Tag Archives: disrespect

Contempt, Lying & Outside Relationships

“Song of Maui” by Mimi Stuart ©

My boyfriend is texting, calling, and attempting to meet up with his ex or another new girl every time we have a (terrible) fight and he lies about them. I know he’s sick and tired of our constant fights and we have issues such as contempt/disrespect from my side and communication/withdrawal/leadership issues from his side.

Should I just be a big girl and ignore these behaviors as there is no physical cheating yet? Are these behaviors harmless?

M

Dear M,

The behaviors you are each engaged in are very destructive to the relationship.

Contempt and disrespect

You say you treat your boyfriend with contempt and disrespect. No relationship can withstand contempt for long. Often people are disrespectful because they blame their frustrations on their partner and don’t know how to effectively express those frustrations.

Let’s focus on you. You obviously do not feel good about yourself and your behavior in this relationship. Consider John Gottman’s research that shows that if 80% of communication is not positive between a couple, that relationship will disintegrate. As you really only have control over your own conduct, eliminate your disrespectful behavior and your life will improve whether or not you stay with your boyfriend.

To sustain a good relationship, you need to clearly and respectfully communicate your needs and expectations, while actively listening to your partner’s point of view. You need to learn to communicate effectively and respectfully, through counseling or effective communication classes, such as Marshall Rosenberg’s “nonviolent communication,” where you learn to express your desires without putting the other person on the defensive. It is very self-empowering to be able to clearly express yourself without judgment, contempt, or manipulation.

Seeking outside relationships and lying

I can see why your boyfriend would want to seek validation from others if you are treating him with contempt. But pursuing others without breaking up first and then lying to you afterwards shows that he is willing to deceive you and deny you your own life choices for the sake of his convenience.

You cannot trust someone who wants to continue a relationship while secretly exploring new ones. You cannot enjoy a committed relationship with someone who does not have the courage to be honest with you.

Thus, I suggest leaving this relationship to the realm of life experience and learning, and instead focus on the way you handle yourself in future relationships.

What now?

If I were in your situation, I would start by taking responsibility for my own behavior. If you find yourself treating anyone with contempt, apologize immediately and show a willingness to stop that harmful behavior. Find a positive way to express your needs and desires.

In the future, the main thing is that both partners learn to listen to one another without judgment and argument. You should be able to discuss anything, including hurt feelings and even breaking up while treating the other person humanely. Focus on speaking candidly in a compassionate way in order to make the relationship work.

Good luck.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Contempt:
“You’re always scowling at me!”

"Forlorn Heart" Julia Louis-Dreyfus, by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Contempt breaks the heart, because it implies that one person considers the other as undeserving of respect. Studies have shown that people who make sour facial expressions when their spouses talk are likely to be separated within four years. The dissolution of the relationship may take longer, but contempt will steadily and painfully eat away at a relationship, even when there are a few good times in between. In an atmosphere of contempt, partners find it difficult to remember any positive qualities about each other. So the vicious cycle of disdain and hurt gets worse and more irreversible with time.

It is crucial to break this cycle before it gets a stranglehold on the relationship. If your partner talks down to you, express your desire and need to be treated with love and respect. Be firm, but compassionate enough to be listened to. Try saying something like, “You may not be aware of this or mean anything by it, but you look as though you dislike me. Your facial expression makes me feel defensive and bad. I would love it if you could look at me with love and kindness.”

If your partner doesn’t get it, show him or her the research on relationships and contempt. Get any of John Gottman’s books, such as “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” that show the mathematical research on the effects of contempt on a relationship. Tell your partner that life is too short to spend time together if both of you are not willing to try to bring the best of yourselves to the relationship.

While you can’t control another person, you do have control over what kind of behavior you are willing to accept, and whom you spend time with. If your partner knows that you have the desire and courage to leave an unsatisfactory relationship you will retain power over your own life. If you’re determined not to let contemptuous behavior slide, your partner will be hard pressed to continue to treat you poorly. If the behavior continues despite your ongoing efforts, the only solution may be to limit or end the relationship before heartache and misery overwhelm you.

A loving relationship based on respect requires a sense of self-respect on your part. People who exude self-respect by stopping or withdrawing from others who talk down to them are more attractive than those who accept contempt. Expecting respect can be a more powerful aphrodisiac than unconditional acceptance. But it has to be backed up by the courage to remove yourself from an unhealthy relationship.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

John Gottman’s website.

Read “Criticism and Contempt.”

“How can I teach my son to be respectful and caring and to love himself?”

"R E S P E C T" by Mimi Stuart ©  Live the Life you Desire

“R E S P E C T” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

“When my son was two, his dad went to prison due to his strong drug addiction. Because I felt so sorry for my son, I over-spent on material things and became his best friend. I was in denial that my actions would hurt my son, and myself.

Now my son is very selfish, rude, and angry at the world, and he is non-sociable. His world is restricted to video games on the internet. He has a very high IQ, but he is overweight, and while in school, he was bullied, which drove him almost to suicide. So I took him out of school, and decided to home school him. He didn’t learn any social skills.

I am disabled, and I am overweight as well. I am trying to save enough of money to get us an elliptic stepper exerciser, but they are expensive.

Now I have a selfish, angered, lazy son who is rude to me; he wants things and does not want to give. How can I teach my son to be respectful, show he cares and to love himself?”

Hi Tina,

You have plenty of challenges in your life without beating yourself up about the past. At this point, you need to focus on each day and look to the future.

Let’s look at four reasons teenagers and children at any age tend to be rude, disrespectful and uncaring, and what to do about each one:

1. The parent lacks self-respect. A parent who demonstrates little self–respect receives little respect.

Self-respect involves valuing yourself and not allowing others to treat you poorly. You need to value what’s best for your long-term fulfillment and work each day toward improving your own life. You also need to expect respectful treatment, and have appropriate consequences each time your child is rude to you.

For instance, when he demands things, say something like “If you want something you need to be respectful and contribute to this household.” Then make sure you give him what he wants only if it is necessary, he is polite, and he contributes to the family (chores, etc.) It’s important that you as the parent make such demands respectfully so as to set a good example.

2. The child knows no boundaries.
The second cause of rudeness in children is parents’ over-indulging them and neglecting to set boundaries. The parent needs to be able to say “no” and mean it, but without a condescending attitude.

Parents who need to be liked or become their child’s friend find it difficult to have reasonable expectations and set boundaries. Indulgence and lack of boundaries intended to prop up a child’s self-esteem do the opposite—they cause increased distress and anxiety in the child.

In contrast, parents who set reasonable boundaries and give reasonable consequences are teaching their child self-discipline in the face of instant gratification and temptation. Self-discipline is what enables children to persevere in the world despite set backs. Self-esteem is built on a foundation of perseverance.

3. The child needs more autonomy. All children strive for independence and separation from their parents and need to push the parent away if the parent does not encourage the development of independence.

If you give too much advice and keep them too close, they will not feel good about themselves and they will lose respect for you, often becoming rude, surly and more demanding. Over-protection angers children because implies that they are incapable and it restricts their ability to grow. Ironically, over-protection makes the child more vulnerable and incapable of taking care of themselves. As a result, over-protected children end up craving independence while fearing it at the same time.

In extreme cases when a child is at risk of suicide, there needs to be intervention and counseling. But continuous over-protection will only increase their vulnerability when they do have to venture out into the world.

In general, when we allow our children to deal with the normal difficulties of life, they develop their abilities to deal with the risks, dangers, and bullies that life has to offer. The parent has to realize that the child will get hurt, but will develop ways of dealing with painful incidents if given appropriate amounts autonomy. Ideally, autonomy, good decision-making, and self-preservation develop gradually as a result of the parent gradually giving the child more independence along with more responsibility and accountability.

4. The child seeks power. The fourth cause of rudeness is a need to lash out as a way to experience power because the child does not feel self-empowered in any other way.

A healthy way for a child to become self-empowered is to develop the ability to set goals and achieve them, which again requires perseverance in the face of difficulties. Parents need to have reasonable expectations that their children become more responsible and face reasonable difficulties on their own, while they also hold them accountable for their actions.

In summary, a parent sets the stage for a child to develop self-respect, a precursor to being caring and respectful, by doing the following:

1. developing their own self-respect,
2. setting reasonable boundaries and issuing consequences,
3. giving the child gradually-increasing amounts of autonomy along with responsibility, and
4. expecting the child to work hard, challenge him- or herself, and treat others well.

Recommendations

At this point, I would focus on improving your life, expecting more from your son, and not being afraid to say “no” to him. Avoid argument while focusing on daily improvement of your life.

Rather than buying an elliptic stepper exerciser, you may want to consider going for regular walks. Walking is free and it gets you outdoors in fresh air and among other people, which encourages healthy interaction with the world. You may want to download books from the library onto an mp3 player, which will make it easier and more enjoyable to take longer walks. By demonstrating to your son that your are learning, improving your life, and that you can leave the house frequently despite the discomfort you feel in doing so, you will role model your ability to pursue challenges on your own. I would also encourage or require your son to go back to school and/or work, or some other social environment where he challenges himself to grow and engage with other people.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen
@alisonpoulsen

https://www.facebook.com/dralisonpoulsen

Watch “How to Respond to Rudeness: ‘I TOLD you to get it for me!!!’”

Read “Angry Adult Child:
‘The years of terror from my mother has made me make sure that my son knows I love him. I fear, more than anything, his total rejection. HOWEVER, he often seems angry at me.’”

Read “My teenager is selfish and rude! How did I raise a child like this?”

Angry Adult Child:
“The years of terror from my mother has made me make sure that my son knows I love him. I fear, more than anything, his total rejection. HOWEVER, he often seems angry at me.”

"Mo Air"—Jonny Moseley by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Loving vs. Yearning

Having suffered rejection by your parent, it’s understandable that you would fear becoming a mean, rejecting parent yourself, and that you’d want to make sure your son knows that you love him.

Yet, your fierce desire to show acceptance and love may cause you to go overboard, and to lose your personal authority and ability to set boundaries.

When parents are unwilling to stand up for themselves and when their tone of voice betrays a longing for acceptance, children sense it and become burdened by it. Some will respond with appeasement, others with annoyance and anger.


Respect vs. Fear of Rejection

Most parents don’t want to be rejected by their children. Yet, when their fear of rejection is so strong that it outweighs their own self-respect — “I fear, more than anything, total rejection from my son” — they may cheat their children of the gift of having respect for their parents.

It’s wonderful to be loved by your parent. It’s also beneficial to have respect for your parent. They are not mutually exclusive. However, when you crave a child’s acceptance too much — at the expense of your own personal authority — you invite your child to lose respect for you.

Parent vs. Doormat

There is a world of difference between rejecting a child and rejecting rude behavior.

It’s important for children of all ages to learn to respect boundaries and to have some consequences when they are disrespectful. It doesn’t do anyone any good when you allow others to rage at you. You’re doing them a favor in cutting short their rudeness, because they generally will not feel good after being angry and mean.

They need to be called on their behavior with an “Excuse me?” or “It’s tough to talk with you when you sound this angry.” Or you can say, “If something’s bothering you, tell me, but be more respectful.” Your own tone of voice is highly important — be firm, without pleading. Be willing to end the conversation if they start battering you verbally by saying, “It’s unpleasant for me to listen to your berating me with this tone of voice. We can talk later.”

Not only will you curb your child’s rudeness, you will be setting an example of how to set boundaries firmly without being harsh.

More Space vs. Engulfment

Often, all that’s needed is a little more distance, a more impersonal attitude, and less inquiry. Just imagine a good cocktail waitress at a busy bar. She would be friendly, but not overly-personal and inquisitive.

By calling less frequently, asking fewer questions, and giving less advice, you can give your irritated adult child the room needed to feel independent and free of the parental umbilical cord. Often more emotional separation, rather than fusion, promotes appreciation.

Practice

Like rehearsing for a play, it’s very helpful to practice the demeanor and attitude you want to develop. If you have a partner and/or friends who are willing, have them listen to you practice speaking in a more impersonal way. Find examples on TV or among your friends who have the desired tone and approach, and emulate them.

Once you are able to pull back your yearning to prove your love as well as your tolerance of unacceptable behavior you will realize a grand pay-off, namely mutual respect — the very basis for a loving relationship. You’ll also feel less temptation to be mean, because when you stand up for yourself when there’s only mild disrespect, you can do so without big resentment and drama.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “My teenager is selfish and rude! How did I raise a child like this?”

Read “Over-mothering: ‘It’s hard to be firm with my child, because he’s very sensitive.’”

Respect each other:
“He’s always talking down to me.”

"Garden of Eden" by Mimi Stuart
Live the Life you Desire

The most indispensable quality in a relationship is respect. When two people deeply respect each other as human beings, they can deal with a lot of challenges and differences of opinion.

The greatest threat to mutual respect is a spouse’s intense needs and fears, which often manifest themselves as controlling or demeaning behavior. While it’s fine to disagree or to be angry, there must be an underlying sense of respect for each other.

It is absolutely critical not to talk to one another disrespectfully. When one person starts speaking disdainfully, with a sneer or a sense of superiority, the other must stop it immediately. It’s up to you to make it perfectly clear that you won’t take it.

When someone goes after you like a judgmental parent, you have to set a boundary. Don’t respond to the advice or accusation. Say meaningfully, “Please, do not speak to me that way,” “Don’t do that,” or “Excuse me?”

Love based on respect requires a sense of self-respect on your part. Moreover, people who exude self-respect by stopping others from crossing a line or talking down to them are more attractive than those who accept it. Expecting respect is a more powerful aphrodisiac than unconditional positive regard.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Inner critics attract critical partners. Why does my partner criticize me all the time?”

Read “I always fall madly in love; we do everything together; and then, out of the blue, I get dumped.”