Defense Mechanisms That Are Bad For Your Relationship

December 5, 2016  |  
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The word “defense” doesn’t have any place in a relationship. If you feel the need to use it, that means you and your partner have stopped playing for the same team. “Defense” is a term for sports, where someone is coming after you, someone wants to take you down, somebody wants to take something from you, or somebody wants to “win.” But in a relationship, you shouldn’t be looking out for what’s just best for yourself—and that’s what you’re doing when you start using defense mechanisms. It’s common to want to turn to those when your partner pushes a button or brings up a sensitive subject. But defense mechanisms only push your partner further away; you may feel safer at the moment, but ultimately, your relationship will feel strained. Here are common defense mechanisms that are bad for your relationship.

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Trying to reciprocate the pain

If your partner accidentally brings up a sore subject, your brain could go into trauma mode—you’re like a cornered animal who just wants to protect itself. And so, you may lash out by bringing up a sore subject for your partner.

 

 

 

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Why it doesn’t work

It’s hard to remember this when you are operating out of trauma brain, but your partner did not mean to hurt you. But if you turn around and do, in fact, purposefully hurt him, that is grounds for an even bigger fight.

 

 

 

 

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Going away

Some fights feel too complicated to possibly get through. And you may feel that there is no way you can “win” the fight, or have the conversation without making yourself vulnerable, and opening yourself up to pain. So you may just stay at a friend’s house until an undefined date.

 

 

 

 

Corbis Images

Corbis Images

Why it doesn’t work

Now, all you have done is add insult to injury. The problems will still be there when you go home, but now you’ve added another problem; the notion that you’re not willing to dedicate time to fixing your relationship. It’s usually better to stick it out through the fight than to just go away.

 

 

 

 

don't judge challenge

Shutterstock

Accelerating his comments

If your partner gives you one note—one critique on something he wished you wouldn’t do, or something he wished you’d do differently—you may try to get ahead of him and start listing off other things that are terrible and wrong with you. It’s a way to get him to stop criticizing you because you’re doing it enough for the two of you.

 

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Why it doesn’t work

It’s not fair; by doing this, you are implying that your partner is far more critical than he really is. This is a rather manipulative defense mechanism because it will make your partner feel like he isn’t allowed to give you notes, for fear that you will blow them out of proportion.

 

 

 

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Copying the offensive behavior

You may like to show a lesson rather than tell a lesson. In other words, if your partner does something you don’t like, rather than tell him, you may just do it right back to him. You may stay out four hours later than you said you would, and not call to let him know where you are because that’s what he did. Of course, when he apologized for doing that…you said it was “Totally fine!” When, in fact, it was not totally fine. Clearly.

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Why it doesn’t work

Think about what just happened; your partner did something, you said it was fine, and then you also did that same thing. In two ways you affirmed that what he did was acceptable. How is that supposed to fix the problem?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shutterstock

shutterstock

Over-explaining instead of apologizing

No matter how old or mature you are, it is never easy to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” It feels so bad to say that, that our brain usually skips over it, and goes straight into explaining the ways we may have in fact been right. You’ve been there; digging yourself a hole as you try to rationalize doing something that clearly hurt your partner.

 

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Why it doesn’t work

Even if you can, somehow, find a “reason” to have done what you did, that won’t remove the pain you’ve already caused your partner. Your priority shouldn’t be proving you were right; it should be helping your partner feel better. An apology can do that.

 

 

 

 

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Passive aggression

Passive aggression is just a way of inflicting pain on your partner, without having to admit you are doing it, or tell him why you’re doing it. You get to hurt your partner, without giving him a tangible thing to call out. For example, when you make yourself a plate of food but don’t make him one, he can’t really call you out for it, because you didn’t do something bad—you just didn’t do something nice.

 

 

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Why it doesn’t work

People usually don’t appreciate it when you force them to ask you what is wrong. If they don’t know they did something wrong, and you clearly feel that they did, it is your responsibility to bring it up. Passive aggression is like a form of pre-punishment, but you didn’t even give the person a chance to apologize.

 

 

 

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Going numb

If all of the emotions that come with an argument, or telling your partner that he hurt you, are too much for you, you may just go numb. You won’t become aggressive, passive-aggressive, or even noticeably sad. You will just become quiet, removed, and distant. You can’t stand to process the negative emotions happening, so you stop processing everything entirely.

 

 

 

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Why it doesn’t work

You can only behave this way for so long. If you’re going to go numb, and essentially act as if you’re just watching your body from the ceiling, that means you don’t get to experience any good feelings, either. You’ll come out of your hiding place eventually when you begin to miss sensations like love and joy. Then you’ll force yourself to face the negative things, too.

 

 

Corbis

Corbis

Assuming your partner is fighting with you

If you know you’ve done something wrong—perhaps your partner knows about it, and perhaps he doesn’t—but you don’t feel you’ve made amends for it, you may become a bit paranoid. You will believe your partner’s comments are argumentative or passive aggressive, causing you to pick a fight, when really, he didn’t say anything out of the norm.

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Why it doesn’t work

Look; if you messed up, you need to tell your partner, hash it out, and apologize. Until thin, the guilt you are carrying will sit over your eyes like some strange, distorted goggles, and everything your partner says will make you feel bad. That’s not fair to him.

 

 

 

Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Truth inversion

If your partner is just no good—he doesn’t treat you well, he doesn’t take an interest in your job, friends or family, and he takes advantage of you—that can be a painful truth to face. So, instead, you invert the truth. You praise him for the tiniest things he does—like put the toilet seat back down—to delude yourself into believing he is the best partner in the world.

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Why it doesn’t work

You can only run from the reality that you’re with the wrong person for so long. A woman cannot survive on properly placed toilet seats alone. You’ll lose patience with your own defense mechanism on this one and one day, you will explode.

 

 

 

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

Throwing yourself into your work

This is a very common defense mechanism. It stems from the incorrect notion, “All I need is my work to be happy, and my work can never betray me the way a relationship can.” So, rather than face what’s happening in your relationship, you remain busy with work.

 

 

 

Sad business professional woman at computer

Shutterstock

Why it doesn’t work

Because, Mr. Grinch, work is not all you need to be happy. In fact, your work is only a very small part of what you need to be happy. It’s a means to an end, but relationships are the end goal—relationships of all sorts. You will become increasingly lonely if you turn to work every time somebody lets you down.

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