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Let's Talk About Defensive Maneuvers Couples Use

Let's Talk About Defensive Maneuvers Couples Use
September 11, 2015

When couples come in for a counseltation, I often hear how often they get stuck in negative spirals of accusation and hurt feelings. Couples often are surprised when I ask, "Why didn't you begin by asking for what you want, instead of accusing your partner of not giving it to you"?

So often we get stuck in negative cycles. We are unhappy with something our partner does. We get hurt too easily, and we retaliate by creating an exit plan in our minds.

It goes something like this: You hurt me, I feel a rush of energy which prompts me to tell you something I’ve been holding back on. Something I don’t like about you.

You get mad and up the “ante,” further asserting something you don’t like about me. Now we’re in it together. Fully engaged. Much more exciting than holding things in and stewing. But is this what we really want?

No! We wanted to communicate but couldn’t find the voice to make it happen. We don’t speak up when we need to and instead resort to a misguided bravery and throw it all on the other person.


Why can’t we talk about the things that are bothering us in a straight, productive way when the situation calls for it? Why do we wait and the find ourselves getting angry and sometimes out of control.

Negotiating is an important part of talking to our partners. It's fundamental to working things out. Yet sometimes, it's difficult to speak up at all. It's times like that when we retreat, for days, months, and even years. If only we could speak our minds at the right time, think of all the trouble we’d save. But where do we learn to do this? Not necessarily in our families of origin or former relationships. Sometimes, learning the skills involved in personal negotiations can save a relationship from tumbling downhill.

Here is an area where Couples Counseling can really help.