Familiarity Breeds Contempt In Relationships (9 Possible Reasons)

Now and then, we come across phrases that make us rethink how we go about our lives and interactions with other human beings. ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is one of such phrases that give me this feeling. 

It almost feels like an irony because anyone would expect that familiarity should bond people together. However, in this context, the saying insinuates that being around someone for too long can lead to loss of love and more resentment, as the case may be.

As humans who are always out to protect ourselves, having heard this phrase, our next move would be to avoid getting familiar with people as advised by Robert Greene in the 48 laws of power. Greene proposes that we use absence to increase honor. 

While this law might be useful when dealing with coworkers and other external people in our lives, it is not so practical for couples, especially in marriages.

Therefore, when it comes to relationships and marriages, the solution is not to minimize your presence. Instead, we must seek to understand why couples lose interest. With our understanding, we can begin to enjoy our partners’ company without fear of losing their respect

In this article, I will be taking you through 9 reasons why they say familiarity causes disdain between a husband and wife.

9 Reasons Why They Say Familiarity Can Breed Contempt

1. Reveals imperfections

At the start of a new union, it is easy for us to assume that our partners are perfect. You see, when going on a date, we make efforts to present our best qualities; we want to be desirable and perfect in the eyes of our partners. 

Unfortunately, there are various layers to a person, and it is impossible to uncover all these layers after just a few dates or months. When we have been with a person for a long time, these imperfections bubble to the surface, and at this point, we may begin to get irritated. Or, worse, consider them undeserving of our love and attention. 

One way to avoid this altogether will be to approach each individual as an imperfect being. That way, when their imperfections are revealed, it doesn’t come off as new knowledge but as something we have been expecting.

2. There is a blur in boundaries

In some marriages today, people struggle with respecting personal boundaries. The concept of becoming one with your partner tends to be misconstrued to mean that you are expected to have one voice and thought towards every subject matter. Unfortunately, this concept is not practical; it makes us lose our individuality and leads to disrespect.

Setting and respecting healthy boundaries in a marriage is one way to have a lasting and scorn-free relationship with your spouse. Irrespective of how long you have been together, you must try not to control your partner’s thoughts or behavior in an aggressive or manipulative way. 

Remember, boundaries allow us to take responsibility for our actions, and it is also a form of self-care. 

3. Boredom

People stand by the saying that familiarity breeds contempt in relationships because when we are familiar with a person, we are susceptible to becoming bored. As humans, we are naturally insatiable, and this does not only happen in marriage or relationships. For instance, one minute we want a job, the next minute we are bored and want to quit or switch career paths.

This is how we feel in relationships. At the start, we are excited about the novelty of marriage, then comes the honeymoon phase and the fun of setting up a home. Afterward, we have to settle into a routine, and this is where boredom sets. 

However, if we acknowledge our insatiable nature as humans and view marriage as a journey with highs and lows, it will be easier to appreciate every stage of your union.

4. Things are taken for granted

things are taken for granted

Consciously or unconsciously, it is easy to take things for granted when you have been with a person for quite something. We take our marriage vows for granted and assume that our wife or husband will always be there, irrespective of how we treat them. We see this play out every day with the way people treat their family compared to how they will treat a stranger

I have noticed that we are more likely to use harsh words on our spouses or siblings than we would on any other person, and this is because we believe they are family and family do not abandon each other. 

By taking your wife or husband’s feelings for granted, you stand the risk of brewing scorn and disdain. So, learn to maintain the same respect and consideration that you did at the start of your union.

5. Assumptions take a seat

I once witnessed a friend and his wife argue on valentine’s day because he did not get her anything. On the husband’s part, he ‘assumed’ she did not care for valentine’s day presents. While on the wife’s part, she also assumed he would get all the subtle hints she had been giving. The thing is, both parties had made wrongful assumptions

You should avoid assuming that you know all about your partner because you have been with someone for many years. This makes us lazy communicators and dims the desire to know them better. You should know that your partner may not be the same person they were five years ago or even a month ago. 

6. We keep scores

Have you ever felt the need to compare other people’s relationships to yours or assumed they had better partners than you? I’m sure many of us have all felt this way at least once in our lives. Nine out of ten times, we think this way because we believe our partner is irredeemable. 

When you are in a long-term relationship, it is easy to start keeping scores of all the times your spouse has erred and all the times we have had to sacrifice for them. At this point, we forget that love should be unconditional, and keeping scores will only breed resentment

So, if you want to avoid familiarity from breeding disdain, you must learn to forgive wholeheartedly and quit dwelling in the past. 

7. A shift in priorities

Depending on how you treat your relationship, time can be an ally or an adversary. My point is, years of living together can make you love and appreciate your partner more or leave you feeling resentful, and all this depends on how you prioritize your relationship.

A couple that fails to prioritize their relationship tends to shift their focus towards other things like career and money. They are then unable to meet each other’s needs. However, when people feel valued and prioritized by their partners, such relationships tend to thrive. In a nutshell, disdain is an emotional reaction to not feeling loved and disrespected.

8. Less efforts

less efforts

Similar to couples in long-term relationships taking things for granted, another reason is that couples stop trying. Think of first dates or the early times of a relationship; it is usually easy to see that both spouses were making an effort to impress each other. However, as time passes, those efforts have been on a decline. The question remains why?

At the start of your relationship, there is the fear of losing your partner. So, there is a need to be on your ‘A’ game at all times. Now that you are married, marriage has given you some sense of security into believing that the person will love you unconditionally and stick with you regardless. 

While this may be true, it is only fair that you continue to put in the effort to look good for your partner and remain kind. It shows that you value them, and it makes loving you easy.

9. Less accountability

Every healthy marriage’s ultimate goal is to build intimacy while upholding a mutual value and outcome. Therefore, when people cannot take ownership or hold their partners accountable for their actions, it becomes more challenging to achieve such a goal. 

Unfortunately, many people do not see the need to remain accountable to a long-term partner. For instance, after a quarrel, instead of taking ownership of the wrongful words or actions, they choose to stay silent and sweep things under the rug. 

This is done with hopes that they will get over things and a natural reconciliation will happen. Not only is this a wrong approach to communication, but it also breeds disdain over time because a wound can only heal if you face it.


How do you avoid familiarity breeds contempt in a relationship?

Contempt in relationships happens when a person does not feel their partner’s love; it is an emotional reaction to neglect. Therefore, if you want to avoid such feelings, you must make a conscious effort into prioritizing your partner and not neglect their needs. 

Does familiarity breed contempt?

There is no definite answer to this because familiarity will only breed contempt if both partners are selfish and disrespectful to each other. On the other hand, when two people love and care about each other’s needs, familiarity will improve intimacy and love.

What dies the phrase familiarity breeds contempt mean?

The first record of this phrase was in Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee, and it implies that the longer you stay with a person or, the more things you know about a person, the less value you will have for them. 

What causes contempt in a relationship?

Contrary to the notion that familiarity breeds contempt, I like to believe that contempt in relationships happens when couples turn away from each other and take things for granted. It is rather unfortunate that some people behave this way after the conquest of love has been achieved and comfortable with their partners

What does having contempt for someone mean?

When you have disdain for someone, you do not regard them or love them, and as such, you are openly disrespectful and consider them worthless. It could also mean that you dislike the person and consider them unworthy of love.

To Conclude

While people will want to ascribe familiarity as the reason for disdain, it is important to note that it is the things we do to our partners over time that breed disdain. I hope you enjoyed going through this list and found the points helpful. If yes, please don’t forget to share and leave a comment behind.

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