You don’t have to be the Houston marriage counselor to know that defensiveness causes a lot of problems in relationships. In my last post, I described how this unfortunate reflex can keep us from learning from our mistakes and trying to improve.

Unfortunately, though, there are so many ways to be defensive that getting past it can be difficult, and you may need relationship help. That’s why I decided to detail the many different kinds of defensiveness. When we recognize it in ourselves, we can stop it before it gets out of hand.

Houston Marriage Counselor: Kinds of Defensiveness

Counter-complaining. Whenever anyone lodges a complaint against you, your response is to attack them with a complaint of your own. You leave the seat up? Well, they squeeze the toothpaste from the top, but you didn’t feel like you had to be a jerk and complain about it. It’s a way of making them feel bad about bringing up any issues while ignoring the initial problem.

That’s what you do! Another defensive tactic that involves countering with blame, but this one keeps the focus squarely on the initial complaint. Your spouse complains about you ignoring the kids, so you remind them that they missed little Bobby’s last three baseball games. Or they accuse you of defensiveness (ha!), so you remind them of all the times they were defensive.

“But” and “because.” These words come into defensive play when you’ve done something wrong but can come up with a justification for why you did it. For example, you didn’t do the laundry because you were waiting for your spouse to confirm that they’d given you all of their dirty clothes.

The broken record. You know you’re right, so when your spouse accuses you of something, you simply find a position and stick to it, repeating it like a broken record until they give up or give in.

Whining. Similar to making excuses, except that the accused person focuses on complaints. An example would be saying something like, “Ugh, I always have to do it” or “I was just so tired after work.”

Posture. Even if we decide not to talk, it’s possible for us to be defensive. Telltale signs are crossing your arms over your chest, shifting your weight from leg to leg, and faking a smile. What you’re really saying is, “I’m not interested in listening to this, so I’d rather you stop.”

Houston Marriage Counselor: Recognize the Signs and Take a Step Back

Once you recognize the signs in yourself, it’s a lot easier to take a step back, regroup, and engage in the conversation instead of guarding against it. Do this and you’ll find that the back and forth is much more civil, and both of you will probably be more willing to listen and change.

If you’re finding it too hard to drop your defenses, get relationship help from the Houston marriage counselor.