Bend Marriage Counseling Divorce Predictors: Pt 4 – Defensiveness

May 1, 2014 by

With this blog, we’re coming close to the end of our series on common divorce predictors. So far we’ve covered contempt, criticism, and stonewalling. There’s only one left, and unlike the others, it’s not a part of Dr. John Gottman’s “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” But before we get to that final post, there’s still one more “horseman” left – defensiveness.

First, let’s get something straight – reacting in a defensive manner to a perceived attack is completely normal and natural. Our natural instinct is to protect ourselves, and responding in a defensive manner is an offshoot of this. But when out naturally defensive natures start to take over in our relationship, it can cause big problems because it causes the other person to feel like their partner isn’t ever willing to take responsibility and breeds resentment and frustration.

In order to stop this from happening, those with more defensive tendencies need to strive to recognize when they are acting in a defensive manner and work to overcome the specific tendencies in which they engage.

We’re All Defensive – How Do You Do It?

Here are some of the most common defensive tactics that people use to avoid taking responsibility and hearing their partner’s complaints:

Finding excuses. This is where someone “admits” to wrongdoing, but then finds a way to explain away the behavior as an aberration because it was only caused by a specific circumstance. The problem with this tactic is that it not only denies full responsibility, it prevents the individual from trying to get better because it was the specific situation that was the problem and not them.

Yes-butting. The name pretty much says it all here. “You didn’t mow the lawn. You said you would.” “Yes, but I got the lawnmower out. Halfway there.” Responding in such a manner is an attempt to deflect and ignore the complaint while trying to ingratiate yourself by pointing to something that you did do or revealing an excuse that prevented you from doing so.

Cross-complaining. I’m not sure why any of us ever think that cross-complaining is a good idea, but that doesn’t stop a lot of people from doing it. When cross-complainers’ spouses complain about something that they’ve done, their response is to remind the spouse of something bad that he or she has done. Sort of a “he who lives in glass houses” defense. Of course, both of you know that’s not the point. You can’t expect your spouse not to complain about something that bothers him or her just because they’ve done something “wrong” too. Long term relationships only work when both of you are willing to bend and accept that you’re not perfect.

Defensiveness is one of the most difficult behaviors to curb, and it’s also one that unfortunately tends to get worse in the presence of other bad behaviors such as criticism. If you’re having trouble with defensiveness in your relationship, schedule an appointment for Bend marriage counseling today.