The feeling was familiar. It crept through my body and caused every other sense to disappear.
What I was experiencing was myself becoming defensive. My partner was trying to communicate and provide feedback, but instead of listening, it felt like my entire body was shutting down, and I felt anger coursing through my veins.
After a few more instances of the same reaction, my partner (now fiance) sat me down and explained that he really wanted to have open conversations with me. It was challenging when I would just shut down or deny his experience. I realized that I was projecting past relationship baggage on him and that if I wanted us to be long-term, I would have to work on myself.
What I didn’t know at the time is that defensiveness is one of the top indicators of divorce, and if it’s part of your relationship, I guarantee it’s hurting it in the following ways.
#1. You aren’t able to be present
The number of times that I have been in a heated conversation with my significant other and been planning what I am going to say or rehearsing the argument in my head while talking with him… well, it’s more times than I want to admit.
It’s impossible to be fully present with someone if you are trying to think of how you are in the right or defending yourself in your mind. I know that if I am rehearsing my next statement, I am not listening to my partner in the slightest.
At the end of the day, being defensive is a way to protect ourselves from being too vulnerable, even if it‘s with the person we love.
#2. The need to be right trumps everything else, even your partner’s feelings
The other night I watched as my friend’s husband got upset and frustrated because she had connected to his speaker, and the music was only playing inside the house where she was getting food ready. He began yelling at her, and she came out and was visibly flustered.
Instead of recognizing that she was upset, her partner became defensive and claimed that she should have paid more attention to what was happening. My friend’s mood changed for the rest of the evening, and I was distraught by how she had been treated.
Even when my friend tried to explain why she was upset, her partner remained stubborn instead of validating her feelings.
#3. Defensiveness showcases immaturity in regards to communication
A few years ago, one of my closest friends started dating a guy who was a few years younger than her. In the beginning, it seemed like they were on the same wavelength. Then their first fight happened, and his immaturity reared its ugly head.
Instead of trying to listen to my friend’s perspective, the man shut down completely.
He refused to admit any wrongdoing on his part and gave her the silent treatment for several days after their fight. She realized that she couldn’t communicate healthily with someone who would shut down, and after a couple more similar experiences, she cut ties with him.
#4. You are ultimately stunting your individual growth
When I was younger, I was in a relationship with a great guy who was extremely hung up because he hated his job. At one point, he asked if there was anything I thought he could do, and I suggested that he explore the idea of getting a business coach to help him figure out what direction he wanted to go in.
To my surprise, he began shutting down and became upset that I had brought it up even though he asked for my advice. I truly cared about him and wanted him to succeed, but his refusal to seek any feedback or guidance from an advisor stunted his growth in the end.
Opening up in our relationship can be terrifying, even if we want to be vulnerable.
Yet, it has to be noted that defensiveness truly can ruin your relationship, and it’s worth the scariness if you want to make things work with your partner. Next time, instead of shutting down, try to fight the feeling and open up instead.