chapter  54
4 Pages

Pragmatic/Experiential Therapy for Couples

ByBrent J. Atkinson

In my initial sessions with them, it was clear that Mary and Fred each believed that the other was mostly to blame for the distance that had crept into their relationship. Fred believed that Mary was a negative, controlling person who was emotionally immature; Mary believed that Fred was self-centered and emotionally stunted. Like most people, Fred and Mary had no idea that their internal beliefs could paralyze their relationship, but the evidence is clear: beliefs that fuel feelings of contempt are highly toxic to relationships. Contempt arises when one believes him-or herself to be on a higher plane of maturity than one’s partner. It is the single most potent predictor of negative relationship outcomes that has been identifi ed to date. When contempt takes a foothold, relationships rarely survive. Studies suggest that even the most well-intentioned person cannot swim upstream against the current of his or her partner’s contempt for long.