Okay, you caught me—you don’t have to be the Houston relationship therapist to realize that defensiveness, in and of itself, certainly does not help you to grow. As I’ve written in previous blog posts, defensiveness can be quite a destructive force in your relationship and I have many clients seeing me for marriage help largely because they or their partners can’t get over defensiveness.

However, if you’re the type of person who is able to take a good, introspective look at yourself, defensiveness might actually be able to help you become a better person. How?

The hardest part is recognizing when you’re being defensive

It may seem perfectly acceptable to offer up reasons when your spouse brings up brings up some way in which you’ve failed or done something wrong. Unfortunately, much of the time when we do that it’s not reasons we’re offering, but excuses—that’s defensiveness.

I tell my Houston relationship therapist clients that the hardest part of beating defensiveness is recognizing it. You have to be able to step outside of yourself—usually in a moment that is quite emotional—and logically examine your words and actions as if you were an innocent bystander. Are you genuinely trying to explain a misunderstanding or covering so that you don’t have to admit that you’re wrong?

What’s next? Figure out what set you off

Once you can recognize those times when you’re being defensive, the next step is retracing your steps to learn what set you off. I do this with my Houston relationship therapist clients all the time to offer marriage help.

A couple will come in at each other’s throats due to an argument and we’ll slowly move back in time and peel back the layers until we get to the beginning of the argument and what set each of them off. Quite often, people are surprised to find that their argument isn’t about what they thought it was about. When you are able to pinpoint the specific thing that your partner did to raise your hackles, you can be ready for it next time and try to control yourself.

No one is saying that this is easy. People are defensive for a reason—to defend themselves. It’s a completely normal instinct and one that’s hard to turn off, but when it comes to defensiveness in a relationship, just letting it go can be incredibly destructive. If you need help, call the Houston relationship therapist today.