Marriage Killer

Defensiveness Kills Marriage Relationship

The third of the four horsemen that kills marriage is defensiveness. When a spouse is communicating criticism and demonstrating contempt, it is often no surprise that the other spouse becomes defensive. Marriage counselors must watch for these three marriage killers.

Even though being defensive is understandable under the circumstances of the other spouses’ behaviors, research demonstrates that defensiveness doesn’t work to fix the marriage problems. The critical spouse doubles down and does not apologize. This is because defensiveness essentially communicates that the blame of the problems are on the critical spouse. The defensive spouse takes on the “victim” role and doesn’t take any responsibility for the marital conflicts.

Defensiveness Blames The Other Spouse

The defensiveness pushes the problems back onto the other spouse and the conflicts only escalate. When I work with couples, I often see the three marriage killers in the session. One spouse quickly speaks up to begin the first session and shares that the other spouse needs to change for the relationship to improve. She/He shares the other spouse’s shortcomings, defects, failures, and so on. Both criticism and contempt flow freely as if that spouse is there to help me fix the other spouse. When its the other spouse’s turn to share, he/she becomes a defense lawyer shooting down all that was shared earlier by the other spouse.

Defensiveness Poisonous To Marriages

The three marriage killers: criticism, contempt, and defensiveness function together in perfect harmony. Yet this music is poisonous to the marriage and the couple has a difficult time stopping the cycle. The married couple have come into counseling seemingly desiring an end to the destruction but neither can fully see or accept that he/she needs to take responsibility for their part.

One spouse mocks the other spouse disguising it as a “helpful” observation. The more one spouse puts down the other, the more defensive that spouse becomes. Obviously, neither spouse are able to resolve anything in their conflicts because of the pervasiveness of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness.

Next article, I will cover the fourth marriage killer: stonewalling. If you are identifying with the first three marriage killers in your relationship and need help to change the cycle to avoid divorce. Please contact me to setup a marriage/relationship counseling session by filling out my contact form by clicking here. We have marriage counselors that are both trained and experienced in working with couples to learn better ways of working through conflict.