Couple Therapy: Identify your defenses and blocks

Couple Therapy: Identify your defenses and blocks

Couple Therapy: Identify your defenses and blocks

Identify your defenses and blocks

The following list of defenses gives us a quick overview of the defenses that we usually use in our day to day, both with our partner and in other social relationships. I suggest you write about the ones that remind you of your own behaviour.


Turning you around. Sometimes, to avoid conflict, we leave, evade the situation and / or sometimes we flee, we run away.


This defense uses coldness and emotional withdrawal to protect you from painful feelings. Monosyllabic yes / no are used to get away from the discomfort caused by certain situations.


Triangular involves adding a third person to your association dyad. You start to invest romantic or sexual energy in someone outside of the relationship. It can also be triangulated by obsessively dedicating to a task and focusing only on it, moving away from what causes us discomfort or suffering.


People can become addicted to food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, and virtually any form of emotion as a way to cope with painful feelings in a relationship.

Compulsive activity

Perhaps the most common form of this defense is work addiction, but compulsive activities can include projects, hobbies, and just about any undertaking that takes a lot or all of your time from your relationship.

Giving up

This defense involves stopping all efforts, going on strike, or waving the white flag of surrender.


Showing nothing. There are two versions of this defense. First, you fear rejection and carefully avoid revealing anything about yourself. You fear that if you show too much, you will be judged negatively.

The second version involves situations where you feel hurt and angry. You don't show anything, so you don't give your partner the satisfaction of knowing that you don't like what they are saying. In addition, there is a lack of communication that will be repeated in the future. Your partner will not be aware of what hurts you and will not be able to improve their relationship with you.


The effort here is to be perfect, pleasant, and calming. Be complacent, submissive to a certain extent, be whatever your partner wants. At the bottom of this defense is the hope that if you can be perfect, no one will hurt you.

To compete

This defense requires you to be better than your partner: a better parent, more creative, more generous, earning more money, more successful, etc.

The effect can end up creating distance and resentment in the couple.


In this defense, you divert attention from any situation or problem that triggers painful feelings. You change the subject, you focus on another matter, etc ...


You let go of important but disturbing problems for your mind. You do to forget them and sometimes you do not resolve the issue, you do not close it properly or you do not act to solve it.

And how we act, in many cases in couples and in other human relationships we act attacking, verbally or physically. Other times the aggression is passive, the idea is to harm your partner in an unclear way, without using triggers, withdrawing situations or positive actions.

It is also frequent that we act criticizing, sarcastically belittling the partner to channel our anger or anger. Without apparent passion, we speak calmly about the defects of the couple, the consequences can be emotional distancing.

We can also resort to revenge.


People who are afraid of rejection, abandonment or those who have been hurt often face it demanding. They act by requiring that a partner, partner, child, provide a high degree of support, help or attention. Another version of demanding defense is excessive control. This strategy is frequently used when jealousy is a relevant factor in the couple.

Self blame

This defense can be summed up as “You're right. I'm horrible; please don't hit me.” Confront your fear of rejection by rejecting yourself first.


What can we do about it


Recovering from a defense has five steps:

  1. Recognizing the defense of your partner.
  2. Identify and recognize the times you used it.
  3. Admit the pain that underlies your defense.
  4. Recognizing how much it costs you to use the defense, your partner and the relationship. Direct and indirect consequences of the use of your defense.
  5. Ask your partner for help and support to develop an alternative to your defense

The steps are not easy to perform. Each one will need preparation, perhaps even writing what you will say in script form. And it will take courage.

You will have to admit things that may temporarily leave you feeling very bad about yourself and very vulnerable with your partner. There is no other way.

The fifth step is essential. It requires a real plan drawn up by you and your partner. When you feel the familiar pain and with it the urge to use the old defense, you should commit to acknowledging the pain rather than sliding.

Carmen Martinez - Psicóloga y Coaching

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Celia Martínez Psicóloga
Exeter, Devon, England,
United Kingdom

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