couple counseling mountainside nj chuck beardsleyDefensiveness:

The next negative pattern that predicts divorce is defensiveness.  A good definition of defensiveness is innocent victimhood or righteous indignation, usually to ward off a perceived attack.  It’s also a form of blame, a way to blame your partner rather than accept responsibility.  We often fall into defensiveness when we feel falsely accused.  And the feeling of being falsely accused is one of the strongest, most accessable negative feelings we have.  If you try to think of a time you were falsely accused, it’s pretty easy to feel that feeling again.

So-we sometimes fall into a pattern where defensiveness can seem to work-it can seem to push away or change the perceived attack from our partner into being about them.  But it doesn’t work.  And it usually results in a harder push back from our partner, making matters worse.

The antidote to defensiveness, which is very difficult to do, is to search for a way to own at least a small part of the problem.  Every conflict, every problem in a marriage has two parts, my part and your part.  Owning your part, or at least attempting to own your part, is a way to put the problem in it’s true perspective.

Here’s an example:

Defensiveness:  “It’s not my fault that we’re late-it’s your fault.”

Antidote: “ You’re right-I could have done a better job managing my time, or I could have started earlier to get ready to go.”

Below is a link to Dr. Gottman, explaining in his own words the reasons why defensiveness is problematic in a relationship.


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