Defensiveness In Couples

Uncover the complexities of defensiveness in the latest blog from Couples Therapy West Hollywood. We dissect the concept of defensiveness in relationships, its impact, and how to navigate it effectively. Drawing from expert insights, we provide a beginner-friendly guide to understanding this common conflict pattern. Learn how to transform your communication and foster healthier interactions in your relationships today."

O. Drakeford

7/28/20232 min read

At Couples Therapy West Hollywood, we deal with a lot of relationship conflict, and Defensiveness In Couples is one of the more common patterns of interacting that we see. Defensiveness is a common response in conflicts, often acting as a barrier to effective communication and resolution. It's one of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse," as termed by renowned relationship expert Dr. John Gottman, which are behaviors that predict relationship breakdowns. In this article, we'll delve into the concept of defensiveness, why it happens, and how we can manage it for healthier communication.

Understanding Defensiveness

Defensiveness is a reaction to perceived criticism or attack. When we feel defensive, we often respond in ways that shift the blame or deflect the criticism. For instance, if a partner asks, "Did you get the cat food?" a defensive response might be, "What do you mean? I did get it, you just didn't look in the cupboard." This response not only denies responsibility but also counterattacks by implying the partner didn't look properly.

While it's natural to want to defend ourselves when we feel attacked, defensiveness can hinder effective communication and problem-solving. It can create a cycle of blame and counter-blame, preventing us from addressing the real issue at hand.

Different Perspectives, Different Reactions

One way to understand defensiveness is to consider the concept of perspective. Imagine a clock held between two people. Each person sees a different side of the clock, and thus, has a different perspective. Similarly, in a conflict, each person has their own perspective based on their experiences, feelings, and beliefs. What one person perceives as an attack, the other might see as a simple question or comment.

When we feel defensive, it's often because we perceive the other person's words or actions as an attack from our side of the "clock." Recognizing this can help us respond more effectively. Instead of reacting defensively, we can take a moment to consider the other person's perspective and respond in a more understanding and constructive way.

Managing Defensiveness

So, how can we manage defensiveness in our relationships? Here are a few strategies:

  1. Pause and Breathe: When you feel defensive, take a moment to pause and breathe. This can help you calm down and respond more thoughtfully.

  2. Use a Code Word: Come up with a code word that you and your partner can use when things start to escalate. This can serve as a reminder to both of you to take a step back and approach the situation more calmly.

  3. Respond Softly and Kindly: Instead of reacting defensively, try to respond in a soft and kind manner. This can help de-escalate the situation and open up a more constructive conversation.

  4. Own Your Part: Take responsibility for your part in the conflict. This doesn't mean taking all the blame, but acknowledging your role can help break the cycle of defensiveness and counter-blame.

  5. Repair and Begin Again: If you've reacted defensively, it's never too late to repair the situation. Apologize, take ownership of your mistake, and make a commitment to do better.

Defensiveness can be a challenge in relationships, but with understanding and effort, we can learn to manage it. By recognizing our defensive reactions and working to respond more effectively, we can improve our communication and strengthen our relationships. At Couples Therapy West Hollywood we can help you work through defensiveness and work together to resolve conflict in a more manageable way.