Why Explaining and Defending Your Behavior Makes Things Worse

If you’re trying to calm your hurt or angry partner by defending and explaining yourself, it can be like putting out a fire with gasoline. The more you explain and defend, the more hot water you seem to be in with your partner. The more you state how things are from your point of view, the angrier your partner seems to become.

Indeed, explaining and defending your behavior can actually make matters worse. And when you’re trying to straighten out a problem, you may not get to the resolution you’re hoping for. Sometimes this can lead to alienation or withdrawal in a marriage, and that could mean you’re headed for disaster. Therapists, like those at Lindsey Hoskins & Associates, are compassionate and qualified couples’ counselors, who see couples all the time who are at this stage in their marriage and can help work things out between you through therapy sessions. 

About Explaining and Defending

When your spouse is upset with you, and you are feeling hurt, angry, confused, or scared, the first response you turn to, like many people, is a self-centered one. You voice your view of the situation and what you see instead of viewing the situation from your partner’s perspective. If your spouse is trying to get his or her thoughts and feelings heard, they may not come across if you are focused on your own viewpoint. Interrupting your partner’s effort by bringing in your personal experience, point of view, thoughts, and feelings can quickly turn the dialogue into a conflict, or perhaps the silent treatment.  

Indeed, your first words and initial response is what shows your partner what is most important to you. If you demonstrate that you are more interested in defending yourself than in dealing with how you have affected your partner, further conflict may be the end result. Your words should not convey that your highest priority is defending yourself. Instead, your first words should show that you care about how your spouse feels and how he or she is affected by the circumstances.    

As long as you think that defending and explaining yourself is the solution, you are likely ensuring that the conflict will continue. Insisting that you be understood before giving your partner understanding will probably keep the two of you at odds with one another. A couples’ counselor can tell you that this means addressing your spouse’s concerns “as if they were true.”  The truth is that your partner thinks and feels specific things. What your partner thinks and feels does not define or convict you of anything. By listening all the way through, trying to see what common ground you have, and having some empathy for your partner’s experience, you can change the relationship dynamic enough to allow your spouse to settle down, and eventually, hear you out.

If you want a fuller, more compassionate, and more responsible dialogue with your partner over your contentious issues, you are well-advised to seek professional help from a therapist, like one from Lindsey Hoskins & Associates. Marriages often end in divorce because one or both sides fail to communicate effectively and see the other’s perspective when dealing with one another. Learning these skills can go a long way toward maintaining a vital and successful marriage or partnership.