Couples: It's Normal to Get Defensive . . . Then What? | Couple's Net | Chandrama Anderson | Mountain View Online |

Local Blogs

Couple's Net

By Chandrama Anderson

E-mail Chandrama Anderson

About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

View all posts from Chandrama Anderson

Couples: It's Normal to Get Defensive . . . Then What?

Uploaded: Oct 12, 2018
We're human beings, therefore we get defensive.

The real question isn't whether or not you get defensive, or who gets defensive. The real question is what you do with it. I will say these words often: S l o w E v e r y t h i n g D o w n. In the case of defensiveness, you can use the tool of slowing down so that you don't REACT defensively; instead you can wait and then RESPOND usefully.

Imagine if you will, a defensive reaction as a wave; it will rise, then it will fall. Your job is to breathe through the rise and fall, and if you have the where-with-all, to be transparent with your partner and say, "I'm feeling defensive, so I'm going to breathe and wait for the reaction to pass so I can respond well to you." (This doesn't usually happen early in couples counseling; it's a learned skill.) If you can't, just zip it until the wave falls.

How come you get defensive so quickly? Your limbic (emotional) brain responds in 1/200th of a second. As you slow down, you can notice what happens in your body; muscles tighten, heart rate increases, breathing changes. What happens in your body when you're feeling defensive?

Over time, you might begin to notice your bodily reactions earlier and check in with yourself: I'm noticing a physical change, what's happening? This may allow the wave to rise and fall more quickly. It may allow you to use your cortical (thinking) brain sooner, to be transparent and say that you're starting to feel triggered and need to slow down or take a break.

You already know that having a conversation when one or both of you is feeling defensive isn't a conversation; you can't express yourselves or listen well. If you need a break, take one -- please be sure you come back to talk with your partner so you can understand both what triggered you and whatever the original discussion was about.

Comments

There are no comments yet for this post
To post your comment, please login or register at the top of the page. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Babka bakery to open Thursday in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 10 comments | 7,025 views

Ten Tips for Teens and Young Adults to Survive a Dysfunctional Family
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,414 views

UCSB's CCS program
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 1 comment | 1,335 views

Farm Bill Passes Congress
By Laura Stec | 1 comment | 959 views

What is a Life?
By Aldis Petriceks | 3 comments | 510 views