who display contempt toward one another might be more likely to get a divorce according to the research of marriage counselor John Gottman. According to Gottman, it is the most dangerous of four behavior patterns he has identified as threatening the longevity of a marriage. The others are stonewalling, defensiveness and criticism.

Contempt can include behavior like mimicking the other partner, cruel humor and sneering. Gottman says it indicates a fundamental lack of respect, and that is what makes it so difficult for couples to repair their relationship once it has set in.

However, it is not impossible, and Gottman has exercises for couples that help. One is for them to concentrate on noticing what the other partner does right instead of focusing on the partner’s shortcomings. The other is for spouses to think back to when they first met. If they can remember what they first admired and loved about one another, this can help them start reconnecting and working on the marriage again as a team.

Despite counseling and making other efforts to keep the marriage together, a couple may still decide they are better off apart. This is the beginning of the difficult process of divorce, but couples might be able to resolve any legal issues through negotiations helped along with their respective attorneys instead of having to go to court. This may include deciding how to divide up their assets and debts and what to do about parenting if they have young children. If negotiations fail, litigation is the next step, and a judge will make the property division and custody determinations.