Healthy Relationships Ask For Openness

Being in a relationship means that sometimes we will feel misunderstood, challenged or simply attacked by our loved one. And what do we do? We defend ourselves by clamming up, escalating the dispute with angry words and fighting back!

Defensiveness is something that we all do; after all, going on the defense is instinctive when we feel "attacked." However, there is a difference between being attacked by a wild animal in the woods, and being in an interpersonal conflict with a lover, spouse, co-worker, or boss.

In an interpersonal conflict, there is no need to run away. If there is no physical danger to yourself, the best option is to stay in the situation, determine what the conflict is really about, and learn what you can from the confrontation.

Why do you need to adjust your instinctive defensiveness? What will it do to your relationships if you shut down and retreat from anything that requires open, intimate discussion?

Because self-defense is an instinct that kicks in whenever a conflict triggers painful emotions, defensiveness is actually a fear of intimacy - in other words, a fear of getting hurt.

You may become defensive during a confrontation or conflict because you fear being wrong, being rejected, abandoned, or found inadequate. This is understandable - you learned these reactions in childhood, where your need for love (physically and emotionally) was very high.

In adult relationships, however, an overly sensitive defense system can prevent you from interacting with others on an adult level - whether it's within the marriage, or within the workplace, or within the family.

The fact is, as an adult, you face the very real need to be emotionally fulfilled and connection to your friends, family, and co-workers. These things are synonymous with health, and thus, synonymous with happiness.

So how do you confront and overcome this automatic defensiveness, this innate fear of intimacy and being hurt?

When we accept intimacy (that is, when we dive deep into the things that may hurt us, or accept old emotional hurt), we break the cycle of hurt that creates defensiveness in the first place.

In other words, the only real way to overcome a fear of intimacy is to let yourself become intimate with the people around you! Quite simply, when you withdraw (become defensive) to prevent being hurt, you become the source of your own pain. You become the source of your own loneliness, low self esteem, and inability to reach emotional goals.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live. ~ LEO BUSCAGLIA

We may think, "Well, true, but why should I open up to people, when there is always a risk of pain later on?" This is true; pain is always a risk. There is also a risk of a car accident when you get into the car - but will you let that stop you from taking a nice drive through the country? Similarly, will you let the fear of being hurt keep you from trying to be happy? Statistically speaking (with both cars and intimate relationships), there is more chance of you ending up happy than you ending up hurt.

Defensiveness (which can include blaming others or turning the conflict into a conversation about their faults only) also affects the people around you. While you are trying to avoid intimacy or conflict with someone, you are hurting them. You are hurting the chance the two of you have for connection and trust. They may end up withdrawing as well, which means the two of you only move farther apart over time.

Your mind does not know the difference between a physical threat (a bear in the woods) and an emotional threat (a conflict with your spouse). It's instinct is to run in either case. For your own emotional happiness (and that of those around you), your job is to teach your brain the difference.

Having trouble teaching your brain to listen to the needs of you heart? Let Coach Nora help! With her help, you can move beyond your fear and defensiveness, and learn to embrace intimacy instead. Contact her today to receive a free coaching session.

Neil Warner

Neil Warner

I'm the “relationship guru,” and my main focus is to increase the quality of love-based relationship experiences. In this ground-breaking guide I offer useful strategies on healing a difficult angry relationship with love and compassion. You don't have to stay in an unhealthy relationship one more minute. Let us share our tools with you today.

We can begin by you having a complimentary consultation (by clicking here), with a plan for action to change your life with new skills included. Just click this link and get started now!

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