This article is a continuation of my 4-part series based on John Gottman’s research on what makes relationships last and marriages survive and thrive.
I wanted to put his research into easy-to-understand language and easy to implement actions for you (and me).
He named them “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. These are the FOUR BEHAVIORS that can predict divorce with about 90% accuracy.
In other words, if these things show up consistently in your relationship, you can bet things won’t be going your way in the future.
The four behaviors are:
In each of these articles, I will break down each behavior this way:
a. What is it?
b. What it is not.
c. What is looks like or sounds like
d. How it poisons the relationship
e. How to change your behavior now and start doing something different
In this video, I talk about DEFENSIVENESS.
Defensiveness is a reaction to an emotion.
It’s a reaction to a feeling you have that you’ve been unjustly accused or that you need to justify your behavior and defend yourself.
It comes from a feeling of insecurity and feeling like you’re being attacked.
On the other hand, it is NOT defensive to calmly communicate what you believe, your perspective or explaining your intention. You’ll know it’s not defensive behavior when you don’t feel anxious and hairs standing up on the back of your neck.
When you go into hyper-explaining mode and keep trying to justify, over and over again, why you shouldn’t have been criticized or why you shouldn’t have been attacked it comes across as being very childish.
There’s a masculine energy that you can tap into that is more calm and confident. Sometimes it’s not even a verbal energy. And when you choose to tap into this energy you can stand in the face of feeling attacked but you don’t have to take it personally.
Taking attacks, insults or criticism personally is a choice that we have as men. Defensiveness is that inner wounded part of us that wants to make it better and stop us from feeling so bad. Defensiveness normally end up attacking the other person in order to make us feel better.
So how does it sound?
A good example of defensiveness I read recently… a woman was attacking her husband for coming home and not helping her. She accused him of just plopping onto the couch and forgetting everything he needed to do.
This is how he defended himself:
“Hey! I was too damn busy to remember all that. You knew I was busy so you should have taken care of it yourself.”
That was me. I recognize that I used to act and talk like that a lot. I was defensive a lot. I had a lot of insecure energy around not being appreciated, not being good enough and not being confident enough.
Defensiveness always comes from insecurity.
How does defensiveness poison a relationship?
Much like criticism, defensiveness erodes the trust that you can respond without anger or intimidation. And it continues this ongoing downward spiral of negativity in your relationship.
Defensiveness ALWAYS increases the downward spiral.
Defensiveness erodes trust that you are a man who can be consistent in your energy without reacting to everything negative that happens.
If another person – especially your romantic partner – believes that you will react negatively or aggressively or assertively or even violently, it erodes their trust in you and stops communication. It also stops attraction. It stops everything good.
So if you want to stop the downward spiral, you’re going to have to stop your defensiveness.
So how do you change it? How do you stop being defensive?
This may sound likes the dumbest advice you’ve ever heard.
Don’t take it personally.
Don’t take it personally because it’s not all about you.
I know what your answer to that will be. “How can I not take it personally when it’s directed right at me?!”
I get it. That’s what I used to think too.
The reason we should not take it personally is because when somebody is attacking us, criticizing us, or coming after us emotionally it’s for something that THEY’RE feeling inside. There’s some kind of shame, hurt, pain or fear that they’ve got inside themselves.
You have to realize that the reasons people attack you are almost never about you.
What about when she’s coming at you about something you know she’s probably right about?
What if you haven’t been helping out much around the house? What if you’ve been shirking your duties? What if you’ve been avoiding taking care of the kids or avoiding getting shit done?
If you know in your heart that she’s probably right then this is the worst time to defend because you’re trying to justify your own bad behavior that you yourself aren’t very proud of.
In those cases you have to learn to admit that she’s right.
Sometimes she is right and has a valid point.
So don’t get defensive when you know that she has a good point. In that case you say “You know what, I think you’re right. I’m not proud of it but I think you’re probably right. I’ll fix that. Thank you baby.” Then give her a big old hug or a kiss and move on. Own it.
There is nothing wrong with admitting that she’s right and that you have some work to do.
Stopping being defensive requires you to create your own confidence.
It’s very difficult to be confident and not react defensively unless you’re feeling a sense of inner peace and inner calm. This is mature place of self-reliance. You have no need to look outside yourself to feel like you’re a good man, a powerful man, a man of value that the world appreciates and needs.
If you’re feeling low or you’re feeling inadequate or insufficient, or you’ve been feeling rejected a lot lately, you’re going to have that insecure little boy – that we all have inside us – come out and defend.
The way to change this is to start growing through this with other initiated men. Men who have been through this process of development and reached a calm, strong, powerful, confident place of belief in themselves. They are very clear in who they are and why they don’t need to defend themselves.
These men know that taking things personally is always a weaker act than standing strong on your own feet and your own terms.
This is what we help men do.
You can do this in direct 1-on-1 coaching with my colleague Dan Dore or me or in our group coaching program along with some incredibly amazing men who have walked in your shoes – or are walking in them right now.
One way you can get started is by joining our Men’s Live Coaching Roundtable where we will help you rediscover the confident, attractive man you know yourself to be.
Find out more about our Roundtable live coaching program here.
What if this next year everything changed for you?
That’s what I want for you brother.
We love teaching men these tools; how to be better, how to know who you are, how to know what you stand for, how to know what you want and how to CREATE it in your life through our Masculine Confidence coaching programs.
Dan and I are here to guide you on this mission.
If you want to become a man who knows and trusts himself to create the life and love he wants, apply for a free consultation call with me or Dan. I guarantee you’ll feel a whole lot better by the end of our talk.
My new book Straight Talk Tools for the Desperate Husband will help you to lead yourself and your relationship back to good health. Understand why your partner acts the way she does toward you and learn how to lead your life in the direction you want it to go. You CAN have the relationship you want and fulfilling all your desires while maintaining love and respect.
I wrote a free e-book to help men learn how to lose their fear and be more bold in their marriage to create the love and connection they want. Get The Hard to Swallow Truth About Saving Your Marriage HERE
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