Many couples struggle with regrettable incidents and argue about the same things over and over again. While it’s tempting to attack your partner when you feel hurt or frustrated, it can lead to misunderstandings and emotional detachment. That said, you’ll get the love you want by focusing on listening rather than defending your position. Try to adopt a “we’re in this together” approach to communication and your relationship will improve over time.
For instance, if John says to Casey “I would appreciate it if you’d cut back on expenses for awhile,” this “I” statement would be more effective than saying, “You never worry about our budget, you overspend often.” In most cases, a“You” statement would spark her defensiveness.
Like many couples, John and Casey can benefit from expressing more positive statements. If John accuses Casey of overspending and assumes the worst of her, this will lead to an unfortunate pattern of negativity where both partners end up digging their heels in and have trouble connecting in an intimate and loving way.
The following are 5 ways to stop being defensive with your partner and foster loving communication:
5 Ways to Stop Being Defensive With Your Partner:
1. State needs clearly without blaming your partner. If you feel yourself feeling upset or taking things personally, press the pause button and suggest a break to your partner before continuing a difficult conversation. You might say “I’m feeling frustrated with our interaction right now and I can feel myself getting agitated. Can we talk again later tonight?
2. Validate your partner’s thoughts and feelings. When you respond to him or her, validate their perspective and use a soft start-up such as “I love you and want to get along.” Be sure to use good eye contact to reassure your partner you are listening to him or her.
3. Focus on the present. When you dwell on the past, you miss the chance to work together to come up with a solution to your problems. Instead, focus on the present to better understand your partner’s point of view. Fight against the urge to bring up your partner’s raw spots or issues you know might trigger his or her defensiveness.
4. Use “I” statements to express yourself without blaming your partner. State what you want clearly such as “I would like to talk about our budget with you.” Avoid using “You” statements such as “You never care about our budget.” Remember to focus on expressing your feelings in a way that invites your partner to communicate, rather than shutting him or her out or putting them down.
5. Focus more on your contribution to the problem and you will be less likely to point your finger at your partner or take things personally. Reflect on how your words and actions might make your partner feel and let him or her know that you own your part in a disagreement. Try to focus on changing your behavior, rather than trying to change your partner’s views or personality.
When you are having an dispute with your partner, remember your goals of mutual understanding and respect. It’s a good idea to give your partner the benefit of the doubt rather than attacking them or getting defensive. Being defensive or negative will only push your partner away. The next time you feel upset at your partner, examine your own thoughts and responses — before you point out his or her faults—if you want your relationship to last.
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry