On the Defensive?

We hear many conversations between spouses, partners, and family members. And what do we hear a lot? People defending something.

March 27, 2021

As coaches and leaders of relationship workshops, we hear many conversations between spouses, partners, and family members.

And what do we hear a lot? People defending something.

We hear people defending themselves from judgments. (“I didn’t mean to insult you!”)

We hear people defending their point of view. (“NO, it didn’t happen that way. What really happened was….”)

We hear people defending their emotions. (“I have a right to feel the way I feel.”)

Even in what people didn’t say, we find that they’re defending someone. (“I didn’t tell him about that, because I didn’t want him to be upset.”)

And under all that defending, what do we hear? We hear fear.

You see, whenever you start defending yourself, defending your partner, or even defending your relationship, there must be some fear present – in the background or in your face. Perhaps it’s the fear of being judged or criticized; perhaps it’s the fear of seeing your partner unhappy; perhaps it’s the fear of your relationship ending and leaving you alone and unhappy.

Ironically, although fear must be prompting all that defensiveness, we notice that most of the time, the fear goes unexpressed. So many words of defense, and so few words honestly and openly expressing our fear of what we’re defending against!

If you look in your own experience, how much of your speaking is defensive? And when you’re withholding something from your partner, what are you defending against?

We’ve never found that defensiveness coincides with the enjoyment of being related. When you’re defending yourself, your partner or your relationship, you haven’t got much attention left for celebrating, loving, or just basking in the joy of being related.

The next time you find yourself on the defensive, maybe you can pause, notice the fear that has you defending yourself (or your loved one, or your relationship) and simply express the fear. “You know, I’m afraid that….”

We’d love to hear what happens next.

Paul & Carol

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