Animosity and Antidotes

Animosity or .....  
        Contempt, disgust, hostility, resentment, and disrespect

A thriving friendship and animosity (contempt) cannot exist at the same time. Lack of attention to the friendship factor of marriage often grows into animosity. [see our last post of friendship in marriage]

After years of marriage research, John Gottman has found that contempt is the #1 predictor of divorce.

When we communicate contempt, we exhibit disrespect and disgust. We may use hostile humor, sarcasm, mockery, name-calling, eye-rolling, or sneering to convey our disgust for the other person.

Contempt leads to more conflict, not towards reconciliation. It’s impossible to resolve anything when one person is sending the message that the other person is disgusting to them.

How does that happen?

One of two factors loom largely in the mind of a person where animosity and contempt breed.

1. If I struggle with my own sense of self-worth, then I will receive remarks made by my spouse as criticism. Since I already doubt my own value, questions or comments are heard as attacks. I see any communication that is not overtly positive as being negative.

2. The other factor can be an intolerance of differences in another person. I view my abilities and strengths as exceeding those of my spouse. Or I can’t fathom how that trait can exist in another person.

As a married couple, we are certain to have many differences in our personalities. Those differences can become wedges between us or magnets drawing us closer.

As I focus on the distasteful habits of the other person, I build more disgust and contempt for that person.

BUT we don’t have to live in that way. 

Antidotes ….

The antidotes to animosity are available to all!

Being willing to take a small step in the direction of my spouse can douse the flame of contempt and nurture friendship in our marriage.

1. If the resentment has grown from hearing critical words, I can step back and evaluate what I hear. 
  • Are they the words that are actually spoken or is my perception of the motive behind the words? 
  • Am I wanting something from my spouse that I am not saying but am expecting?
  • Am I expecting my spouse to give me a sense of self-worth and value that only God can instill in me? 

I can assume good will when I hear something that sounds hurtful. Instead of assuming a negative connotation, I can ask for clarification. Friends believe the best in each other. In lieu of affirmation, I can forgive my spouse for the hurt. 

Friendship flourishes at the fountain of forgiveness. 
William Arthur Ward 

2. In our differences, I can choose to focus on the habits of my spouse that I don’t like or I can accept them and focus on the positive aspects. The choice is up to me. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7)

Animosity does not have to be the norm in marriage. A better way....

  • Building a culture of fondness and appreciation is an antidote to animosity. 
  • Looking at my spouse with caring, compassion, and admiration leads to fondness. 
  • Offering thanks and gratitude demonstrates appreciation.

Fourth in a series of Marriage Problems and Solutions
Friendship vs. Coexistence

Friendship vs. Coexistence

It is when we do things together that friendship springs up…. 
Friends look in the same direction. C.S. Lewis

When we married over 40 years ago, we could both say without hesitation that we were close friends. Yes, there was a romantic interest that sparked between us, but first came several common interests.

During the early child-rearing years, we neglected our friendship at times, while trying to juggle kids, home, and career. It soon became apparent that our marriage needed our friendship to thrive.

Based on thousands of assessments, Prepare-Enrich research reveals that the #1 strength of happy couples is that they feel very close to each other.

In any other relationship, how would we define friendship?

A friend is someone with whom I can be myself - the good, the bad, and the ugly - and the person will still love and accept me. We share common interests and speak honestly from the heart without fear of criticism or retribution.

To be friends, you have to spend time together and get to know each other more personally. You care about the well-being of the other person. You see the best in him and want the best for him.

To develop friendship in marriage, the same principles apply. You and your spouse won’t be alike but you should be like-minded. You share common interests and values.

Being friends with your spouse doesn’t mean that your spouse is your only friend. Healthy friendships are not exclusive or based on neediness.

Developing friendship with your spouse must be intentional and takes time.

Neglecting the friendship factor in your marriage relationship grows animosity (see our next post) and isolation. Friendship can be renewed and strengthened!

Nurturing Friendship ….

Marriage is work but marriage should be fun too!

Nurturing friendship in marriage starts with the heart. Having a caring and compassionate heart for another person (most of all your spouse) is Biblical and is a choice we make.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, 
forgiving each other, 
just as in Christ God forgave you. 
Ephesians 4:32

These ideas can strengthen a marriage even if only one person is implementing them.

Suggestions:
  • Take time every day to connect, even it’s only 15 minutes. Share your day.
  • Respond to each other gently and kindly. 
  • Find at least one activity that you can enjoy doing together - without your children - and engage in it.
  • Take time to learn about an interest of your spouse, whether you share that interest or not. (For example - if your husband is a hunter, learn enough about it to talk to him. If your wife likes crafting, learn about her crafts.)
  • Accept your spouse’s differences and affirm their strengths. 
  • Be open with each other.

Second in a series of Marriage Problems and Solutions