Communication: Putting Down the Armor

Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in Relationships

Communication: Putting Down the Armor

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one… Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe… It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable…”  C.S. Lewis,  The Four Loves              

Armor in Communication

When I sit with a couple in my office for an initial session, I often have an image in my mind of two people dressed in full suits of armor, each carrying a large shield held up to block contact, and each swinging a sword to try to “get through” to the other. He rolls his eyes and turns away from her on the couch. She comes at him with “You never listen!” He retaliates with a sarcastic jab. She interrupts him with an explanation of why he is wrong. Both people are trying desperately to be heard and known, but they remain completely hidden, peeking at one another through the slits of their helmets. Even those partners who appear to be the ones trying to connect often are using communication strategies that create more distance.

Your Swords and Shields

We all use some of these strategies,– swords and shields,– even though they end up sabotaging the intimacy we say that we want. One of my favorite “shields” is a good book. I always have a book going, and I can become immersed in a story completely. Now, in itself, reading is a great thing. But there are times when I am aware that my book is acting as my shield,– when entering the mind and heart and relationships of the character on the page is a lot easier than facing the tension with my husband.

I have compiled the following list of “swords and shields” from clinical experience, personal experience, and various other resources. I suggest that you take the time first to reflect on how these communication strategies relate to you. Sometimes, when we are stuck in attack/defend cycles, it can be easier to identify a partner’s defensive style. Try to focus on yourself.

Couples Communication Worksheet

After you have identified your own most common swords and shields, take time to mark those you see your partner using.

What You Can Do

You and your partner can use this information in several ways. You can share which strategies are most hurtful and why. You can make an effort to validate each other’s experience: “You must feel angry, shut out, and invisible when I give you the silent treatment.” You can try to identify the more vulnerable feelings these behaviors tend to mask– fear, sadness, confusion, loneliness, worthlessness… You can trace your own style of relating back to communication patterns in your childhoods; we usually protect ourselves in our adult relationships with the same behaviors we used to cope as children.

If you find that both of you are so entrenched in these protective strategies that you are unable to put down the swords and shields to share and hear with respect, seek treatment. The presence of a skilled and neutral professional who can respect both of you will help you to see possibilities and to connect in new ways. You may find the safety to put down your armor and to see each other for the first time in years.


About Lynn Davies

I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University in Maryland. I have been in private practice for over fourteen years and have experience working with adults and adolescents, addressing a variety of issues: anxiety, depression, relationship problems, past or current trauma, eating disorders, self-mutilation, bereavement, parenting concerns, boundaries, and self-care.


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  2. Great post! This goes right along with a book I am reading now called “Daring Greatly” which is all about shame and vulnerability. It makes for some nice, light bedtime reading 😉

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    • I created all of the written content myself. Anna Grace Photography & Design and AbellTech did the design and set up. There are ways to do a website yourself. WordPress is a good company if you want to follow directions with a particular template, but I thought it was worth the $ to have professionals attend to details and customise. Hope that helps…

  4. Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.

  5. The most interesting thing I see here is the way you looked at this. It’s not that this isn’t educational, but really, it’s a unique perspective. Where are you from?

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