Sarcasm, Sighs, and Other Contemptuous Things
By Laura Way
“Fighting” doesn’t really describe my marital conflict style. By nature, my husband and I are both fairly soft spoken, easygoing, and conflict averse. That being said, we can quickly go from chill and calm to snippy and sarcastic—zero to 60 in seconds.
The thing is, sarcasm can actually be a form of contempt, the feeling that something (or someone) is vile or worthless. It can also take the form of eye-rolling, mimicking, and hostile humor. It says “you are bad” instead of “an action was bad.”
And contempt is absolute poison to marriage.
Yet, when I’m feeling defensive or affronted, a subtle sense of superiority can translate to exasperated sighs, eye rolls, or smart-aleck remarks. It stings to realize my pride will use something as toxic and destructive as contempt for self-protection.
Even in high-stress situations, my husband and I have to make every effort to “use our words” (as we so often tell our children) and to use them carefully. Saying, “Love, I need some help with the kids. Can you please come?” during a meltdown will go down a lot smoother than, “Earth to Aubrey? Can you not hear this madness?”
Will we sometimes fail at this? Most definitely. So we make sure to repair after we slip up and make a point—outside tense moments—to think about the qualities we admire in each other. Over time, focusing energy (inwardly and outwardly) on our spouse’s positive traits and behaviors nourishes the relationship. And slows the speed on sarcasm slipping out.
The Good Stuff: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Action Points: Today, think of something specific you admire about your spouse and tell them! Be sure to treat them in a way that conveys your appreciation for things they do or who they are. If you catch yourself responding to your spouse with any trace of contempt, sincerely apologize and reaffirm your love and appreciation for them.
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