One of the greatest hindrances to a healthy, open relationship is defensive behavior. While we all want to be right and win every argument, being on guard and constantly bickering can be very harmful to a partnership based on communication and mutual respect. The following tips are designed to help you identify and rectify defensive behavior that could be hurting the relationships in your life:
1. Identify your defensive behavior
Do you find that, instead of listening and being open to changing your mind or opinion, you shut down and simply argue? If you notice that you react to small issues or arguments with intense anger, that is defensive behavior.
2. No partnership is perfect
We argue. We argue with family, friends and coworkers; it’s simply a part of life. These arguments, however, can be handled in a friendly, constructive way – without excess anger or resentment, spilling over into the rest of the day or week.
It is okay to state your disagreement or anger about a particular action or situation. If your significant other cheats on you or forgets your birthday, that is the time to speak up. Not dealing with grievances head on only leaves them for later – when feelings will be even worse and resentment will leak out of you in unkind ways, like gossip, teasing or evil actions. The trick is to learn how to do it in a constructive, useful way. A moderated approach will also bring the best result.
4. Honeymoon phase
When a relationship is new, we expect the best of the other. When we keep a positive, open attitude, we accept the actions, thoughts and mistakes of the other in a better, less judgmental and less defensive way. Likewise, we are rewarded with great intimacy and connection.
When however, relationships become routine and mature, this openness is harder to access. Work on going back to the honeymoon phase, in terms of your openness and receptiveness.
5. Opportunity in disguise
A fight can be an opportunity to grow a relationship’s trust, understanding and endurance. Working through and resolving a conflict proves to a couple that they can survive difficult times and strengthens their bond, in the end. So try to see past the details of any particular fight and focus on the bigger, better picture.
6. Man is not an island
Not expressing your opinion, for fear of an argument, is not a healthy way to live. You cannot simply retreat into your own feelings and hold on to toxic anger. Make an effort to always reach out and reconnect with your partner, especially when you are angry or upset.
7. Release resentment
Resentment is a toxic emotion that can bring no good. Let go of it, and resolve it through mature dialogue and honest expression. Don’t sweep problems under the rug ever again.
8. Ask why
Try and figure out why you react with defensiveness, if and when you do. What in your personality, history and self-esteem cause your defensive behavior? Analyzing it will help solve it.
9. Love is a project
A relationship is not something that falls into perfect place. It’s hard work and takes time, patience and investment. However, the rewards are worthwhile. Aside from the shared aspects, the difficult parts of a relationship are an exercise for one’s own individual growth.