Understanding Defensive Strategies 3

What strategies do people use to ultimately defend themselves from pain or hurt in a marital relationship?

Being married to someone can definitely bring immeasurable bliss – until you find yourself against a most formidable enemy: marital conflict. Marital conflict is different from the personal conflicts that we encounter on a day to day basis.

This type of conflict is much more difficult to manage because it often arises from opposing interests and beliefs within a relationship where both parties’ strengths and weaknesses are exposed.

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How do you know if you’re putting up defenses in your marriage?

We naturally want to avoid any type of pain or hurt inside our marriages.

However, if we become too dependent on our psychological defenses, we start seeing marital conflicts as something that we can just avoid. A person’s focus can shift from “how can I solve this problem” to “how can I spare myself the stress and pain?”

If you want to change how things are going in your marriage, you need to realize that some of your behaviors are actually defensive mechanisms in disguise.

Below are some notable defense mechanisms that people fail to recognize for what they truly are:

1. Obsessive Activity – This defense mechanism is commonly exhibited by individuals who feel drained and bored with their marriages.

When the high excitement of getting married begins to wear off, some people turn to activities that drastically reduce the amount of time they spend with their spouses.

It doesn’t matter what kind of activity is involved. Some people become workaholics who spend as much time as they can in the office and rarely come home early enough for dinner.

Some folks turn to new hobbies that absorb most of their waking hours. Obsessive activity not only reduces the amount of time that you spend with your spouse, but it also alienates your spouse.

2. Throwing in the Towel – When a person throws in the towel, all prior efforts in trying to resolve the problem or respond to needs of another person are completely ended or withdrawn.

This defense is often seen in relationships where one person becomes increasingly critical of his/her spouse’s perceived faults or weaknesses.

When the criticism become too frequent or too harsh to handle, it’s possible that the target of the criticisms will cease all efforts in order to escape the critical eyes of the other party.

In reality, this escapist technique does not address the central issues in the relationships and can actually make things worse because both parties can end up feeling hurt and abandoned.

3. Stoically Accepting Pain – There are some people who like to pretend that they are never hurt or in pain because they don’t want other people to think that they can be hurt easily. What this defense does is it creates a false projection of a person’s true personality so much so that people may be misled to think that what they’re doing is alright.

Here’s an example: James never liked it when his wife wore makeup so he would make small, offhand comments about it being unnecessary. James’ wife, Sally, loved wearing makeup because she felt prettier and more confident when she had at least a swipe of lipstick on.

Because of the frequency of James’ comments, Sally decided that she was going to pretend that the comments didn’t hurt “to keep the peace” in the marriage.

However, this only made things worse because James had no idea that makeup mattered a lot to Sally. Sally was getting more and more hurt by the comments on her makeup and James wasn’t going to stop any time soon because he thought the comments just slid off Sally.

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4. Being “Perfect” – Pretending to be perfect is another defense mechanism used by people who are afraid of being criticized because of their weaknesses and flaws. People who are sensitive about their vulnerabilities try to be as responsive and compliant as possible in order to “please everyone” so that they would stay out of everyone’s “criticism radar”.What this defense mechanism does is it strips a person of his true personality and the false aura of perfection can drive people away, because it’s not genuine and it causes people to think that you may be hiding something.

In a marriage, mindless compliance can also drive couples apart because it’s just not normal to have zero conflicts and arguments in a relationship. Believe it or not, resolving conflicts is healthy for married people because it boosts their natural harmony and also enforces unity even during the bad times.

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