Unpacking my defenses

I get defensive with girlfriends and it’s hard to be kind when you’re being defensive and not acknowledging it.

I’m many things with women, some really terrific.  However, I want to focus this post on the dynamics of being defensive and not try to make myself feel better by always affirming that I know I have good parts as well.

My defensiveness probably starts with a larger sense of being a failure in life, which has two related dynamics. I’m a misfit, and the few things I can do, I don’t do adequately:

  • A lot of what interests me and the ways I like to spend my time are different than what I see as other people’s priorities and that alienates and makes me feel I’m not adequately human, and
  • I feel responsible for things going well.  If they don’t, I’m afraid the fault finders will point to me and observe that I could have done better.

I’m in perpetual fear that I’m going to be found out and run out of the town of humanity. I’m always on some kind of lookout.  Even when I’m by myself, I’m afraid life is seeing through me.

I’m looking for a woman to

  • Soothe the pain of the inadequacy and alienation by making me feel like I’m human enough for her in both interests and execution, and
  • Help me learn to be (more) human.

Of course, my general sense of inadequacy winds up informing my relationships with women.

  • I’m worried that I really don’t know how to love someone.  I’m different from the way she’s used to men being, and
  • I need to be perfect: My default position seems to be that I don’t meet her standards just like my default position in life is that I’m not very good at things.

As a result, I aspire to a lack of negative:  I’m afraid of being criticized, compared or named inadequate.  My strategy is to deftly keep my different part out of sight and use the ways I’m good to keep the focus elsewhere through perfection of execution.

During my life, I’ve done an amazing job developing my ability to sense disappointment and put receiving love in perspective.  I see the glass as 5% empty instead of 95% full.

I may even have been looking for women who know how to play to my strength, which is feeling like I’ve let them down.  I have a very long list in my head of the ways women can be disappointed in a man.  I’ve listened to women talk and then I have my own shortcomings to add. It’s a minefield I step gingerly through, always wondering:

  • If I’m doing the wrong thing.  What would I do in this situation if I was more normal, more like the men she’s used to being with?
  • Did I do it well enough – did I leave the kitchen clean enough? Are these flowers OK?

Trying to live up to my expectations of her expectations is exhausting.

And sometimes I get caught.  The grand narrative gets a kink and there I am, being different.  She sees that I’m really not what we were both hoping I’d be either in sentiment or execution.

Instead of meeting this gap head on in an accepting way, I try to stuff it back under the rug by going into my defensive mode to convince her with logic instead of deeds that this should not really be an issue.

To summarize, I’m on the psychological and emotional edge.  I can feel confident in the moment, but the approval that I’m seeking is so tenuous that I think everything is at risk at all times.  I’m a house of cards:

  • Guilty until proven innocent,
  • More aware of my shortcomings than of my strengths, and
  • Unable to accept that, even with all the biological and other scientific evidence, I am human.

As a result, here’s how I’m behaving in the relationship.  I’m:

  • Pretending to be something I’m not by keeping secrets about the differences between us,
  • Attempting to prove myself both perfect and normal,
  • Always trying to amuse and please, and
  • Off-balance

Here are some things I’m left wondering about:

  • If a relationship is a mirror, then how much of the disappointment I see in her is really my own disappointment in myself?
  • Is the issue less about a need to be accepted for who I am than about a need for someone to think I’m everything?
    • Do I see more disappointment in her than is really there?
    • Who is it who really has less tolerance of my imperfections?
  • Do differences and imperfections lead always and only to disappointment or can they be a cause for rejoicing as well?

I need a new approach. Maybe it would be healthier to go in expecting her to see me as less than perfect.  Because she inevitably will.  And when that comes up, it would be much better to catch that feeling and say something like “I can feel myself starting to feel defensive” and then explore that instead of trying to prove that I really am everything she wants

I sound like a mess.  No wonder nobody likes me :)

Before I wrote this post, I thought I was pretty hopeful about relationships.  Now I see a real streak of cynicism in my insecurities.  I used to see a lot of cynicism in women.  More reflecting?

Your thoughts…

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Marina May 9, 2013 at 12:47 am

    I appreciate your vulnerability and honesty in telling your story. A few random thoughts &

    For me, defensiveness is just a fear of being seen as imperfect. We are all imperfect. One of the main points of being in relationship is so that we can help one another to see each others’ blind spots, make corrections, and become whole. This can only be done when we have an agreement that our relationship is organized around growth & evolution as opposed to comfort & safety. Transparency becomes essential. Nothing else works.

    Trusting Life
    Something I have become greatly aware of recently, is that without a fundamental trust in Life, it is not possible
    to get any traction. I have made a conscious choice to trust in the goodness and support of Life. This is a choice and a daily deepening practice of conscious noticing and being grateful.

    Nobody but me can make me feel OK about myself
    The power to fulfill comes only from within.

    I’m Not Enough
    Yes, I think it is a good practice to accept responsibility for most of the responses we get from the outside world. They are most likely reflections of our unconscious or shadow selves. If I am coming from a wounded belief that “I am not enough”, then I am never enough in terms of how the world responds to me.
    If I awaken to this, and shift to a healed adult belief such as “Just being a human being qualifies me as being more than enough”, then my world begins to respond “as if”.

    There is a lot to be said for finding a compatible mate. I trust in astrology and numerology for this. In my
    experience, it makes the whole process easier.

    Reply edit
  • bobroan May 9, 2013 at 1:05 pm


    thanks for the observations and thoughts. I generally follow something like most of them, but they don’t work 100% of the time for me (do they for you?) and this post was a reflection on the times they don’t work and why. I’m definitely a “the glass is 99% full” instead of “the glass is 1% empty” type of person, but if you want to keep moving toward the 100% full you need to be with the 1% emptiness in its complete purity so you can understand and unblock it.

    Thanks again

    Reply edit

Leave a Comment