“Every time I bring up something that bothers me, he gets defensive.”
“I don’t bother telling her what I think because she just gets so defensive”.
These are frequent comments made in my office and maybe in your home too?
Maybe you finally got the courage up to tell your spouse something that’s been upsetting you, or perhaps you simply asked them to please please remember to pick the kids up after school this afternoon because you have an appointment and can’t do it…
And the response you got was something like this:
“I’m not the only one who does that. You do it too.”
“You don’t have to remind me. I’m not a child”…(even though they have forgotten numerous times and the kids had to wait 30 minutes, which leads to their upset and anxiety.) UGH!
If YOU have ever been told by your spouse “I can’t say anything to you because you are SO defensive!” this blog post is for you.
When we are defensive, we send the message to our spouse “I’m not the problem! You’re the problem!”
But there is an antidote to defensiveness and what it is may surprise you.
Everyone gets defensive from time to time, but when it is our most common and pervasive response to hearing something negative from our partners, it is in your best interest to look inside and listen to the feedback you are getting.
Self-compassion (SC) is the practice of turning toward your imperfections with warmth and kindness, and recognizing that everyone, yourself included, has shortcomings, makes mistakes, while being mindful of negative emotions so that you neither suppress nor ruminate on them.
And Self Compassion is the antidote to defensiveness.
The reality is, sometimes your behavior, your actions or inactions may actually be a problem and your willingness to acknowledge your imperfections and how those imperfections impact others is vital to the health of your marriage and all of your relationships.
If you’ve followed me for any period of time, you know that self esteem is a key element to having a healthy relationship with yourself and with others.
At it’s core, self esteem is the fundamental understanding that you are worthy of love and belonging simply because you exist on this planet. That all beings are worthy because they exist and that no one is better than or less than any other being. AND that we are all imperfect. You are worthy of love and connection even with all of your imperfections.
When we hear something negative about our behavior from our partners it challenges our self esteem.
Defensiveness is a way of trying to deflect and avoid being accountable for our inevitable imperfections.
Yes, you did forget to pick up the kids last time (maybe several times!) Own it. Practice self compassion regarding it and make the necessary changes to repair it with your partner. It’s in your best interest to do so.
Research shows numerous ways self-compassion can improve your marriage. Read here for 3 Ways and read here for 4 MORE ways self-compassion can help your relationship. I hope it will help you connect to warmth and understanding of yourself as well as your partner.