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Last week we explored Stonewalling, the second of the four horsemen to be aware of when learning how to manage dispute in marriage. Check out Part III of what we have to say about Managing Discord and marriage below:
Defensiveness, the third of the four horsemen, is a serious relationship offender. When there is disagreement, it is one of the behaviors I notice most frequently in couples therapy. The best way to describe defensiveness is as self-protection through righteous anger or acting like an innocent victim in an effort to fend off a perceived attack. Typically, it is a response to a complaint that is not a critique. A common reflex to criticism or perceived criticism is defensiveness. Even though it could appear differently, there are situations when only feedback is offered. However, the person receiving the criticism often replies by accusing the other of acting in the same way, downplays their role in the incident, or complains and justifies their actions. When chastised, a lot of individuals tend to become defensive, however the issue is that the perceived outcome is blame. The original speaker frequently feels rejected and alone when they encounter the receiver’s defensiveness. The relationship often grows further apart as a result of this. The following are defensiveness remedies:
(1) Remind yourself that a relationship is about being part of a team (not two individuals working against each other).
(2) Rather than seeing your partner’s words as an attack, see them as strong expressions of feelings about the topic being discussed.
(3) Acknowledge that you are not perfect.
(4) Remind yourself of your partner’s excellent traits.
(5) Most crucial, assume some accountability for the criticism that your partner is voicing. Avoid making excuses for things you haven’t done. If any responsibility is owed, even just 10% of it being accepted will help to reduce conflict, enhance communication, and foster trust.
Stay tuned to learn about the last horseman: contempt
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