Here’s How You Might Be Keeping Your Relationship From Improving
Out of all the lessons I’ve learned over the years, the most important has been that the quickest, most effective way to improve my relationship is to improve myself.
For me, the biggest challenge in allowing that to happen was getting out of my own way. That’s because doing so meant that I had to let go of one of my most comfortable habits. Defensiveness.
Because I like to think I’m considerate and think through most things very carefully, in my mind, I always felt I had a good reason for what I did and said. All of which could be backed up with clear logic and reason.
What I didn’t realize is that because I was so consumed with why what I was saying was right, I often wasn't allowing room to consider the truth in someone else’s perspective.
Instead of listening with the intent to understand, I found myself simply waiting for my chance to defend my own opinions and ideas.
It was this attitude and habit of defensiveness that stifled the growth in my own relationship.
When it comes to improving a relationship, I’ve learned that being open to feedback from your partner is important because it’s difficult to see your own shortcomings in the way they can. Not only that, but who better to receive feedback from than the person who knows you in and out?
And that feedback can come in different ways. It might be about how you can better love or support your partner. It might be about how you can better communicate with them. It might even come in the form of a complaint about something you’ve done that was hurtful to them.
This feedback gives you the opportunity to do two things:
1: to get a glimpse of the relationship through the lens of your partner’s eyes.
2: make changes that will help improve the relationship overall.
Defensiveness doesn’t allow you to do either, because it communicates to your partner that what they’re saying doesn’t hold value and that what you’re already doing is justified and therefore, the way things will continue to go.
So there are a few really important things to consider when it comes to avoiding defensiveness.
You Have To Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
Hearing feedback feels like your partner is just shining a huge spotlight on your flaws, and that can be super uncomfortable. It’s a really vulnerable moment.
But that kind of vulnerability is necessary if you want a successful relationship. It’s what deepens your connection and is really the only path to any type of growth.
One thing that makes a big difference is how you view your partner and the feedback they’re giving you.
When you see them as someone who’s trying to connect with you and help you grow and not someone who’s trying to attack your character, it makes it a lot easier to accept what they’re saying, regardless of how uncomfortable it is to hear.
Your Viewpoints Can Coexist
I’ve learned that constantly rejecting your partner’s viewpoint because it doesn’t coincide with yours only creates distance and misunderstanding between the two of you.
Doing so might come in the form of you focusing on explaining yourself or shifting blame rather than listening and asking questions to understand where they’re coming from.
For example, if your partner came to you with this complaint, "I really don’t like it when you’re late because it seems like there’s a lack of respect for my schedule."
A defensive response might sound something like, “Well it’s not my fault there’s so much traffic and people drive like jerks on the road."
And while there may have been traffic or people being jerks on the road, that doesn’t take away from the fact your partner still feels disrespected.
The thing to remember here is that acknowledging your partner’s perspective as true doesn’t make yours invalid.
Don’t be so focused on your own point of view being right that you end up rejecting theirs.
Learn How to Validate Your Partner
A great tool you can learn to help replace defensiveness and find opportunities for your relationship to grow is validation.
I’ve spoken about this more in depth previously, but doing so essentially means taking a moment to acknowledge the truth of your partner’s perspective.
In the example we just used, validating your partner would sound something like, “I can see how you feel disrespected. Moving forward, I'll try to leave earlier when I know there will be traffic, or do a better job of letting you know I’ll be late."
It’s simple, your partner feels heard and understood, and you just found a way to improve your relationship by suggesting ways to do better next time.
Now in my experience, it took some time for me to get to a place where I’m able to identify when I’m about to be defensive, but instead validate or ask questions to better understand the situation.
It’s a tough habit to break, but it’s necessary if you want your relationship to continue to grow and improve your communication with your partner.
So keep practicing, be supportive of each other and be patient with the process. Your relationship will definitely be better for it in the long run.
So what are your thoughts? How has defensiveness affected your relationship? What have you done about it? Leave a comment and let me know!