Surprising Ways You Are Unconsciously Defensive

At birth, babies are rather defenseless. Babies are incapable of telling us about any pains the are experiencing. They do not tell us that their stomach is hurting and that is why they are crying. They are totally defenseless from attacks by other humans, nature, or animals. As a child, you were dependent upon your parents to defend you from attack as you were incapable of defending yourself.

A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire. Proverbs 15:1 (Message)

Born With Limited Defenses

We are all actually born with limited defenses built into our bodies. We enter the world with some of the immunities our mother had developed. As we grow, our bodies develop our own immunities to diseases and our minds learn to defend ourselves from any perceived or real threats out there in the world.

Defenses Keep Us Alive

Does the name David Vetter ring a bell? David was called in the press, “Bubble Boy” in the 70s and into the early 80s because he lived his entire life without an immune system. He lived in the hospital and in a bubble in order to keep from getting infections.

Without an active working immune system, we would be susceptible to all kinds of diseases. Without the ability to defend ourselves, we would die. Disease would take us over. Our personal property and our person could be taken advantage of and destroyed.

Unconscious and Conscious Defensiveness

It is interesting that in our work with hundred of couples in marriages on the brink of divorce throughout Marriage Intensives, how many times we find one or both spouses in a distressed marriage totally unaware of the amount of defensiveness in their marriage.

There are times when we are very aware of the ways we are being defensive. We feel attacked in some form or fashion and we recoil by moving away and withdrawing or counter accusing. We are chosing consciously to become defensive.

Other times we are completely unaware that what we are doing is a form of defensiveness. We are protecting ourselves by engaging the defense system, but we are doing it without conscious choice. We are being defensive unconsciously.

Signs of Defensiveness

As you read over the following list of ways you may be defensive, make a mental note of all that you do. If you do it even rarely, mark that you do it. And as you note it, also think about whether you are aware that it is sometimes used as a way of being defensive.

  • Loss of humor.
  • Addictions (shopping, work, sex, drugs, foods).
  • Trivializing with humor (laughing it off).
  • Suddenly tired or sleepy.
  • High charge or energy in the body.
  • “I’m aware of that; leave me alone.” (defense of awareness).
  • Sudden drop in IQ “I don’t know; I’m so confused.”
  • Indignation (taking offense).
  • Wanting to be right “No question about it”.
  • Holding a grudge.
  • Wanting the last word.
  • Raise your voice volume.
  • Attack (the best defense is a good offense).
  • Flooding with information to prove a point.
  • Endless explaining and rationalizing.
  • Playing the victim. “poor me”.
  • Rigidity (black and white).
  • Teaching or preaching.
  • Terminal uniqueness.
  • “Its just my personality; Its just how I am.”
  • Withdrawal into deadly silence.
  • Poker face (putting on masks).
  • Being extremely nice.

What To Do When You Are Being Defensive

  1. Pray. Talk to God about what you have been doing and what you would like to do instead in the future. You may not be able to control if you become triggered, but you have complete control over what you do when you become triggered. Ask God to help you with it going forward.
  2. Apologize. When you learn that you are being defensive, consciously or unconsciously, one of the most important things you can do is to take responsibility and apologize. It is as simple as saying to your spouse, “I take full responsibility for my _______ and I apologize.”
  3. Schedule a Courageous Conversation. The reason you are triggered is because there is an issue in your marriage. It may be something about chores, or sex, or in-laws, or money, or parenting or something else. Or it may be about how you two disagree with each other and how you talk to each other. Whatever it is, follow the Courageous Conversation Rules and have the conversation you have been needing to have for a long time.
  4. Get Help If Needed. Everyone needs help from time to time. Even the greatest athletes ask for specialized coaching on their sport, nutrition, medical issues, etc. At some point your marriage may need an expert to help for a time. If this is one of those times, find a veteran couple of marriage, minister or Christian coach or counselor to help.

What do you have to say?

We love to hear from readers.  Did you find some ways that you are consciously and unconsciously being defensive in your marriage?  Are there some other ways that did not make our list you would like to recommend that we add?  Have you tried any of the solutions for when you find yourself being defensive? If so, how did it work?  What other recommendations would you add to our list of actions when discovering defensiveness in the marriage?

This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at © Roy and Devra Wooten 2016. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at [email protected].

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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