A toxic response mechanism in recovery will always be defensiveness. Defensiveness communicates to the betrayed spouse that we don't "get it", are not sorry or empathetic over what we've done and that we're just not safe in general.

Just recently Samantha and I had a significant breakdown over some financial decisions I had made in the past, and I quickly became both angry and defensive. I felt as though my decisions were the best that could have been made at the time of the recession, and that if she truly understood the entire picture she would have made the same decision. To be reminded of her interpretation, time and time again, upset me pretty significantly. Now, several years removed from my affair, I remembered I needed to take stock of my emotions and ask myself why I was feeling what I was feeling.

While doing the dishes with great force and speed the proverbial lights began to come on. It didn't take long for me to realize I was being defensive. I did in fact see my guilt and grief about the decisions I had made and I was reconnecting with my anger at myself in that moment.

In effect, I was angrier at myself and even (wrongly I might add) angry at God for letting it happen, than I was at Samantha. It was simply manifesting itself with Samantha and my defensiveness only created more animosity in her and caused her to pull back as in that moment I wasn't safe. We're never safe when we lash out or get defensive. We only communicate we are not open, we're not malleable, we're not humble and we're not in control of our emotions. In effect, we're not safe and our spouses can feel that. It's in these moments that I create a concern about relapse as I'm acting like I did years ago. While Samantha may not think I'm in the middle of an affair, or that I'm involved in any illicit behaviors, she will be concerned about why I'm acting the way I am and a red flag will come up.

If you're a betrayed spouse, and your unfaithful spouse is being defensive, there is probably a reason why. It just may be due to their own shame, personal condemnation or their own misdirected anger. When we are angry at ourselves sometimes we are not healthy enough to confront ourselves and understand why we are reacting the way we are. (It took a decent amount of time for me to realize this though so don't expect it overnight I assure you.)

It's in your safety that you help create a way for us to drop our guard, come clean about our emotions and share. I'm not at all putting it solely on you to create the moment entirely. But the safe environment you create, does in fact, help significantly as it says, "This is a safe place and you can share your innermost feelings without being attacked or shamed." Samantha needs to be able to react to them and grieve for them or even understand them. But as I felt safe I shared my struggles and it got us both on the same page far quicker than it would have several years ago.

As Samantha also had her own moment of sobriety, she eventually said, "I love you...and I'm not trying to shame you, or remind you of your failures or past decisions, but we do need to come back together, process this and find a resolution."

I hope I've helped you today. If you're looking for help today, please reach out to the site as there are great resources for both of you to help with shame and defensiveness.

Add New Comment:


Spoke to me

This was what I needed to read. Good to hear that from the unfaithful side. We are in the midst of giving it our best, honest effort. Reading these articles is a great help for us both.

Thank you so much for taking

Thank you so much for taking the time to explain your feelings. It helps me understand my husband's frustrations and anger at times when I reopen the wound. He regrets what he did. He is upset and ashamed. I believe that he needs a safe home as much as I do. Together I hope we will make through this hill. Thanks Again.

Husband will not disclose

I have found out recently after much research that my husband has a covert aggressive personality.  He says he wants to stay married with me.  We have been married for 26 years and have 3 smart and beautiful daughters.  We went to counseling within the first week after I found out but he never did admit what he had done though I had plenty of proof.  He is still denying and also lying to our daughters and myself and that hurts so badly.  My counselor told me to refuse any contact with him and to keep praying.  Two of our daughters will not even acknowledge him.

He always was so proud of them.  I did set my boundaries and limits of which I would stay in the marriage which basically being committed to our marriage, and being honest and coming clean.  He has yet to do this and it has been approximately a month now.   I feel so devastated and hurt and so do my daughters.  Any thoughts or comments that might help.


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