How defensiveness poisons romance

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Chronic defensiveness in a relationship can turn it into a nasty battleground.

It’s one of the top toxic pollutant that poisons a happy relationship.

Dr Gottman defines defensiveness in a relationship as, “self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack.”

It’s where someone keeps protesting their innocence all the time and dodges any attempts at conflict resolution with a sky high defensive wall of defensiveness.

It’s normal for us to become defensive when we are actually being criticized, but the problem I’m talking about here is that the defensive partner isn’t being critized. It might be a complaint about their behaviour.

Maybe you’re the one in your relationship that uses chronic defensiveness everytime an argument comes along.

Maybe it’s your partner that puts up huge roadblocks to intimacy by throwing defensiveness  at you everytime. They can react angrily or hurt or throw self pity at you instead.

Perhaps they say things to you like this;

“I haven’t had time to take care of that!”

“It wasn’t even my fault because …”

“I try so hard…”

“I can’t change the past…”

“You’re not my father/mother!”

It’s a clever way of deflecting responsibility. You’re telling your partner when they raise something with you that upsets them, “the problem isn’t me, it’s you.”

The problem doesn’t get resolved and the conflict escalates further.

Being defensive with your lover  invalidates, diminishes or suppresses their emotions and thoughts.  When a defensive person feels like they’re under attack they focus on protecting their reputation or honour when what they’re really doing is protecting a very fragile sense of self that’s full of negative feelings of self doubt.

Often defensive types see their partner as attacking them when they’re actually not being critisized at all. This is especially true if it’s something is a trigger of ours- whether from a past relationship or our childhood.

Defensive folk can sometimes be terrified of true intimacy and let it all bottle up inside themselves. Later they can react in a passive aggressive way to keep others at a safe distance. They can withold or say they will not co-operate or shut down.

If it is hard for all us to listen to feedback from our partner and these are skills we can all work on.

From a psychotherapy point of view, defensive people can unconsciously be very attached to the feeling of being critisized and unconsciously go searching for that feeling. This can be a lingering negative effect of how they felt as a worthless as a child. This feeling of being bad or in the wrong is a very familiar feeling for defensive people. There’s an unconscious pull towards feeling this way because it’s what they were used to when much younger. It feels comfortable and familiar and by default they can fall back into it.

“Defenders adeptly avoid the issue being discussed by drawn-out attempts to explain their behaviors, or by justifying themselves, presenting a case that they are innocent, or analyzing how they got the way they are. Here are some examples: “I talk too much because my father never gave me any attention.” Or, “I had too much to drink because I’m under a lot of stress.” Or, “If you worked as hard as I do, you’d be crabby too.” Acting indignant is another common defense: “How could you ever think I’d do such a thing?”

Becoming defensive denotes insecurity about yourself and your position. The intensity of your reaction may be an indicator of how truthfully your partner is describing you and your behaviors. The more you protest, the more you give yourself away.

Often the defender defends even when her partner’s judgments about her are unjustified. Almost any accusation makes her defensive because she resonates with feeling criticized or condemned. The accusations may represent how she really feels about herself and how, through the inner conscience or inner critic, she “hits herself up” with accusations of inadequacy and incompetence. For example, if her partner accuses her of handling a situation inadequately, even though she knows she did a good job, she may end up feeling inadequate because she used her partner’s criticism—unjustified though it might be—to soak up feelings of being judged and disapproved of.”

Sandra Michalson

Although a lot of people don’t realise they are defensive, it is possible to become aware of and change.

It is possible to calm down that inner critic that keeps us in perpetual defensiveness. We can stop acting out in our relationship the inner fights between our own inner critic and our own inner passive side.

We can stop taking everything so personally or learn from constructive criticism. If it’s rubbish feedback from a co-worker or someone else then we can laugh it off and not be easily offended.

Learning to listen in a new way and self soothe when you feel yourself falling back into a defensive place can help.

Focussing on our individual defensive techniques can help us to disarm them and work out the cause of the reaction. From there a couple can move forward together to lay down their weapons and change their reactions whenever conflict arises.

In the next blog I’ll speak more about how to overcome defensiveness in a relationship.

Art-Jonathon Harrison

Why asking questions about sex is important.

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I’m still very concerned by how GP’s in Australia receive minimal or no training in sexual health.

GP’s in Australia don’t receive any training about how to discuss sex and sexual health with their patients.

Sexual health is intergral to our well being and it needs to be seen as an essential part of our mental and physical health.

GP’s often assume their patients are sexually active because they don’t want to ask them that question. A lot of the time that assumption is wrong.

There’s a lot of couples counsellors out there who have no sexual health training at all. A lot of them also don’t have any training in working with couples where domestic violence and abuse might be present.

You can’t operate in a sexless vacuum. It’s there and medical and mental health professionals need to have adequate training in sexual health.

It’s not true that if you repair the relationship that sex will automatically start flowing again.

It’s also not true that you can wait for a couple to bring up sexual issues with a therapist. Often they might want to but won’t, hence the need for therapists with sexual health training who will ask the right questions and not shy away from topics about sex and intimacy.

Asking patients questions about their sexual health is crucial for understanding their medical history.

The more uncomfortable the question is, often the more important it is to ask.

How to Overcome Male Performance Anxiety- video

“When I’m not interested in sex, it makes me feel like I’m not a man. In fact, my wife wants it more than me so I came up with the excuse of chronic back pain. I think it’s easier for her to accept. What’s wrong with me?”

– David, Clifton, New Jersey

Three essential male vulnerabilities that many men grapple with.

The fear of rejection. The free and burdensome position of being the iniatator.

The fear of inadequacy. Am I competent enough, do I know what I’m doing?
How do I know if my partner, especially if they’re female, really enjoys it. What is that mystery of that other partner who I can never know what she really feels, because she can fake it.

Why compatibility is a myth

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I’m sick of reading about compatibility being the supposed ‘glue’ of a relationship all the time.  I hate this strange definition of compatibility and I’d like to redefine it with you now and show why it’s overrated.

There is such a thing as a compatible couple.

There’s no such thing as two people who share all the same tastes, values and interests.  All couples fight and argue about the same things- sex, time, money, kids, in-laws etc.  A good relationship hinges on how you manage and resolve these conflicts together.

Research shows there’s no difference in levels of compatibility in happy or unhappy couples.

Happy couples never even mention compatibility. Only unhappy couples bring compatibility up all the time and stress how important it is to a relationship.

Compatibility is like an easy scapegoat for unhappy couples to blame when a relationship is floundering or doesn’t work out.

Successful relationships aren’t about compatibility.

Successful long term relationships  are more about will power and partners who truly want to stay together in the relationship. You must want to be in a relationship in general and you must want to be with your partner.

Creating a fulfilling relationship is more to do with you and your partner than this contemporary concept of compatibility.

Lasting relationships are more about how you interact with each other than who you are.

Compatibility is something that you create together. It’s not something you have inside of yourself. You maintain and nurture that compatibility over time. You work at compatibility.

I want us to throw out talking about relationship compatibility like it’s a noun. It’s not like a holy grail you find in the wilderness. Relationship compatibility should be discussed as a verb. You go on a pilgrimage together to find the holy grail. Verbs are doing words and a noun is an object.

Relationship skills can always be sharpened and improved upon.

How do you emotionally connect? How do you respond to your partners bids for connection? Do you turn towards your partner or turn away?

Some people think someone’s personality or interests are what makes up compatibility but these won’t necessarily pass the test of time.

Relationships are about building something together. How does your relationship support your vision for your life?

Stop focussing on this flawed notion of compatibility especially in the early days of dating. Doing this makes it easier for commitment phobes or people scared of intimacy to run straight for the exit door of the relationship as soon as things get challenging.

Watch this before you get married or move in together

This is beautiful….

The relationship counsellor in me got very excited when he started talking about Dr Gottman.

Gottman says the most important factor for a happy marriage is attention.

Small moments of positive attention.

Remember you are on the same team.

It’s about giving your partner consistent small acts of love and attention.

It’s the small things often that make the big differences over time.

It’s the small moment of our lives that take up the biggest parts of our hearts…

If you’re in a relationship, what is your favorite small act of love that your partner does for you?

Let me know what you think of the video..

Can you tell a man’s penis size by his shoe size?

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Dear Cat,

When I’m on a date with a man can I tell how big his penis is by checking out his shoe size? I’ve heard that men with large shoes are very well endowed and I’m quite often sussing out their foot size. Is this true?

If it’s not true is there a way I can tell whether he’s got a big one by anything else like his body type?

Kelly

 

Hi Kelly,

Sorry to disapoint but the answer is no.

You can’t tell a man’s penis size by looking at his feet or shoe size and a research project was set up to work that out.

In a study from 2002, Doctors measured over a hundred men’s shafts and then measured their shoe size. They stretched out the participants flaccid penis to try to get an accurate measurment of the size the penis would be erect. Now that sounds rather flawed to me and I’m going to do some research into this point and get back to you on it. Anyway, the researchers found a vast range of penis size from 6 to 16 cm and shoe size from 5.5 to 13 which is interesting because there’s also a vast range in the length of women’s inner labia.

However they found no connection between the size of shoe size and penis size.

The reason the doctors measured the men’s penis themselves was to try to maintain some neutral and objective  measurements.  It would have been an interesting job to take on!

When men measure their penis on their own, they consistently overestimate and add an sneaky inch or so to the length and girth.  This is why there’s not much reliable data out there on the average penis size around the world.

To answer your second question there are possibly some other ways to get an idea of penis size but the research only really points to overall trends. So please keep in mind this doesn’t mean it’s a magical indicator of every single man you meet.

So there is a correlation between bigger penis size and taller height and lower body weight. The research shows that taller and skinnier men have larger penises. Remember these are general averages overall and of course shorter and heavier men can be well endowed.

The second way you might be able to tell if you still have your large penis detective hat on is by looking at their hands.

Penis length is also correlated with finger length ratio.  I don’t advise necessarily doing this on a first date but I’ll fill you in on the research results anyway!
The longer the penis tends to be the shorter a man’s index finger is in relation to his ring finger.

So you can stop staring at their shoes on a date now!

Overcome your orgasm block

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SHE STRUGGLES TO ORGASM BLOG

 

Were you punished for simply exploring your body as a child? It’s a common way that we learn to repress our sexuality and young girls seem to be punished a lot more for self exploration than little boys.

This repression can continue into adulthood. When women don’t know how to orgasm after growing up with this shame about their own bodies it’s important to awaken your own body on your own terms.

I’m going to say that again because it’s so important- awaken your body on your own terms! What would that look like to you? How could you do that?

A lot of young people are brought up with the abstinence only model which can lead to repression and confusion about desire and pleasure.

A lot of girls are accessing porn earlier and earlier and using it as their main form of sex education despite the fact it’s mainly focussed on male sexual needs, made for the the male viewer and documents the male sexual response cycle which is very different to the female sexual response cycle.  There can be a lot of frustration when women are trying to make their body respond in the same way a man’s body does.

Learn how to self pleasure yourself on your own.

Get a lamp and a mirror and rub oil on your genitals and give yourself a loving and sensual massage.

Learn how to orgasm yourself on your own first.

Learn the rhythm, pressure and patterns that feel good so that you can then show someone else what you like when you’re ready.

For women of menstruating age and not on hormonal contraception that blocks ovulation, notice the times of your cycle that your body is most responsive, most easily aroused and most lubricated.

Notice how your vulva, body responses and discharge changes throughout your cycle.

Learn to love your body and your genitals in new and radical ways.

Masturbation and sex are skills that need to be learnt like riding a bike.

Imagine you’re training for the Tour de France! Start putting all of that focus and concentration on traning yourself! Don’t let your pleasure go to the bottom of your ‘To Do’ list.

If you struggle to orgasm get to know what’s in between your thighs intimately and make it a priority to master the art of self pleasure and orgasm.

Understanding how all of your body works and responds is important to unlocking sexual pleasure. A lot of my work is starting off with sex education and eradicating so much of the myths that my clients have been brought up with surrounding their sex drive and their bodies.

A clinical sex therapist such as myself can help you if you’re struggling with orgasm and can set you specific homework techniques depending on your specific situation.

This is especially relevent if you’re struggling with past sexual trauma.

Get in touch with me today if you want to reclaim your sexuality, your pleasure and your body.

Catherine O Dowd

Sex therapist- Relationship Counsellor- Art Psychotherapist

www.creativesexpression.com