By Dwayne L. Buckingham
From personal and professional experiences, I have come to understand that relationships are only as successful as the players who establish and participate in them. I have also come to understand that the lack of understanding of the differences between offensive players and defensive players in relationships can cause and/or contribute to all out warfare and unhappiness in a relationship.
Relationships typically consist of 2 players who either take on one role or in some cases two roles. However, regardless of the nature or number of roles individuals play in their relationships, usually the goal of both players is to feel safe and to be happy. This is where things get complicated and tricky. Depending on individuals’ past relationship experiences their ability to feel safe and be happy will look totally different. Research has shown that individuals’ past experiences and coping styles often influence the kind of player they become. For example, individuals who have experienced relationship hardship and have unsuccessfully resolved it are more likely to become defensive players. On the other hand, individuals who have experienced relationship hardship and have successfully resolved it are more likely to become offensive players.
Understanding the kind of player you are and learning to identify the kind of player with whom you desire to have a relationship with is critical to your relationship prosperity and happiness. Each player may have different means or ways that influence how he or she may achieve his or her goal of feeling safe and being happy. Some players enter relationships with the ability to play both offense and defense. However, some individuals enter relationships and only know how to play defense. With this in mind, it is imperative that you learn the difference between offensive players and defensive players in relationships.
Offensive players enter relationships with an “us mentality” and look for opportunities to build up and support their significant other. They strive to advance their relationships by participating in activities that will stimulate personal and interpersonal growth. Offensive players are more likely to engage in behavior that is best suited for the relationship and will place just as much emphasis on the needs of the relationship as their own. Offensive players are prevention orientated and look to develop plans in order to minimize drama. They make things happen. Just like quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, they try to anticipate what will happen and respond accordingly with the intent to advance.
Team first is their mode of operation. This can occur in the form of praise, encouragement and support. They cheer when they are capable of helping themselves and their partners advance. Their primary focus is to build up and mobilize their partners. From a relationship standpoint, offensive players are typically open-minded, trusting, optimistic and proactive.
Defensive players enter relationships with a “me mentality” and look for opportunities to identify and exploit weaknesses in their significant other. They defend themselves by blocking or avoiding interactions or situations that cause them to feel out of control or uncomfortable. Unfortunately, defensive players are more likely to engage in behavior that is best suited for them and will put their needs before the needs of the relationship. However, they will occasionally engage in maneuvers that will benefit the relationship. Defensive players are reactionary orientated and look to adjust to drama as oppose to preventing it. They sit back and wait. Just like defensive backs, safeties and outside linebackers, they try to anticipate what will happen and respond accordingly with the intent to stop advancement.
One up is their mode of operation. This can occur in the form of belittling, over talking and manipulation. They cheer when they are capable of preventing their partner from scoring or advancing. Their primary focus is to breakdown or immobilize their partners. From a relationship standpoint, defensive players are closed-minded, non-trusting, guarded and reactive.
Know the Difference
Be mindful that both offensive and defensive players engage in behavior to accomplish the same goal: To feel safe and be happy. Offensive players strive to achieve safety and happiness by engaging in proactive and assertive behavior that will advance their relationship. In contrast, defensive players strive to achieve safety and happiness by engaging in reactionary and aggressive behavior that block advancement in their relationship.
If you desire to have a healthy and prosperous relationship, you must learn how to distinguish between the two kinds of players. I encourage you to view your relationship as a game to be won. Let me be clear, I did not say play games. Knowing what you want and selecting the right player is critical to your relationship happiness. Before you enter into a relationship, I want you to think about and answer the following two questions: 1) Do you want to have a relationship with a defensive player who will sit back and hinder advancement or with an offensive player who will be proactive and facilitate advancement?; and 2) What kind of player are you?
Dr. Dwayne L. Buckingham is a renowned psychotherapist, motivational speaker, author and activist who provide individual and marital therapy to military soldiers and their families assigned to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer of R.E.A.L. Horizons Consulting Service, LLC located in Silver Spring, Maryland. To learn more about Dr. Dwayne Buckingham visit his website at DrBuckingham.com. You can follow Dr. Buckingham on Twitter @DrDBuckingham.