4 Horseman

4 Ways to Tear Apart A Relationship- Defensiveness

#3 Defensiveness We are probably all guilty of getting defensive at one time or another in our relationships. It's a natural feeling to want to defend ourselves. But it becomes unhealthy when it becomes a habit and it creates a pattern of communication that is unhealthy. In "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail" John Gottman describes the different signs of defensiveness. See if you recognize any of them.

Signs of defensiveness:

>>Denying Responsibility. It doesn't matter what your partner may say or tell you how they feel, you shoot back with something describing how you were not to blame. You are not even willing to look at any truth to what they may be saying or you may not even try to understand how they are feeling.

>>Making excuses. You typically have a reason behind what happened. Again, not listening to the feelings of the other person, you feel you are excused because of circumstances out of your control.

>> Disagreeing with Negative Mind Reading. This one can be confusing. This is where you assume your partner is thinking something and when they disagree that they are thinking that way, you don't believe them. Typically, this person reads into what the other person is saying, hearing it in the negative tone that they actually believe, not what is really being spoken to them.

>>Cross-complaining. We see this all the time as a therapist. It is a tough habit for client's to break. This is when a partner will state a complaint and their partner will immediately state a complaint back, thus not really hearing their complaint. We call this sandbagging. It is a vicious cycle that doesn't get anything resolved and only increases the defensiveness from both partners.

>>Rubber Man/Rubber Woman. This is a little like Cross-complaining. It is when a concern is stated and the other partner immediately defends themselves and then blames the other partner. For example: Jim might be worried that his wife spends too much on clothing. He states his complaint and she immediately says, "I don't spend too much on clothes. Let's talk about how much you spend on gambling!" Nothing gets resolved this way either.

>>Yes-Butting. This is simply agreeing with your partner BUT....this is why I did what I did. And not in a logical, explaining way. In a defensive- it's not my fault way.

>> Repeating Yourself. This is simply not hearing your partner and instead repeating yourself over and over, in a different way, hoping your partner will eventually agree with you (or lay off!). Your partner ends up not feeling heard and frustrated.

>>Whining. This is, exactly what it is- whining about something rather than being an adult and stating your needs.

>>Body Language. This is giving your partner the perception that you are upset thru how you move your body or make gestures and/or noises, without saying it verbally. This is a way of being defensive without saying anything at all.

As you can see, there are many signs that you may be becoming defensive with your partner. These are definite ways to increase the lack of communication, frustration, and closeness in your relationship.

If you recognize these signs in you or your partner, it might be time for a tune up with a trained, qualified therapist. Don't let this continue on like a horrible virus or infection without treatment.

Thank you for reading. Joleen will give us the final way to tear a relationship apart tomorrow. Have a good week!

*Source: Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman

Written by Natalie Chandler

Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling.  We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville

4 Ways to Tear Apart A Relationship- Contempt

#2 Contempt In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, John Gottman describes contempt as the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. Wow, that sounds bad, right? I don't think any of us set out to do this, but in the following examples, I think more of us are guilty of contempt than we realize.

Contempt is when we hold negative thoughts about our partner. Where as we start off with an innocent arguement, the further it goes, we no longer have any admiration for our spouse, and eventually forget why we married them in the first place. With contempt, we cannot see any positive qualities about our partners at all.

The most common signs of Contempt are:

  • Insults and Name Calling - whether it's calling each other a "jerk", "lazy", or worse
  • Hostile Humor - covering up contempt with a thin layer of humor. Cracking mean jokes at our spouse's expense
  • Mockery - a very passive put-down. When you put down/make fun of/ridicule  your spouse's words are actions
  • Body Language -  rolling your eyes, grunting, laughing , curling your upper lip, etc., while your spouse is sharing with you

The best way to approach your spouse and stop contempt is to stop seeing arguments as a way to "get back" at your spouse or get power over your spouse. Your relationship will get better if you approach your partner with direct complaints (see yesterday's blog for the difference between a complaint vs. a criticism) and show your spouse admiration.

*Source: Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman

Written by: Tamara Wilhelm MA, LMHC, LCAC

*Tamara enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, & couples counseling  at Imagine Hope. We also specialize in family counseling, child & adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield & Fishers.