How Not to Be Defensive in Relationships – Free Ebook

We often operate in romantic life under the
mistaken view – unconsciously imported from

law courts and school debating traditions
– that the person who is ‘right’ or

has the stronger case should, legitimately,
‘win’ any argument. But this is fundamentally

to misunderstand what the point of relationships
might be. It is not to defeat an opponent

(there are no prizes for ‘winning’ other
than self-satisfied loneliness) so much as

to try to help each other to evolve into the
best versions of ourselves. There’s a kind

of argument that erupts when one partner has
a largely correct insight into the problems

of their partner. With a stern, masterful
and almost gleeful tone, they may declare:

‘you’ve been drinking too much’; ‘you
hogged the conversation at the party’; ‘you’re

always boasting’; ‘you don’t take enough
responsibility’, ‘you waste too much time

online’ or ‘you never take enough exercise’.
The insight is not wrong; that is what is

so tricky. The critic is correct but they
are unable to ‘win’ because there are

no prizes in love for correctly discerning
the flaws of our partners. Indeed, paradoxically,

by attacking a partner with clinical energy,
we reduce our chances of ever reaching the

real goal: the evolution of the person we
have to live with. When we’re on the receiving

end of a difficult insight into our failings,
what makes us bristle and deny everything

isn’t generally the accusation itself (we
know our flaws all too well), it’s the surrounding

atmosphere. We know the other is right, we
just can’t bear to take their criticism

on board, given how severely it has been delivered.
We start to deny everything, not because the

accusations are wrong, but because we are
terrified: the light of truth is shining too

brightly. The fear is that if we admitted
our failings, we would be crushed, shown up

as worthless, required to attempt an arduous,
miserable process of change without requisite

sympathy – and that – unless and until
we reform ourselves – we would have no claim

on the affections or forgiveness of the other.
That’s why we insist that we do actually

do enough exercise, that we have been working
very hard and that we have never wasted time

on any embarrassing websites. We feel so burdened
with shame and guilt already, a lover’s

further upbraiding feels impossible to listen
to. There’s too much pre-existing fragility

in our psyches for us to admit to another
difficult insight into what’s wrong with

us. The irony of the defensive argument is
that it’s the overly-confrontational pursuit

of truth that will make the truth impossible
to reach. In the philosophy of lying there’s

a central historical example of what is termed
the ‘just lie’ outlined by the ancient

Greek philosopher Plato. If a crazed person
comes to us and asks ‘where’s the axe?’

we are entitled to lie and say we don’t
know – because we understand that were we

to tell them the truth, they would probably
use the tool to do something horrendous to

us. That is, we can reasonably tell a lie
when our life is in danger. In a couple, our

partner may not literally be searching for
an axe when they ask us an inquisitorial question,

but psychologically, this is precisely how
we might experience them – which makes it

at least a little understandable if we say
we simply don’t know what they are talking

about. It may feel unfair to ask an accuser
to take responsibility for our vulnerability.

But if they want to help their relationship,
they will need to make it abundantly clear

that they won’t ever use the truth (if it
is acknowledged) as a weapon. What is so sad

is how easily we (as the accused) might, if
only the circumstances were more sympathetic,

confess to everything. We would in fact love
to unburden ourselves and admit to what is

broken and wounded in us. The answer is to
create a situation where both partners accept

that they are flawed but not – on this basis
– ever beyond a need for love and kindness,

where the mutual need for evolution is taken
as a given – and where every well-considered

criticism is handled as both correct and yet
needing to be wrapped up in extraordinary

layers of reassurance. There should be a recognition
that people don’t change when they are told

what’s wrong with them; they change when
they feel sufficiently supported to undertake

the change they (almost always) already know
is due. It isn’t enough to be sometimes

right in relationships, we need to be generous
enough in our love in order that our partner

can admit when they are in the wrong.

Love is a skill that we can learn. Our relationships book calmly guides us with calm and charm

through the key issues of relationships. To ensure that success in love need not be a matter of luck. Click on the link now.

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