“Defensiveness is “self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in an attempt to ward off perceived attack…”
How defensive are you? Your partner? If you’re struggling in your relationship, your answer could be ‘very!’ Defensiveness shows up as quick trigger anger. It shows up in explaining why you are right and your partner’s recent critique is wrong. It shows up as blame. It shows up when you feel a victim, even though your partner is calmly trying to present his or her point of view to you.
Gottman describes defensiveness as ‘self-protection’ but it is self-protection in the very short term. Defensive responses end conversations or make them worse. They allow you to blame your partner rather than self-reflect in a way that could help you both. Repeated defensiveness encourages your partner to stop engaging with you. And you can’t love someone if you can’t engage with them positively.
Worse, defensiveness keeps you from listening (and learning) and from being listened to. You start to argue over who is right, rather than how to respond. You end up as adversaries, rather than partners. You can’t examine the issue at hand and resolve it because you aren’t on the same team.
Thinking objectively about yourself, could you become less defensive and more open to your partner?
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