Learning to Manage Disagreement in Relationships: Part III
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Last week we explored Stonewalling, the second of the four horsemen to be aware of when learning how to manage dispute in marriage. Check out Part III of what we have to say about Managing Disagreement and marriage below:
The third of the four horsemen and a major offender in relationships is defensiveness. It is one of the most frequent behaviors that I observe in couples therapy when there is conflict. Defensiveness is best defined as self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood to attempt to ward off a perceived attack. It is usually a counterattack to a complaint, which is not criticism. Defensiveness is often a reflex action to criticism or perceived criticism. Even though it can be perceived otherwise, sometimes there is no criticism but just feedback stated. However, the person receiving the criticism often replies by accusing the other of acting in the same way, downplays their role in the incident, or complains and justifies their actions. When chastised, a lot of individuals tend to become defensive, however the issue is that the perceived outcome is blame. The original speaker frequently feels rejected and alone when they encounter the receiver’s defensiveness. The relationship often grows further apart as a result of this. The following are defensiveness remedies:
(1) Remind yourself that a relationship is about being part of a team (not two individuals working against each other).
(2) Rather than seeing your partner’s words as an attack, see them as strong expressions of feelings about the topic being discussed.
(3) Acknowledge that you are not perfect.
(4) Remind yourself of your partner’s excellent traits.
(5) Most crucial, assume some accountability for the criticism that your partner is voicing. Avoid making excuses for things you haven’t done. If any responsibility is owed, even just 10% of it being accepted will help to reduce conflict, enhance communication, and foster trust.
Stay tuned to learn about the last horseman: contempt
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