Day 17 – Dealing with Defensiveness

30-Day Couples Challenge

“Guilt and defensiveness are bricks in a wall against which we all flounder; they serve none of our futures.”

Audre Lorde

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Criticism and defensiveness often go hand in hand. If one partner criticizes the other, these criticisms are often met with defensiveness.

When you find yourself being defensive, although the feeling may be valid, expressing the feelings beneath the defensiveness while also taking responsibility for even a nugget of truth, will help to de-escalate the conversation.

Example: If my husband criticizes me by saying “you are always waiting until the last minute to do things and then we are late!”… I am going to feel blamed and attacked.

What I may hear him saying is “you are the problem.”

Impulse tells me to defend myself, as opposed to sharing my feelings. “Yeah, well I wouldn’t be doing things last minute if you ever helped me out around here!”

Here’s how you can respond to criticism without being defensive.

1. Acknowledge their stance,

2. take responsibility for your part,

3. share your feelings,

4. ask for what you need.

It may sound something like this…

“I understand that I am often doing things last minute, but when you say things in that way, I feel blamed and attacked. I certainly can learn to manage time better. It would also be really helpful if when we are crunched for time, you help share in the dinner cleanup.”

We will not always communicate in this way, however utilizing one of those four antidotes can help in de-escalation.

Today I’d like you to think about what activates you to respond defensively to your partner.

Does this seem to be a theme in your life? Does it hit on an insecurity of yours?

Are you interpreting a negative message attached to what you are defending against?

If you feel safe, share these things with your partner. Help them to understand what triggers your defensiveness. Focus less on what was said, and more on what you felt.

Click to watch the video and download this PDF to access your task for the day.

Call our office at 330-673-5812 to get scheduled with one of our skilled clinicians and learn how to respond to your partner in ways that will be understood.