Emotional abuse and contempt in marriage is very common in America. The signs of contempt are so much a part of everyday interaction, contempt has come to be imbedded in our culture and not even recognized as wrong and harmful. For example, jerks at work are the ones most likely to get promotions, thus rewarding their use of contempt. If it pays to be a jerk at work, why stop there? Be a jerk all the time, even at home.
Contempt and emotional belittling can be as subtle as an eye-roll, yet as devastating as repeated blows to the head with a baseball bat. A person can go to prison for physical assault after one punch to the face of a spouse. However, using contempt, a spouse can emotionally whittle down the self esteem of their spouse to the point of total submission and it will never come to the attention of the courts, let alone be cause for a prison sentence.
Criticism and put-downs apparently are not criminal acts because they are not seen as physical acts. However, people living in emotionally hostile relationships eventually are prone to act out, committing hostile deeds. Then, they the victims may go to prison, rather than the emotional abuser who has been dishing out the contempt.
Spousal contempt is so common in American Marriage that it is accepted as normal marital or intimate relationship patterning. Some people advocate for the man to be the “head” of the household and the woman to submit herself to him and his will. The intention of these teachings may not be “contempt”or disdain but treating one’s wife as not having a vote or a right to her opinion can lead to the opposite of collaboration, which is one step removed from the emotional abuse of disunion and the separation of hearts.
On the other side of things, many judges in domestic court rulings show a clear bias of the mother automatically being the better parent than the father, simply because she is the mother. This is a belief not supported by fact and research, but prevails in many decisions about child custody. This thinking by authority figures validates in the minds of kids that when it comes to emotional savvy and nurturing, men are lesser beings. What contempt for children and the relationship they could have had with their fathers.
The worst long term effect of chronic emotional abuse and contempt is that the victim internalizes the abusive treatment, comes to believe they are bad or defective and thus the abuse is their fault. They deserve what they are getting. This sets up the cycle of victimization psychology in which abused persons seek out abusive emotional situations (at work, in marriage and friendship) because that is all they know. Abuse then, ironically, becomes the abused person’s normal, comfort zone.
How to deal with all this? Call me Paul W. Anderson, PhD, 843-422-1408. Let’s talk about a plan of redemption and restoration of confidence, a plan for good self-care.
For immediate support for emotional and physical abuse, contact Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (CODA). 843-770-1070
“Love Should Never Hurt!”
Paul W. Anderson, PhD: 843-422-1408. Help with contempt in marriage.