Seeking Refuge Through Counseling

Tips For Being Less Defensive In Close Relationships

One of the major problems that many people in relationships suffer is becoming too defensive. When your partner criticizes you, it's not just another person telling you something that you might want to consider fixing. It is the person to whom you have linked your life that you trust beyond all other and whose opinion you value. If the person who you want to look good for brings up something that you need to fix, you might have a knee-jerk reaction and find yourself passionately defending yourself so that you can restore yourself in that other person's eyes. This is unhelpful. Here are some ways that you can reduce your defensiveness in a close relationship. 

1. Don't Keep Score

The first step is to not keep score. If you don't keep score with regards to who does more dishes, who does more of the chores, who pays most of the bills, and who shoulders most of the emotional responsibility for the relationship, then you won't have anything in the past that you can use to fight constructive criticism. This way, if a partner who feels overwhelmed by his or her job asks you to do more of the laundry until a stressful project is finished, you'll be more willing to look at the objective fact that your partner needs help, rather than the fact that you do the bulk of the cooking and that more tasks isn't fair.

2. Don't Focus On Your Emotions

When someone you care about criticizes you, you might feel a flush of emotions such as guilt, anger, shame, or sadness. These emotions can make it difficult to truly listen to what your partner has to say. If your partner says that you always interrupt him or her and you're focused on your emotions, you might respond with anger and likely interrupt his or her statement, proving the point. Instead, take a few deep breaths and give yourself time to regain your composure before you speak. This will allow you to let go of your emotions and approach the problem rationally.

3. Feel Strong, Not Fragile

When someone criticizes you, remind yourself that you, and your identity, is strong, rather than weak. This will allow you to accept their constructive criticism without feeling the need to defend yourself. If you feel fragile, you are going to need to throw up walls of proof that you are a good person and cut yourself off from real connection. By reminding yourself that you are strong, you can strengthen your connection with your partner and feel less fragile.

For more information, talk to a marriage counselor like one from Malan Relationship Health.