Indicators that things are NOT ok in your relationship…part 3 of 4.
#3 – Defensiveness
I think we are all pretty familiar with this one. It is very easy to get defensive when we feel criticized and I believe there are situations where defending ourselves is the right call. The problem is defensiveness usually shuts down conversation and definitely shuts down collaboration.
If you often find yourself in a defensive stance with your partner often, you might need to get some help figuring out why. Stress can absolutely cause us to react with defensiveness, especially if we feel like someone is asking us to do something and we don’t feel like we can say no without ramification. It is always much easier to see how someone else is being defensive than to reflect and see how we are being defensive.
If you often find yourself making excuses for your behavior, or justifying why it’s okay for you to act out in anger, but criticize and have no tolerance for your partner’s frustration, then you are likely being defensive and shutting down healthy communication and opportunities to grow closer to your partner. This is why this is a warning behavior that your relationship may be on the rocks.
But…there is hope!!
If you hear things like:
- “You never listen to me”
- “You always blame me”
- “Oh yeah, you’re ALWAYS right and I’m ALWAYS wrong, of course, I forgot!” (insert any sarcastic phrase)
Try not to get hung up on the all or nothing language and argue about that, because of course, we are never always or never anything, but if you argue about that, you are missing the point.
The point is your partner doesn’t feel heard, they feel blamed when they try to share how they’re feeling, and they are frustrated by your defending communication style. That’s the meat of those statements, and that’s what matters. If those things aren’t addressed, things will continue to deteriorate.
So, again, pause, reflect, tell you’re partner if you’re feeling defensive rather than just reacting defensively. If you say, “I’m feeling defensive right now and don’t know what to say to that” out loud, that might be a different enough response to create curiosity about why you feel defensive, rather than arguing about it. It’s ok if you don’t immediately know why you feel defensive. Just noticing it is a HUGE step that can move the conversation down a more productive and connecting path.
Ok, I hope that tidbit helps and if this resonates with you and you need some help figuring out what’s happening in your relationship, get in touch here! I’d love to help!