Defensiveness is defined as being overly sensitive to or reacting very strongly to perceived criticism by your partner.
- Your partner suggests you might be talking a little too loud and you become hurt and immediately say “I am not talking too loud- you are overly sensitive”
- Your partner says you are grouchy and not much fun and you immediately defend yourself and attack back with “grow up..life is more than just having fun and playing games.”
- Your partner requests that you talk more to each other. You say “You knew I was like this when we got married. Why should I change now?”
Defensive partners are not psychologically open people – at least not in their relationship with you. They often live in their own private bubble and find that much energy is spent protecting themselves from you. Rather than being open to influence (which often means change) and honest feedback, they put up an emotional “force field” to keep you out.
Often an overly defensive partners will create you into a liar as you learn what to say or what to do so as not to upset them, rather than feeling sufficiently comfortable to reveal what you really think or feel about a situation.
Why is this harmful to Relationships?
- Defensiveness discourages honest communication between partners.
- Issues are never resolved. Instead they get re-cycled year after year.
- Defensive partners often play the victim role in relationships because they don’t want to accept any of the responsibility for their contribution to a problem or issue.
- Defensive partners are unable to accept influence from you. They fight you instead of listening to what you are saying which might improve things. They “fight you” by denying what you are saying as true, attacking you personally for bringing up the subject, minimizing its importance, diminish you for bringing it up, and use other immature tactics to cope with what you are saying.
- Defensive people always have their radar turned on to detect disrespect. They are very fragile and tuned into anything that they can interpret as a “slight” or criticism against them. They cannot tolerate being wrong or being accused of making a mistake or being inadequate in any way. This makes it very difficult to have a relaxed relationship with them.
Coming soon: Dr Fiore’s audio guide for combating defensiveness in your relationship: 7 lessons for both partners to learn how to be less defensive and how to communicate with a defensive person.