Why Your Defensiveness Is Destroying Your Marriage

Why Your Defensiveness Is Destroying Your Marriage

The title of this blog is really only appropriate for screaming in support of your favorite sports team. But I thought it was catchy, thus why I’ve titled this blog after today’s hot topic – defensiveness in relationships. This is part 2 of 4 blogs detailing the four horsemen of the relationship apocalypse.

Defensiveness is something I see more often than not in my office. In fact, one of the comments I make to couples is “affairs, lies, cheating, etc. are not what break a relationship apart! Rather the inability to take responsibility for one’s actions after they have caused hurt is one of the causes of ending a relationship”. Here are three reasons defensiveness rips a relationship apart.

Defensiveness Blames Your Partner

Making your actions the blame of your partner: Yep…when you defend why you belittled, cheated on, lied, hurt, or whatever negative action you’ve done to your partner you are in essence making your decision their problem. Say you had a physical or emotional affair with another person…say you get caught! What do you do? Well if you’re defensive you will probably say something like “well you weren’t there for me…you didn’t have enough sex with me…it’s like you don’t even know me…etc.”! All of that and more is you defending yourself and placing blame on your partner. Your actions are your responsibility…No one makes your decisions for you!!!

Defensiveness Minimizes Your Responsibility and Your Partner

Minimizing how your partner feels about your wrong doing will cause what I call the “Crazy Thoughts”. Brushing off, not acknowledging, and minimizing your actions are perfect examples. For example, say you forget an important date and defensively brush it off as being busy at work, or you forgot, or it’s no big deal…it makes your partner stop and reevaluate how important they are to you. Your partner will begin to wonder “am I crazy for expecting him/her to show up”? “I guess it’s not really a big deal if they don’t come to my award ceremony”. Really, your partner is second guessing how important they are to you. Minimizing your actions cuts your partner down little by little.

Defensiveness Makes Your Partner Defensive

Defensiveness also will often lead your partner into becoming defensive and create a merry-go-round of arguing. This cyclone storm of crap being slung from your lips and your partners lips tends to lead to confusion. Ever wonder why/how the argument started in the first place? Well, friends, this all started with defensiveness and hurtful words you flung at your partner.

So what is the remedy for defensiveness? Responsibility. Take responsibility for your choices and actions. When you take responsibility, your partner will most likely soften toward you and be willing to forgive and work through the situation with you. Taking ownership of your choices allows your partner to be responsible for their own actions and end repetitive arguing. Your responsibility also gives your partner an opportunity to accept and recognize their importance to you and the relationship. Acknowledging the hurt you’ve caused allows you and your partner an opportunity to work on the relationship instead of questioning the value of the relationship.


Tristan Beymer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and marriage and family counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. She specializes in helping couples rebuild their relationship to be strong, healthy and passionate. She also works with individuals to overcome difficulties related to trauma and addictions.

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