Study: Sarcasm, Contempt Ending Marriages

  • Studies show the benefits of sarcasm in social interaction, but others point to it as a double-edged sword, breeding conflict.
  • Marital conflict and divorce can arise from sarcasm and contempt, according to research.
  • Bringing sarcasm into divorce proceedings is never the answer.

Many couples find it to be innocent. They find it to be part of their colorful banter and a central part of their enjoyment of one another. They may find it to be the spice that keeps the relationship interesting, which can be necessary in a long-lasting commitment like marriage.

Of what is being spoken of, is sarcasm.

Similar to that of a magnet, sarcasm has the ability to bond or repel others that come into contact with it. It can be a central part of one’s relationship or friendship with another person, and while studies have shown it to be professionally, mentally, and psychologically beneficial, studies also have pointed at its ability to end relationships and marriages.

Benefits of sarcasm

Because of how differently individuals perceive verbal sentiments, it stands to reason that decoding sarcasm is an important function, if one is to flourish because of it. According to research published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal, sarcasm is a nuanced, beneficial way of interaction.

“To create or decode sarcasm, both the expresser and recipient of sarcasm need to overcome the contradiction (i.e., psychological distance) between the literal and actual meaning of the sarcastic expression, said Francesca Gino of the Harvard Business School. “This is a process that activates and is facilitated by abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking.”

Research on marital conflict

However, its uses as a creative and beneficial social vehicle do not stop it from being a double-edged sword. The same study that found it to be a nuanced, beneficial way of interaction also found it to be an instigator of conflict. In two of the four models of the study, they found that both the sarcasm expresser and recipients reported more conflict following a simulated sarcastic conversation or after recalling a sarcastic exchange, while still demonstrating enhanced creativity.

The increase in conflict and how often it occurs can breed contempt in a marriage. Sarcasm, and related behaviors like name-calling and eye-rolling are considered to be the number one predictor of divorce, according to psychologist and marriage researcher John Gottman, of The Gottman Institute.

According to Gottman, the marital conflicts that come from sarcasm and contempt begin with the introduction of the discussion, which he refers to as a “harsh startup.”

“When contempt begins to overwhelm your relationship, you tend to forget entirely your partner’s positive qualities, at least while you’re feeling upset,” said Gottman, in his book, “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.” “You can’t remember a single positive quality or act.”

If the contempt sarcasm becomes a staple in most conversations, interactions, and thoughts that a married couple may have, it can become tiresome, and genuineness can be lost. Without honesty and genuineness in a married couple’s social interactions, it can cause one or both couples to be frustrated with the social standards that have been set in the relationship. Miscommunication and misinterpretation can easily occur, and a relationship built around a constant surge of inadequate interactions is not sustainable.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Avoid sarcasm in divorce

These types of actions breed the contempt necessary for a divorce, and if the sarcasm and contempt continue as divorce proceedings begin, it can make life difficult for an attorney, as well. For example, if mediation is occurring and one party states a sarcastic demand and the attorney does not read it as a sarcastic comment, taking it for face value, it can further the rift in the proceedings, preventing anything realistic and constructive from being accomplished during this difficult time.

Continuing the contemptuous and sarcastic social behavior around your attorney during a divorce will only further complicate an increasingly difficult situation. In order to represent you, your interests, and your future, an attorney needs to be able to recognize your intentions and goals. They cannot recognize your intentions or goals when you’re socially distancing yourself from the matter at hand, through sarcasm.

In order to make any interaction of substance last, be it a marriage, a relationship, or an interaction with an attorney, you need to be genuine, in order to make what you really feel known. Hiding behind contemptuous and sarcastic behaviors will only misdirect the recipient and prevent your true feelings and intentions from being known.

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