The Truth About Defensiveness

The Truth About Defensiveness

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The truth about defensiveness might rub some people the wrong way because many use defensiveness to protect themselves from reality. Why would I write a blog about defensiveness? Aren’t there much more to discuss on relationships besides being defensive?

Well, in my defense (no pun intended, ok maybe a little) this is something I struggled with for years and never admitted to it until recently. I read a book entitled Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend and it let me know everything I was doing wrong in my marriage! One of them was being defensive. By the way, if you haven’t read this life changing book, I suggest you read it. I almost highlighted the whole book.

What is the definition of defensiveness? has five definitions, but the fifth one is what I want to use for the sake of this blog.

Defensiveness: excessively concerned with guarding against the real or imagined threat of criticism, injury to one’s ego, or exposure of one’s shortcomings.

When it comes to your relationship, are you defensive?

Here are some examples of defensiveness between a couple in dialog:

Her: “I think we need to discuss the finances together. There’s nowhere for us to save money. If we go over them, we can find ways to save money.”

Him: If we made more money, our savings wouldn’t be a problem!

Another case of defensiveness:

Him: Babe, I love you but your weight is starting to be a concern to me. Can we start exercising together?”

Her: So are you saying I’m fat? I will never be a size 4, so kiss that wish goodbye!”

Here’s the ever so classic example of defensiveness:

Her: It’s tough being a stay at home mom. I’m trying to have the house clean and dinner cooked by the time you get home from work. I’m sorry; it’s been a real struggle.”

Him: What about me?! I work 10-12 hours a day and you can’t keep the kids and household together??

What’s the common thread here? The offended party isn’t hearing the other person’s concern or what they are dealing with internally. They take it to heart and then shut down as a way of retaliation or look at their spouse as weak or less than.

Let’s use football for example. The offense on the field believes they should score because they are the offense. The defense believes they should stop the offense because they are the defense. There will never be a mutual understanding between the offense and defense because they are trying to do what’s right for their team.

This is the same mindset for each individual in a relationship. They believe they are saying what’s right to them and what they feel in their heart. The offended party will always play defense, like the definition described above.

Here are two ways defensiveness can ruin a relationship

  • (The offended party) you aren’t listening to what your spouse or significant other is saying. By default, you are looking for words to protect yourself because they are speaking truth. When this is happening in your mind, you miss everything they are trying to convey to you.

Fix this by:

Embracing your faults. No one is perfect, you might as well own up to your shortcomings. When you do this, your spouse or significant other is more likely to extend you some grace (depending on the situation). Listen without being defensive so you know what changes you need to make.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. –James 1:19

  • A lack of empathy. What is empathy? The feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.


When one lacks empathy, it’s hard for that person to change.  Seeing things from your spouse or significant other eyes can be a game changer to a relationship.

Fix this by:

Processing what your spouse or significant other is saying. Don’t automatically go into defense mode because that’s when empathy has gone out the window. This takes time getting used to because we don’t have any issues (that’s what we like to believe in our mind).  It’s always our spouse or significant other (I’m being sarcastic) fault for our behavior, right?

They might play a part in our behavior but the way we respond is our decision.


Purchase Boundaries in Marriage here


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Shon Hyneman

Single Father, Mentor, Blogger. The author of 5 books and founder of Never Again Ministries, a place where we can walk through life together. Shon also hosts of The Doctor of Love Show Podcast where he discusses real topics on relationships in a spiritual and practical way so you can apply it to your everyday life. You can subscribe to The Doctor of Love Show Podcast on Stitcher, iTunes, iHeartRadio and Google Play