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5 Dangers Of Defensiveness

Updated: Apr 5

Paula Gurnett, C.C.C. March 24, 2024


  1. Communication Breakdown:  When one or both partners become defensive, it often leads to a breakdown in communication. Defensiveness can manifest as deflecting blame, denying responsibility, or shutting down emotionally. This hinders the ability to express feelings and concerns openly and honestly, leading to misunderstandings and unresolved conflicts.

  2. Escalation of Conflict:  Defensiveness tends to escalate conflicts rather than resolve them. When one partner feels attacked or criticized, they may respond defensively by counter-attacking or withdrawing. This can create a cycle of negativity where both partners feel increasingly unheard and unsupported, leading to greater tension and conflict in the relationship.

  3. Erosion of Trust:  Continual defensiveness can erode trust between partners. When one partner consistently reacts defensively, it can make the other partner feel invalidated or dismissed. Over time, this can undermine trust in the relationship, as the defensive behaviour may be perceived as dishonest or manipulative.

  4. Stagnation of Growth:  Defensiveness can inhibit personal and relational growth. Instead of taking constructive feedback or acknowledging areas for improvement, defensive individuals may resist change and cling to their own perspectives. This resistance can prevent both partners from learning from their mistakes, adapting to new situations, and growing together as a couple.

  5. Emotional Distance:  Persistent defensiveness can create emotional distance between partners. When one partner feels constantly criticized or rejected, they may withdraw emotionally to protect themselves from further hurt. This emotional distance can lead to feelings of loneliness, disconnection, and resentment, ultimately weakening the bond between partners.

Addressing defensiveness in a relationship requires both partners to cultivate self-awareness, empathy, and effective communication skills. It involves creating a safe and supportive environment where both partners feel comfortable expressing themselves openly and honestly, without fear of judgment or reprisal. Couples therapy can also be beneficial for addressing entrenched patterns of defensiveness and rebuilding trust and intimacy in the relationship.

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