Print out the following and write your answers.


1. Describe in two or three sentences what you do not like about your partner's behavior.






2. Describe your partner's intention (what he or she was thinking or meaning to do) in his or her problem behavior.





3. Describe your partner's perspective about his or her problem behavior. How would he or she describe it?





4. What mitigating (not excusatory) circumstances were in your partner's behavior? For example, was he or she tired, upset, depressed, anxious, had a bad day, etc.?





5. What is your partner's typical reaction when he or she disagrees with you?





6. What is your typical reaction when your partner disagrees with you?





7. In the table below, check the things that you and your partner do when you disagree or complain about each other's behavior.



Your Partner


How your partner would describe you

Listen attentively




Make a sincere effort to understand and sympathize




Reflect the speaker's meaning




Maintain an attitude or respect




Try to find some truth to what the other said




Moralize, preach, or lecture




Order, direct, demand




Give unsolicited advice, solutions, interpretation, analysis




Harsh, patronizing, demeaning, sarcastic, or dismissive tone




Grimace, grit teeth, roll eyes, sigh






8. What is the positive - to - negative ratio of your interactions with your partner on a typical day? Specifically, how many positive interactions are there for each one that is negative? Circle your answer.


9:1 (positives for each negative)       4:1

8:1                                                3:1   

7:1                                                2:1

6:1                                                1:1   

5:1                                                1:x (at least two negatives for each positive)





In your response to question 1 above, count the number of negative expressions that are about the personality of your partner (e.g. selfish, passive - aggressive, irresponsible, destructive, lazy, abusive, bulldozing, hysterical, unreasonable, controlling, rejecting, spoiled brat - crybaby, craves pity) and compare it to the number of negative expressions about your partner's behavior (looks at me when I speak to him, helps me around the house, talks is a loud voice, etc.)


Number of Personality descriptions


Number of Behavior descriptions


Subtract the number of behavior descriptions from the number of personality descriptions


Total (any positive remainder equals the same number of contempt points)



In your response to question 2 above, did you describe your partner's intention has positive (he/she meant well) or negative (he/she meant to hurt, demean, ignore, disregard, reject)?


Positive        Negative           (“negative” equals one contempt point)


Did your partner agree with your description of his or her perspective?


Yes             No                    (“no” equals one contempt point)


Were you able to identify mitigating circumstances in your partner's behavior?


Yes              No                    (“no” equals one contempt point)


In your response to question number 5, did you identify your partner's typical response when disagreeing with you as positive or negative?


Positive        Negative             (“negative” equals one contempt point)


In your response to question number 6, did you identify your typical response when disagreeing with your partner as positive or negative?

Positive         Negative              (“negative” equals one contempt point)


In #7, did you check more positives (top five check boxes) than negatives (bottom five check boxes) for your partner? Yes No


For yourself? Yes No


For your partner's description of you? Yes No


(Each “no” equals one contempt point)


In response to question #8, a ratio of 9:1 means your relationship is probably happy. 5:1 means it is neutral. Less than 1:1 means there is contempt in your relationship.


Analysis: Three or more contempt points indicate trouble for your relationship that needs immediate correction.




Contempt, a product of resentment unmodified by compassion,  produces a toxic reaction within you, ruining your physical and psychological health. In produces just as toxic a reaction in your partner and children. The presence of chronic contempt in a relationship predicts failure of the marriage with over 90% accuracy. It often leads to outbursts of anger, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and domestic violence. Anger management courses and classes fail to control contempt. 



Complaints vs. Contempt

Complaints are about behavior; contempt is about the character of another person. In complaints you identify certain behaviors as problems for you; contempt identifies the character or personality of the other person as the problem. As soon as you do that, you make change virtually impossible. Your partner can change behavior, but not his or her personality.



Dissolving Contempt with Compassion

  • Recognize that contempt is a violation of your core value
  • Decide that you do not want to be contemptuous
  • Be humble (list the things about you that make you hard to live with)
  • Give the best possible interpretation to your partner's behavior
  • Be more curious about your partner's perspective; try to see the world from his/her eyes
  • Accept your partner's personality completely; concentrate on the behavior changes you want
  • Think of what would help you change your behavior – understanding, sympathy, patience, etc. – and provide those for your partner
  • Be more compassionate.