The Ugly Mirror
Most of the couples I’ve worked with, and spoken to about their sexual concerns are dealing with the problem of defensive behaviour around sexuality. Even when other areas of the relationship are excellent, sometimes the subject of sex can bring up defensiveness and shut down the clear and productive communication channels.
Bill Eddy say this on “Defensive Behavior: This insight-oriented response is normal, of course. In her book, A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives, researcher Cordelia Fine tells us that when other people act badly, we automatically believe they are doing it intentionally. But when WE act badly, our own brains automatically treat it as inadvertent, a mistake, unavoidable, or caused by forces beyond our control. This double standard allows us to automatically feel morally superior while protecting our own egos from thinking we are jerks, incompetent, or crazy/stupid/evil/immoral. In other words, our basic and automatic brain responses don’t help in today’s complex world and often make things worse.”
My note: there is an acronym DARVO which people associate with sociopathic and narcissistic abuse, as well as sexual abuse perpetrators. Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. Yet this kind of tactic is ALSO used in the gentler context of defensive day to day interactions, creating frustrating habits and patterns of interaction between: spouses, colleagues, family members.
If someone is confronted “this hurt me when you said or did xyz” or “I thought this was unfair or mean when xyz happened” , their own pattern of defensiveness means that rather than considering the other’s experience, there is an immediate Denial, attack the other, and ultimately reversal, it must have been your fault, you’re too sensitive, you always read into things, why do you always do and say these things, what is wrong with you, anything other than an acknowledgement that you may have participated in an action that hurt someone else… and could be accounted for.
1. Where do you participate in denying responsibility and blame shifting?
2. What does denying and defending allow you to avoid seeing or thinking about?
3. What would it look like, if you stopped blaming and labeling others as “difficult” “demanding” “unstable” and instead considered the facts of what was being presented?
My work is teaching people how to “make love better” and whilst this subject is not a sexy subject, intimacy involves vulnerability, honest relating, and trust. Moving past the bodies frictioning and into hearts meeting.
Defensive patterns and DARVO ultimately destroy the relationship. At best, they prevent it from being anything more than superficial interactions designed to “keep the peace” and prevent any real intimacy, trust and knowing.