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Reducing Defensiveness in My Marriage

A few weeks ago I celebrated my 33rd birthday. For me, birthdays are huge. I am a middle child and I felt the most seen and celebrated on my birthday. I probably have higher expectations for birthdays than others may have, too.

This year my husband asked what I wanted for my birthday and I originally did not have any ideas, but was able to gather some and share them with him. All the ideas I sent and to my surprise, I didn't open a single one of them. I told myself it wasn't a big deal and that it's the thought that counts, but it kept eating away at me the next day so I decided to address it with my husband.

I was nervous to share my hurt and how I was feeling because I was worried he would get defensive or also not feel appreciated for putting in the effort to get the gifts he did. I started the conversation with him by saying:

"If you could work on not getting defensive with what I am sharing and listening to how I am feeling, I would appreciate it."

I then proceeded to share how I was feeling hurt and the story I was telling myself was that "what I want is important." Surprisingly, that phrase I started with helped my husband a lot. He was able to hear how I felt, empathize, and validate my perception, and care for me in that moment which made it much easier for me to hear his perspective and what truly happened on his end.

I'll be using this phrase often now after seeing how it worked for us reducing defensiveness and wanted to share it with you as well. And remind you that even couples therapists have challenging relationship dynamics.

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